The labour market challenges are one of the top priorities of the EU. The challenge for European cities today is to stimulate job creation while improving the added-value of social and economic wealth produced locally. Such a complex challenge calls for innovative solutions to ensure a real inclusive growth built on the specific assets of each territory. Recognising the strong potential of cities in this policy area, the topic Jobs and skills in the local economy has been proposed in two different UIA calls for proposals. The first time the topic was proposed was in 2015 when cities were only slowly recovering from the 2008 economic crisis and the related austerity policies, and while the EU was still facing great levels of unemployment with 22.6 million unemployed people at EU level. With more than 2/3 of the EU workforce living in cities, urban authorities have a key role to play in tackling labour market issues. As stated by the URBACT report in 2013 (More jobs: better cities), cities can support the right conditions for the innovative investments resulting in more and better jobs.
In 2017, the focus of the 3rd UIA call for proposals for the “Jobs and Skills” topic shifted from job creation to the need for quality jobs, thus, for upskilling Europe’s workforce. Systemic changes such as globalization, technological and demographic transformations have been reshaping cities’ economies and therefore profoundly changing the type of skills required. While stressing the key role of cities in creating the conditions for business environment and specialized eco-systems, the call invited urban authorities to propose innovative solution to the skills issues. In many cities, the education system is too slow to adapt to the changing economic reality which accelerates people’s skills outdate. As the low-skilled workforce is more exposed to these changes, one of the biggest issues of the Jobs and Skills call is to look for innovative solutions improving employability of vulnerable groups as well as facilitating entrepreneurship in key market sectors.
- Finding the right match in local labour markets. Rapid technological change –especially digitalization – has a deep and disruptive impact on local businesses. Many firms have difficulty in catching up, and risk losing competitiveness. Another key challenge is thus to help and support companies in developing new competences, find new strategic directions, engage in innovative collaborations, and embed them in local innovation ecosystems.
- Retaining and attracting talents. People are more economically productive when they feel safe, understood, recognized, and able to influence their own lives. Thus, a good social and urban environment could be considered as a factor of employability. Therefore, the main challenge does not only rely on creating employment, but also on how to attract, retain, adapt or convert talents into the present and future needs of the local economic and social fabric –and, vice-versa, how to adapt these needs to the new education and qualification dynamics, while facing competition from other cities.