In the last decades, European manufacturing industries have gone through intense change. New trends of automation and data exchange in manufacturing (defined as Industry 4.0) are changing the scenario of this sector. Indeed, technological change not only heavily affected the stock of workers employed in manufacturing but, more importantly, impacted on the nature of skill demanded. Technological change might threaten jobs and livelihood in some places if skills are not upgraded to match the new tasks and requirements. However, at the same time, emerging technologies can also offer opportunities to upgrade regional human capital stocks to pursue a balanced industrial development.
Manufacturing has also experienced significant transformation as a result of globalisation: it has been the subject of an intense international reorganisation driven crucially by firms’ offshoring strategies. The hollowing out of manufacturing activities is eroding the skill base. This has raised concerns over a mismatch between firms’ skill needs and a persistent skill shortage caused by inadequate training and skilling responsiveness.
These phenomena set new challenges that need to be addressed through effective collaborations bringing together the education system, the government and companies. These issues are of huge public and policy interest, and have multiple beneficiaries outside of academia, including in central government, local government, industry and citizens. Indeed, upskilling the labour force in key manufacturing industries must be a game-changer for Europe. It allows central government and local government to define effective workforce skill development in order to enhance the competitiveness of EU manufacturing and service sectors. It impacts on companies’ training strategies and affects citizens’ choices in terms of education/career choices.
SkillUp has addressed three of five targets set in EU2020, namely, employment, R&D and education. More specifically, the overall aim of SkillUp has been to provide evidence that the competitiveness of EU manufacturing industries rests on firms’ upgrading strategies coupled with workforce skill development via training and education.
SkillUp has highlighted: 1) which skills are needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow; 2) what types of workers can lead to higher regional economic performance; and 3) what effective education and training programmes manufacturing companies should put in place to match the skill set needed in Industry 4.0.