Education must focus on needs of employers, says Ruairí Quinn


Education across the EU needed to be more in tune with the needs of employers, EU education ministers agreed yesterday.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who chaired a meeting of ministers, said education had a vital role in tackling the Europe-wide issue of youth unemployment.

“The current youth unemployment rate is close to 23 per cent across the European Union, yet at the same time there are more than two million employment vacancies that cannot be filled,” he said.

Sustainable jobs

Noting that Ireland’s “core aim” during its presidency of the European Council was to seek ways of supporting sustainable jobs and growth in Europe, he said education was no different. “With unemployment; particularly youth unemployment at painful levels across Europe, the key role education and training should play in tackling and resolving this crisis is obvious.”

Education ministers from across Europe’s 27 member states yesterday adopted conclusions on an education strategy, “Rethinking Education”, which aims to modernise the education system for the labour market. In particular, it calls for a benchmark on foreign language learning, and a development of IT and entrepreneurial skills. Proposals to improve apprenticeships available in Europe, including the sharing of successful apprenticeship models between member states, was also discussed at yesterday’s meeting. Mr Quinn also emphasised the need for European workers to upskill in specific areas .

‘Erasmus for all’

Ireland’s key challenge during its presidency in the education portfolio will be gaining European Parliament support for the European Commission’s “Erasmus for all” programme. This will replace the seven existing EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport.

According to the European commissioner for education, Androulla Vassiliou, this will allow a greater flexibility in transferring money. She also welcomed last week’s agreement on the seven-year EU budget, noting the programme obtained a 40-50 per cent increase in funding. However, some MEPs want the schemes to be run separately. Mr Quinn said Ireland hopes to secure agreement during its presidency.