On 1 July 2020, the European Commission published the European Skills Agenda, a roadmap to analyse and tackle the skills needed in the European labour market. As the European Confederation of industrial and service cooperatives, our workers and their skills are at the heart of our members’ business models and CECOP takes great interest in this new agenda.
SMEs are key to the success of the skills agenda
CECOP welcomes the Commissions agenda on skill development, which has been established as a fundamental part of the European Pillar of Social Rights, with the first principle stating, “Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training, and lifelong learning […]”. Worker cooperatives, just as all SMEs, are facing skill mismatch and skill development as one of the key challenges in today’s labour market. Particularly in rural areas, it is challenging for SMEs to attract employees, despite offering high quality jobs.
CECOP recognizes that the European Commission shows concern for the special needs of SMEs when it comes to a skilled workforce. The digital transition will require skill development in SMEs, but SMEs are also facing challenges in attracting young graduates. Specifically, worker cooperatives need to be presented as attractive, as value-oriented employers at universities, within economics and business management curricula, and in vocational training. Moreover, because of their specific business model based on worker ownership and control, worker cooperatives enable worker-members to acquire management and decision-making skills. The introduction of the ‘Pact for Skills’ will create a meaningful platform to address these concerns. The proposed support of national efforts to overcome skill mismatches in the labour market will be crucial in the implementation of the agenda.
Commission recognizes role of social economy in skill development
Worker cooperatives have a tradition to invest in their workers’ skills, with education being one of the main principles of the cooperative identity. CECOP appreciates that the European Commission recognized the role of the social economy in skill development. Worker cooperatives can serve as a useful example of providers of quality and meaningful jobs, for people that put emphasis on value-led workplaces, whilst at the same time empowering workers’ entrepreneurship.
Social cooperatives provide employment training, and inclusion for vulnerable members of our society, offering apprenticeships and work integration for disadvantaged groups.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis showed the importance of the maintenance of industrial capacity within the EU when global supply chains have been disrupted. Worker cooperatives have a crucial role to play in the preservation of European industrial capacities without shifting production abroad, as they are rooted in their local communities. This not only preserves the European Industrial heritage, but also skills and knowledge of workers in industrial cooperatives. The worker-focused business model of worker cooperatives, which allows worker to democratically own and manage their enterprise, creates a role model for skill development, which needs to be reflected in the future planning and implementation of the European Skills Agenda.