2023 will be the European Year of Skills, following the announcement by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2022 State of the Union address. The Year will stress the importance of skills development to leave no one behind while boosting Europe’s recovery. Because having the relevant skills empowers people to successfully navigate labour market changes and to fully engage in society and democracy.
To meet these objectives, the Commission will promote upskilling and reskilling opportunities, for instance by highlighting relevant EU initiatives and funding programmes. Events and awareness-raising campaigns will also be organised across the EU.
How will Eurodesk contribute to the year? Eurodesk will highlight the contribution of international and European mobility to boost skills development through information campaigns and events, especially during the 2023 edition of the Time to Move campaign.
There is a lot of research out there on the impact of studying abroad on the development of core employability skills. These are hard skills, such as language skills, but also soft skills such as resourcefulness, problem-solving, self-confidence and intercultural skills just to mention a few.
Those soft skills often derive from life experiences (cf. experiential learning theory of Kolb) and can make a big difference between two candidates in a recruitment process. Indeed, in addition to what’s on your CV, employers want to see how you interact with other people and how you react to problems.
Going abroad to study, volunteer or work gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to adapt and open up as you are exposed to different cultures and customs. Most Erasmus+ former participants report increased social, cultural and communication skills after their mobility. They are also more likely to participate actively in their social and cultural communities and be active citizens (ESN Survey and RAY Network). The same type of impact can be found with other programmes such as the European Solidarity Corps. If you go abroad, you must find new friends, discover your way into the city, open a bank account… What skills did you mobilise when solving all those at the same time? Multitasking, problem-solving, resilience…
The problem is that young people who go abroad are not always aware of the skills gained. They know it was a life-changing experience, but do they see it as a valuable experience to sell to employers? Planning a guided reflection process after such an experience is a good way to reflect and build on it to maximise the potential employability benefits. Tools such as the revamped Europass CV are supporting this reflexive process.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has developed a tool for students to assess the impact of their study programme abroad in terms of skills development. The Erasmus Skills project is a good example of how institutions can support their learners in such a self-assessment process.
If such an experience is so beneficial, why is it not the norm? The third edition of the Eurodesk Information and Mobility Survey shows that over 90% of young people are open to the idea of going abroad for a mobility experience and 96% see it as beneficial to their professional life. However, only a minority take the step to apply and go aboard.
Financial obstacles and accommodation are among the main barriers, and so is the lack of information and exposure to mobility in their peer and family environment. If we don’t want inequalities to widen and European awareness to be a reality for a minority group in our societies, the priority should be to ensure that EU programmes are inclusive.
Without information, there is no participation.
So, for Eurodesk, the European Year of Skills will be a new opportunity to reach out and explain that participating in Erasmus+, the European Solidarity Corps and other initiatives are indeed beneficial for skills development and that they are for everyone!
Director of Eurodesk