Expert article
Project
Cluj Future of Work Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Edit 15 June 2021
by Simone d'Antonio

Three lessons that Cluj-Napoca, Aveiro and Eindhoven can learn from each other on future labour skills

Event Cluj Napoca
The cross-fertilization action carried out by three UIA projects shares interesting elements contributing to the European debate on the skills needed for the future of work
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The exchange of ideas, projects and good practices on the new skills needed for a labour market in rapid evolution is crucial for including the principles of the New Skills Agenda at local level. The Action Plan on jobs and skills in the local economy of the Urban Agenda for the EU recognizes that the existing skills mismatch is one of the main challenges for labour market policies.
This issue is crucial also for some of the UIA projects on jobs and skills in the local economy. Three projects launched at the end of 2020 a cross-fertilization action to learn from each other how the improvement of skills can be a crucial aspect for creating integrated policies towards the future of work.
The shared reflection, promoted by Cluj-Napoca, Aveiro and Eindhoven, provides useful elements in the framework of a global debate that is focusing even more on aspects such as the reduction of the digital divide and the proactive attitude of job seekers and potential entrepreneurs as decisive factors for recovery after the global crisis followed to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
According to the Assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on job and skills demand using online job vacancy data carried out by OECD,  in the short-term it is key for governments to support the development of skills that foster individuals’ resilience by meeting the demand from labour markets, while in the long term addressing pre-existing structural challenges will be crucial at national, regional and local level. Among these challenges, improving digital skills through retraining and upskilling policies is one of the most relevant to adequately support vulnerable workers.
The following three lessons come out from the series of bilateral webinars carried out by Cluj Napoca, Aveiro and Eindhoven, with the active participation of project managers and experts.

Making job seekers or potential entrepreneurs aware of the skills needed for the labour market is a cross-cutting challenge that the UIA projects of Cluj-Napoca, Eindhoven and Aveiro are facing with a wide range of activities, highlighting different aspects of the tangible role that local authorities can play to create positive conditions for better employment at local level.

Apps as the Passport For Work of Eindhoven, storing all the information regarding personal and professional development of job seekers, or the training modules of the Culturepreneurs programme  for potential entrepreneurs in cultural and creative industries in Cluj-Napoca show how much organizing knowledge and information is crucial for creating a common ground at local level on which innovative policies and actions can be structured on medium and long term.

At the same time, these solutions can contribute to reduce the fragmentation of the skills needed for an agile workforce, making the introduction of principles such as the rapid adaptation to the changes of the labour market structural at local level.  

Attracting or retaining talents is a priority shared by Aveiro and Cluj-Napoca with actions targeting different types of receivers. These activities have as a common point the inclusion of new elements, such as artistic, lateral or creative thinking, to integrate scientific and technological education. The organization of tech labs in schools and trainings to teachers in Aveiro but also the introduction of modules on artistic thinking in the Culturepreneurs programme and the parallel inclusion of business basics into the curricula of the Art and Design University in Cluj Napoca show how the combination among different types of knowledge can be a leverage for stimulating students’ curiosity and for gaining new, unexpected skills.

Making these skills visible at urban level is a powerful solution to engage citizens in the debate on future of work. It can lead to improving their choices in terms of education and access to work but also creating a tangible urban impact. These topics are also on the agenda in the Eindhoven region. “The citizen engagement realized through the Aveiro Tech Week is inspiring, considering that Passport for Work is now entering a phase in which apart from the development of its online tools, engagement and commitment from its end users (i.e. employers, job seekers) will be sought. Such an approach could prove to be feasible for Eindhoven as well, which is something we will explore in the coming period” say Erik Lubbers and Ronald Lievens, respectively project manager and UIA Expert of P4W-Passport4Work.

Furthermore, the implementation of stable systems for monitoring the skills demand of the local economy, as Aveiro aims to do with the Responsive Observatory, or for specific sectors, such as the cultural and creative industries targeted by the action of Cluj Napoca, is relevant for creating integrated policies on long-term but also for stabilizing mechanisms for knowledge exchange, as suggested also by the Action Plan on Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy of the Urban Agenda for the EU.

The active role played by ICT and design clusters, academics and stakeholders of cultural and creative industries in the definition of the curricula of Culturepreneurs in Cluj-Napoca is an interesting example of collaboration among different types of knowledge owners to define the skills needed for the entrepreneurs of the future. A similar process was put in place by Aveiro, with the local university as a crucial actor for reorganizing the local education offer aimed at ensuring the future match between supply and demand of digital skills. The connection with regional stakeholders is going to be reinforced by Eindhoven too. 

Erik Lubbers and Ronald Lievens say:

Both the Cluj-Napoca Future of Work and the AVEIRO Steam City projects share a lot of commonalities with Passport for Work, albeit from different perspectives. One inspiring feature of the Future of Work project is the leveraging of participatory governance to embed learning activities in the region. In Passport for Work, we are thinking of ways to make similar, meaningful connections with relevant stakeholders in the region and this is certainly an interesting approach

While the Action Plan on Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy of the Urban Agenda for the EU is implementing an action related to the creation of Talent offices with a regional focus, in order to connect talents for attracting new economic activities, the UIA cities Cluj-Napoca, Aveiro and Eindhoven are making a step forward: these cities are involving key local stakeholders for organizing knowledge and skills, anchoring future perspectives of growth and employment to local strong points and existing resources to be revamped in view of more integrated labour markets

The cross-fertilization action among project managers and experts of UIA projects of Cluj-Napoca, Aveiro end Eindhoven was not only focused on topics of common interest that emerged from the projects but also on the general implementation challenges and solutions, which contributed to strategically improve decision making and management by the project teams.

The Aveiro, Cluj and Eindhoven UIA funded projects are three profoundly different but highly "integrable" and complementary projects- says Lucia Scopelliti, expert Aveiro Steam City - The necessary push, from the point of view of the EU institutions, goes in the direction of encouraging the reuse of solutions developed in other contexts and can be concretized facilitating the regulation, shared practices and supports, including economic ones, to "export" and to scale-up solutions developed in different frameworks

Also for Ronald Lieven and Erik Lubbers,

the impact of our projects can be increased by learning from each other's setbacks and accomplishments. To further these types of initiatives, periodical knowledge exchange with a broader group of project representatives (similar to the 2020 Cities Forum), both within and across UIA topics, could prove to be extremely valuable.

Seen from the perspective of Cluj Future of Work, the exchange with other projects proved to be effective in rising similar implementation challenges, but also in showing why a considerable effort on the collaborative design of skills can be important to consolidate the impact of programs such as Culturepreneurs and for reinforcing the collaboration among the project partners also beyond the end of the project activities.

It’s insightful to understand the theory of change that other projects have in tackling imbalances related to jobs and skills for local economies. These exchanges open up an array of possibilities on what elements can be replicated or transferred to other cities,

says Anamaria Vrabie, director of Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit and co-manager of Cluj Future of Work.

The creation of informal networks of relations among European cities working on jobs and skills for local economy can be also important for strengthening the implementation of the actions of the Urban Agenda for the EU on the topic and for joining the efforts of national, regional and urban players who are going to collaborate in the next few years for the balanced implementation of just, green and productive cities requested by the New Leipzig Charter.

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