Background 

 
 

We live in times of change and rapid development. Digitalization, intertwined economies and global value chains change our understanding of work, learning and know-how. Safeguarding wellbeing in the world requires new kinds of resource efficiency and sustainable development. The changes affect us all – individuals, businesses, and societies – but we do not yet know the enormity of the impact. 

Europe has a good base for responding to change. Open, democratic and equitable societies, diversified education systems, high-quality universities, versatile and innovative companies and a strong focus on research, product development and innovation are important success factors also in the future. Strong cooperation between the different actors is needed. The European Union is already creating a framework for the mobility of knowledge, skills and students, free trade and competition, cooperation in research and innovation policy and regulation of new technologies in Europe. The EU also promotes these interests globally. 

Being successful in the changing landscape and building a better future, however, require more flexible structures, new skills and a new attitude towards learning. The path of learning begins with early childhood education, but it no longer has a natural ending. Most skills are built during one’s career on information gained at work. Also, non-formal education and skills gained through volunteering and organisational work should not be forgotten. Through continuous learning, experience and networks grow, and these are needed in work life. Today's pupils will not meet a culturally homogeneous reality nor a familiar unchanging society or one lifelong career. The knowledge base and basic skills must be especially strong in the future. In addition, vaster competence, transparency and capacity building are an asset to meet rapid changes. 

Working life is facing tremendous changes. Digitalization, automation and robotization create new types of tasks and opportunities for success, but also require the continuous development of competence. Many companies see know-how as a strategic issue and thus make significant investments every year. Different stages in working life will be the new norm – additional skills development is needed to give opportunities to grow and develop in different roles. This requires new kinds of cooperation between companies and educational institutions. 

Those who can anticipate change and find new solutions thrive in the global competition. The most skilled companies will provide most of the jobs in the future. Securing access to skilled labour is key. The development of skills needs to be supported, but Europe must also increase internal mobility and be able to offer attractive opportunities for people coming from outside the EU. Investing in skills development and employment of immigrants is crucial. 

Everyone is needed in competence development. Universities, schools and educational institutions must provide a base for new skills and practices. In the future, more and more companies will have to be promoters and front-runners for change. Governments need to provide the resources on which expertise and cooperation can thrive. The European Union must create the best framework for work. Everyone must dare to reform. 

Knowledge and skills determine the future of the European Union. It is the key to well-being and life management of a single person and a prerequisite for a company's success. It makes our societies strong and promotes Europe's potential for being a pioneer in the field. 

The HEL we can! – skills conference during the Finnish EU Presidency in 2019, is looking for answers to how we can secure European skills and knowledge in the future. What kind of actions, investments, cooperation or changes in thinking and culture are needed to use the skillset in the best possible way in order to promote competitiveness, prosperity and sustainable development?

Skills are widely explored, not only in terms of education but also in terms of research and innovation policy, investments, technological development, business, entrepreneurship, labour mobility, integration and culture. The aim of the conference is to gather 500 high-level participants from different sectors of society: from international organisations, business, administration, academia, student organisations and educational institutions, among these targeting a number of internationally interesting leaders and influencers. 

The aim of the conference is to give incentives to develop EU-level regulation on knowledge and skills and to strengthen participants' own activities and cooperation. Through opening new avenues of dialogue between administrations, companies, organisations, students and actors in research and education, new types of partnerships in the field of innovation and knowledge are sought for as well as advancing and diversifying the open debate on skills and competence.