The EYS national coordinators gathered in person in Brussels for the first time on 7 June. After a lively four-hour exchange of opinions and approaches to fulfilling our role in the EYS, we concluded that we wish for similar interactions in the future. Our first online meeting on 24 March was merely an introduction to the EC initiative, which was still in the negotiation phase at the time. There was almost no interaction, and we were all merely trying to understand what lay ahead.
At the beginning of this meeting, both EC and European Parliament representatives emphasised the severe shortage of an appropriately skilled workforce in Europe. They asserted that they have done everything in their power for the EYS so that we can take the initiative broadly and chart our own course at the national level. The specifics vary from one country to another, and this diversity is a source of valuable ideas worth emulating.
The EYS national coordinators presented our efforts
After the EC’s introductory speech on their efforts to communicate about the EYS effectively, I was invited to provide an overview of Slovenian activities in this area. I mentioned that we have three approaches to communication:
- People: Under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the EYS holder, we formed a steering committee early in the year, including their representatives and representatives from the Ministry for Education and the SIAE. The establishment of a broader, cross-sectoral coordination group followed. We persistently invite interested stakeholders from the fields of education, employment and beyond and inspire them to participate in the EYS.
- Events: As part of our response to the EC’s survey on the key activities for the EYS in Slovenia, we announced a comprehensive awareness-raising effort. This included participation in the LLW; the joint EYS campaign featured approximately 1,150 events across Slovenia. We also highlighted our involvement in the Adult Education Colloquium, which took place on 1 June at the House of the EU and attracted 85 in-person participants, with over 60 participants following the event online. Contributions and recordings of the event are available on the Adult Education Colloquium website (in Slovenian), and we write about it here. I announced the upcoming autumn EAAL forums, the Annual Adult Education Conference and the emerging project of the European Cohesion Policy, called Awareness for Lifelong Learning.
- Communication Channels: We utilise various communication tools established at the SIAE for promoting the EYS, including the SIAE website, social media and a Slovenian version of the SIAE Newsletter with a dedicated section on the EYS in Slovenian. We also use the EAAL website, E-bulletin (EAAL project) and EPALE. They were most interested in the EYS website (in Slovenian), as we are likely one of the few countries that have undertaken this initiative. We publish content also available on the European EYS website, but our Slovenian events calendar, which reflects a broad understanding of skills, is particularly important. The website also features essential parts of the Decision on the EYS, our stance on a holistic approach, a call for publishing projects and portals addressing the EYS issues, contributions of successful stories and more.
I concluded my contribution by asserting that public sensitisation and communication about the EYS are paramount. However, great care must be taken to ensure that, following the establishment of enthusiasm, we can offer the addressed individual either a specific educational or employment opportunity, guidance activity or at least information on where they can find what interests them. From this perspective, our review of ALE offerings in Slovenia on the platforms Where to get knowledge and Upskilling Pathways are gaining significance. I emphasised the usefulness of the coincidence that, in addition to the EYS, I also coordinate the implementation of the EAAL (EAAL project), as these efforts can mutually enrich each other.
The EC now expects a similar review of communication on the EYS from other member states as well. Subsequently, during the meeting, these states reported on their activities related to one or more of the four EYS objectives. Approaches vary greatly, each bearing the hallmark of its environment while offering opportunities for at least partial transfer to others.
An interesting comment came from a Portuguese member of the European Parliament, who emphasised the importance of transversal and soft skills, in addition to narrowly specialised ones. He also advocated expanding the EYS target groups to include older individuals (65+), who are also part of European democracy and its challenges.
The following day, national coordinators had an informal meeting with the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit. He attaches exceptional importance to our role, so he challenged us to explain how we are implementing it. I emphasised that with the support of both ministries and thanks to the EYS, the SIAE is becoming a bridge between the world of (adult) education and employment. Our awareness-raising about the significance of LLL during the LLW has been extended throughout the year by promoting awareness of the skills that need continuous development throughout one’s life and across various contexts (lifelong and life-wide).
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE