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Home > News > March 2007 > 05 March 2007

Europe failing to invest enough in skills, says report

Europe risks being left behind by emerging economies if it continues to under-invest in education and skills development, according to a study released by Accenture and the Lisbon Council.

The report, entitled ‘Skills for the Future’, calls for a more collaborative approach to education, with business taking a more prominent role in helping shape the provision of education services. It also suggests that individuals will have to take more personal responsibility for undertaking their own training and education than ever before.

The report includes an analysis of European economies by comparing the investments economies are making in skills and education versus the benefits that investment is realising. According to this analysis, while the Nordic economies of Denmark, Finland and Sweden continue to invest most in the knowledge economy, the international reach and reputation of education establishments in Western Europe (in particular the United Kingdom, France and Germany) could make them better placed to benefit from the large numbers of potential students from emerging economies. Increasingly, the ability of economies to exploit these new sources of talent will be a key determinant in driving competitiveness, the report concludes.

The report also calls for a more flexible system of accreditation whereby skills gained outside of formal education are recognised across Europe. "We need to get away from the idea that education is a discrete activity that ends once you leave school or university”, says Mark Spelman, Head of European Strategy for Accenture.

"We are a people business and people are at the heart of a successful and vibrant Europe. As such, we need to ensure that we give all our people the skills and opportunities to realise their potential. However, this will require a fundamental shift in mindsets: from businesses, from academia, and, most importantly, from individuals. In an increasingly multi-polar world, Europe’s continued prominence on the global stage rests on us getting this right."

The report concludes that the impact of demographic aging makes Europe’s ability to attract new sources of talent as well as develop existing ones increasingly important and should spur policymakers and business leaders into action. Paul Hofheinz, president of the Brussels-based think tank the Lisbon Council, says: "Skills are the key to unlocking so many doors; we need more skills – and an even more skilled labour force – to compete in global markets. But we also need more skills to solve our problems right here at home, including the pockets of high unemployment, where the low skilled have been permanently marginalised.

"The statistical record is clear on this; long-term unemployment is virtually non-existent among the highly-skilled and well educated in Europe; by contrast, one out of two low-skilled people in Europe is out of work. The conclusion is clear: raising skills is good economic policy, but it’s good social policy as well. Society gains when we help each and every individual realise his or her potential."

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