The transition towards a circular economy is among the core objectives of policy-makers at all levels of government. Yet, its full and effective achievement strongly depends on the readiness of all the societal and economic actors. In this regard, a growing mismatch between skills and labour needs can hamper both the transition as well as the possibility to exploit its great potential for employment and social inclusion. To counter this trend and facilitate the adoption of effective models by regions and vocational educational and training (VET) organisation, AER launched a dedicated webinar within the 2020 edition of the Skillman International Forum.
During the first day of the Skillman International Forum (10-11 December 2020), AER held the webinar ‘Circular Economy: Opportunities and Needs in the Labour Market’. The session gathered around 30 regional policy makers and international experts working in the Vocational and Educational Training (VET) system with the aim of sharing knowledge and concrete examples of how regional authorities and educational institutions are assessing and building the professional skills needed in a circular economy.
The event counted upon an international panel of experts in the field as Eva Hallström, the Regional Councillor of the Region Värmland (SE) and Chair of AER Working Group on Environment and Climate change. Mrs Hallström opened the discussion providing insights on the importance of achieving a full circular economy transition and the work that international organisations and institutions – including AER, the EU, and the UN – are doing to this aim. Inspiring examples of how the Värmland region is moving towards an inclusive circular economy were also shared. Värmland is at the forefront when it comes to the green transition through an established system of schools and a dominating university that prepares youngsters to work in a circular bio-based economy, an innovation park, and the recognition of “paper region” due to its long experience with the employment of sustainable materials as paper in the replacement of plastic and over 100 dedicated companies.
Additionally, Belén Gracia, PhD Area Coordinator at Campus Iberius (ES) and Coordinator of the Eramus+ Project PackAlliance, explained how the PackAlliance project is tackling the skills shortage in the circular packaging industry seeking to align academic curricula with industry’s needs, develop a post-graduate programme tailored to this emerging value chain, and extend the model for replication in other contexts. The project is based on open innovation and co-creation approaches that empower the main actors affected by the circular skills transition, as well as on transnational cooperation with higher educational institutions and private companies based in several EU member states. Students and SMEs cooperate in detecting the professional skills shortage in the circular packaging industry, and – through the support of educational institutions – in designing a new post-graduate programme focused on the needed competences.
Lastly, Øyvind Nordstrand, Advisor at the Inland County Council (NO), presented the regional and national efforts to strengthen the bioeconomy in the region and build upon its potential. According to a report published by SINTEF in 2018, 25.000 new jobs related to bioeconomy can be created in the region by 2050. To ensure that SMEs and workers in rural areas in the region are able to meet the future with the necessary competences, the region has launched the Competency Pilot project financed jointly by the County and the Ministry of Local Governments and Modernisation as part of a broader national initiative. Specifically, the project focuses on addressing the competency needs in the forest industry – being Inland the largest wood region in Norway – by applying the competency broker model, and connecting national and regional governments, local businesses, academia and education institutions, and the civil society. Competency brokers visit and liaise with local SMEs to map their needs in terms of skills, and on the basis of the results, the region develops a training programme that can be customised to the specific needs of the SME. At the same time, the project will provide the region with a more general framework that can be applied for other sectors and replicated by other regions.
The examples and discussions held within the webinar emphasised the importance of directly engaging with local business to understand what skills are needed for a circular economy and to jointly develop educational or training programmes that can meet the needs of the future. At the same time, collaboration among regions and VET organisation across Europe and beyond becomes crucial for designing a model that can be broadly applied and declined to different societal contexts and economic sectors.
Open and Future EU funding opportunities and initiatives:
- Horizon2020 Green Deal Call: send your proposal by 26th January 2021
- EU Circular Talks: Education, Skills and Learning for a Circular Economy: The series of talks has been running from November and it will conclude shortly
- Have your say on the EU strategy for textiles: provide your feedback until 2nd February 2021
- 3rd International Workshop on Smart Circular Economy: The event will be held on 7-9 June 2021
- Circular Economy Hotspot Catalonia 2021: The global event will be hosted in Barcelona on 15-18 November 2021
- European Cluster Excellence Programme with ClusterXchange scheme connecting ecosystems and cities: submit your proposal by 2nd February 2021
- Boost digitalisation and innovation in tourism sector: submit your proposal by 11th February 2021
Photo from Unsplash @resul
This webinar was organised as part of the SKILLNET series of webinars on EU funding opportunities. SKILLNET is a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission aiming to strengthen the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system’s role and capacity to design high-quality VET programmes tailored to current societal needs through enhanced transnational and cross-sectoral partnerships. To this aim, after each webinar a bulletin with open and upcoming EU opportunities is circulated among relevant stakeholders.