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Joint Position Paper on Education, Vocational Training and Lifelong Learning in the European Chemical Industry


The
European Chemical Employers Group (ECEG) and the
European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers Federation (EMCEF)

having in mind that

  • the European Chemical Industry

    • ranks 1St by size in the world,
    • is the second largest industrial sector in Europe,
    • employs 2 million people directly in Europe and an even larger number of employees are dependent on the chemical industry indirectly,
    • is composed as well of large multinational companies as of many successful small and medium sized entities,
    • has a positive trade balance, playing a key role for the export position of the European Economy as a whole,
    • contributes by its innovations and activities to the success of many other sectors and the European Economy as a whole,
    • is one of the sectors that develops voluntary commitments in order to promote continuous improvements in health, safety and environment;

  • the chemical industry has one of the highest proportions of knowledge based/ intelligence intensive work places, a higher proportion of highly educated and trained staff than most other manufacturing industries and not only very large and innovative research and development operations but also a high need for well trained, responsible staff in all of its operations due to its sophisticated production processes in many areas. This need is already reflected in the continuous commitment of the industry through its voluntary Responsible Care programme and is as well already addressed by companies, employees and their representatives in many ways, which was highlighted in 2003 by the memorandum of understanding signed by ECEG, EMCEF and CEFIC on Responsible Care and the foundation of a „Joint Monitoring Group Responsible Care". One of the tasks of this Group being to exchange information on training schedules and programmes for employees in Health, Safety, and environmental areas;
  • a lack of skills is already faced by the chemical industry at least in some European countries and in some areas of the industry as a reality, despite the high levels of unemployment in many European countries. EMCEF and ECEG believe such shortages hinder economic growth as well as positive developments of European labour markets. They might indeed become a danger to the so-called Lisbon-Goals agreed upon at the Lisbon Council in 2000 to make the „European Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion";
  • this being even more the case as future demands for qualifications of employees of the chemical industry will rise continuously. The proportion of higher qualified staff has already risen during the last decades and this development will continue and might even be accelerated further. Changes in technology used at workplaces are increasingly frequent, organisation of the working process changes more often and therefore also the way to work is subject to frequent alterations. This highlights the need for an even more flexible structure within the companies, which itself is again the reason for an increase in the demand for highly qualified staff. A positive attitude towards processes of lifelong learning will be necessary for the industry as well as for employees in order to secure future success of the sector as a whole within the European economy as well as the employability of its employees,
  • declare their common interest in highlighting the importance of high education levels, good standards of vocational training and a commitment of industry and employees to further vocational training and lifelong learning throughout the entire working life in order to secure the innovative strength of the industry as well as the employability of the actual and possible future employees of the industry.

 

ECEG and EMCEF agree that joint action on these subjects has to be promoted. Thereby they identify tasks both for the industry and the employees and their respective representatives - on company level, regional, national and European level. Furthermore there are tasks to be dealt with by public or semi-public institutions, if possible together with the Social Partners, which has to be decided on the basis of the different national systems and traditions in this area within the European Union.


Image of the chemical industry

It is important that conditions are created to avoid prejudicial policies towards the development of the chemical industry and to strengthen the positive image of chemical industry to the general public and to the youth in particular. An open and transparent policy and communication from the chemical industry can help to achieve this.


General Education - Schools and Universities

A first area for action is the general education in schools and universities as well as the specific education in chemicals and other natural sciences.

 

Here of course is one of the key tasks for the public institutions in the individual member countries to secure a high level of general education for all citizens as well as an open and fair approach of this education towards natural sciences, technology in general, a basic understanding of economic developments and good standards in communication skills.

 

National employers organizations and unions as well as CEFIC and many individual companies are already offering support to schools, universities and individual teachers in this area in order to improve education programs, teaching material and technical knowledge of the teachers. ECEG and EMCEF consider that these programmes should be continued and intensified wherever possible.

 

A reinforced exchange of experience between the partners of such programmes across Europe should be an aim of all participants, in order to allow good practice and successful strategies to penetrate into as many projects as possible.


Vocational Education and Training, lifelong learning

ECEG and EMCEF are both convinced vocational training, regularly and appropriate further training and lifelong learning over the entire working life is essential not only for companies in order to maintain successful, productive and efficient, but also for each employee in order to maintain his or her employability.

 

Employers within the European chemical industry therefore have a strong interest in offering opportunities for their employees for a initial as well as further vocational training in accordance with the requirements of the specific jobs dealt with by the employees and to motivate employees to participate in this training.

 

Employees within the European chemical industry have the same strong interest in looking after their individual vocational skills and in investing in these qualifications in order to keep their employability at the highest possible level.

 

ECEG and EMCEF and their respective national affiliates will support both employers and employees in these processes, which are marked by a shared responsibility.

 

They both ask for better, more transparent and flexible frameworks regarding European and national regulations governing vocational training and education as well as for the public funding supporting the activities in these areas.


Joint Working Group

ECEG and EMCEF have decided that a Working Party should analyse the following subjects in more detail, possibly including the writing of a report on these subjects.

  • a more in depth analysis of the status quo regarding skills, qualifications, vocational (further) training and lifelong learning within the industry;
  • an exchange of information and good practice of the different national systems of education, vocational (further) training and lifelong learning in order to support the further development in these areas.


Helsinki, 10th September 2004