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#WorldSkills - Final preparations under way for major international conference to address growing skills crisis in labour market

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Industry leaders, policy-makers, education and training providers, and researchers will converge on Kazan, Russia next month for the WorldSkills Conference.

Alongside the same event, more than 1,600  young people from 63 nations will also compete to be world champions in 56 different skills across a wide range of industries — from joinery to floristry; hairdressing to electronics; and autobody repair to bakery.

Young Professionals (WorldSkills Russia) Union Director General Robert Urazov said the skills summit, in terms of scale and calibre of participants, is comparable to the famous Davos economic forum.

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He said: “In addition to a competition, we will seek to offer the world essential changes in the talent training system.”

Participants will discuss current challenges and trends, ranging from economic shocks and climate change to technological transformation. Various sessions will examine solutions and advantages that skills offer to these ‘megatrends’ and how skills will be integral to a better future for us all.

The event, on 23-24 August, comes amid concern about a growing skills gap in Europe and elsewhere.

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Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, of the leading nuclear energy company, is among those who has voiced concern. Writing in the French Les Echos, he called for an expert task-force to be set up to address “the creeping global skills crisis.”

He says the issue is a problem of comparable gravity to climate change but one which “has been blithely batted away as peripheral by top policy-makers across the world for too long now”.

“In a decade or so from now, when the last of the baby-boomers ride into the sunset with no replacement in sight, the void left behind is not only likely to be a threat to economic growth but worse still to human lives,” he wrote.

The WorldSkills Conference and the WorldSkills championship, expected to be attended by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and other leaders, will ask pressing questions, including; how can we train an agile generation of skilled young people for the future and how will they stay relevant in the face of economic, social and technological transformations?

It will address issues relating to vocational education and training (VET), skills demand, skills of the future as well as skills excellence and development.

One of the legacies of previous WorldSkills Competitions is the increased visibility of skilled professional education, as one of the tools of social and economic transformation.

The competition also provides leaders in industry, government, and education with the opportunity to exchange information and best practices regarding industry and professional education.

Leila Fazleeva, from the organizers, said the summit “will be an important event not only in the history of Russia but also in the history of all world competitions”.

The scale of the skills crisis was highlighted recently by a KPMG report that warned the skills shortage was at a “‘tipping point’ that cannot be ignored”.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says Japan, the United States and major European economies such as France and Spain showed some of the biggest disparities between the skills that employers need and those available in the workforce. Much of the mismatch reflected strong demand for high-tech jobs but insufficient supply of trained staff.

The OECD said: “The educational systems around the world are not geared up to churn out enough of the people with these sorts of higher level skills.”

A special guest at the opening ceremony in Kazan will be Sophia, the only robot on the planet that has been granted citizenship and a passport.

The summit is divided into three main areas, addressing changes in technology and economies, society, and the environment.

“All three of them will analyze the associated impact on talent training approaches,” said Fazleeva.

“The event is aimed at promoting professionalism, craft, and vocational occupations the global economy needs so much.”

Jaime Saavedra, who leads the Education Global Practice at the World Bank Group, will speak at a panel called 'A world at risk: developing the skill sets to endure, adapt, and thrive'.

He will focus on education and teachers who, he believes, have a key role in addressing the skills gap. “Every country has committed and enthusiastic teachers, who enrich and change the lives of millions of children,” he says.

The WorldSkills movement gives young professionals from all countries an opportunity to learn the best global practices in the area of vocational occupations and also help its 80-plus member countries develop their economies.

The shortage of skilled workers is the No. 1 or No. 2 hiring challenge in six of the 10 biggest economies, Manpower found in a recent survey of 35,000 employers.

Even in France, where unemployment is stuck at more than 9 per cent and among the highest in Europe, an increasing number of companies are complaining about the lack of skilled workers, according to Inséé, the country’s national statistical institute.

By 2030 the world might face a drastic shortage of highly qualified personnel, according to research by Korn Ferry Hay Group. For Russia this could lead to a shortage of 2.8 million highly skilled workers that could cause $300 billion in losses for businesses.

China, meantime, is waking up to a potentially damaging mismatch in its labour market. A record 7.27 million graduates - equivalent to the entire population of Hong Kong - will enter the job market this year; a market that has a shortage of skilled workers.

In 2021, WorldSkills will be held in Shanghai and some are looking to Russia, this year’s host, China and France, who will bid to host WorldSkills Competition 2023, to promote action to plug the skills gap.

Agriculture

Common Agricultural Policy: How does the EU support farmers?

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From supporting farmers to protecting the environment, the EU's farm policy covers a range of different goals. Learn how EU agriculture is funded, its history and its future, Society.

What is the Common Agricultural Policy?

The EU supports farming through its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Set up in 1962, it has undergone a number of reforms to make agriculture fairer for farmers and more sustainable.

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There are about 10 million farms in the EU and the farming and food sectors together provide nearly 40 million jobs in the EU.

How is the Common Agricultural Policy funded?

The Common Agricultural Policy is funded through the EU budget. Under the EU's budget for 2021-2027, €386.6 billion has been set aside for farming. It is divided into two parts:

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  • €291.1bn for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, which provides income support for farmers.
  • €95.5bn for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which includes funding for rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources.

How does EU agriculture look today? 

Farmers and the agriculture sector were affected by COVID-19 and the EU introduced specific measures to support the industry and incomes. Current rules on how CAP funds should be spent run until 2023 due to delays in budget negotiations. This required a transitional agreement to protect farmers’ incomes and ensure food security.

Will the reform mean a more environmentally-friendly Common Agricultural Policy?

EU agriculture accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The reform should lead to a more environmentally friendly, fairer and transparent EU farm policy, MEPs said, after a deal was reached with the Council. Parliament wants to link CAP to the Paris agreement on climate change, while increasing support to young farmers and small and medium-sized farms. Parliament will vote on the final deal in 2021 and it will come into effect in 2023.

Agriculture policy is linked to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy from the European Commission, which aims to protect the environment and ensure healthy food for everyone, whilst ensuring farmers’ livelihoods.

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Agriculture

Proposed lift on USA lamb ban welcome news for industry

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The FUW met with the USDA in 2016 to discuss lamb export opportunities. From left, US agricultural specialist Steve Knight, US Counselor for agricultural affairs Stan Phillips, FUW senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright and FUW President Glyn Roberts

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed news that the long standing ban on importing Welsh lamb into the United States is to be lifted soon. The announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday 22 September. 

The FUW has long discussed the prospect of lifting the unjustified ban with the USDA in various meetings over the past decade. Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales have highlighted that the potential market for PGI Welsh Lamb in the USA is estimated to be worth as much as £20 million a year within five years of the export restrictions being removed.

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Speaking from his Carmarthenshire sheep farm, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman, said: “Now more than ever we need to explore other export markets while also protecting our long established markets in Europe. The US market is one we are keen to develop much stronger relationships with and the news that this ban could soon be lifted is most welcome news for our sheep industry.”

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Economy

Sustainable urban transport takes centre stage for European Mobility Week

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Around 3,000 towns and cities across Europe are participating in this year's European Mobility Week, which started yesterday and will last until Wednesday, 22 September. The 2021 campaign has been launched under the theme ‘Safe and healthy with sustainable mobility', and will promote the use of public transport as a safe, efficient, affordable, and low-emission mobility option for everyone. 2021 is also the 20th anniversary of car-free day, from which the European Mobility Week has grown.

“A clean, smart and resilient transport system is at the core of our economies and central to people's lives. This is why, on the 20th anniversary of the European Mobility Week, I am proud of the 3,000 cities across Europe and beyond for showcasing how safe and sustainable transport options help our communities to stay connected during these challenging times,” said Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean.

For this landmark year, the European Commission has created a virtual museum showcasing the history of the week, its impact, personal stories, and how it links with the EU's broader sustainability priorities. Elsewhere, activities around Europe include bicycle festivals, exhibitions of electric vehicles and workshops. This year's event also coincides with a public consultation on the Commission's ideas for a new urban mobility framework, and the European Year of Rail with its Connecting Europe Express train.

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