Workers Wanted, Europewide: 9 Takeaways for Higher Education

Published on Jun 1, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

The world is facing a worrying demographic crisis. In Europe, the shrinking of the population has been so monumental that there is even a name for this phenomenon: the Ageing of Europe. This trend is characterised by two main factors: low fertility rates, and higher life expectancy.

There are various discrepancies within Europe too. Southern and Eastern countries have been heavily impacted by this population decline, as they tend to have lower fertility rates and higher emigration rates than Northern countries such as Finland and Sweden. 

Yet still, looking at the bigger picture, this crisis affects all European countries to some degree, and in various aspects of life: the labour market, social security, economy and education. Add to this the devastating impacts of the Ukrainian war, and Europe has itself a recipe for disaster. 

While the European population is ageing, the working population is decreasing, leading to a workers shortage that is visible across countries. In light of the demographic drought and its impacts on the global labour market, Lightcast produced a Workers Wanted, Worldwide research report that provides actionable guidance on how to respond to this crisis and the challenges it brings for the workforce. 

This isn’t just a concern for employers, but for education providers too. Now more than ever, it’s critical to understand the skills needs of employers in order to teach the right skills to students and boost their employability, but also to engage students and grow enrollment. 

How the European higher education sector can adapt 

  1. Understand what is happening in your area, not just country-wide or globally. There are substantial discrepancies in data between regions, so looking at the big picture may not be enough. Try to get a good understanding of the skills trends in your region, what employers are looking for, and how you can adapt your curriculum to meet employers’ needs.  

  2. Review your programmes and ensure that you are covering all demographics. Considering the types of programmes that would best serve working adults, for example, or providing online short courses that are easily accessible are some of the options to consider.

  3. Offer flexibility to students, so they don’t have to decide between work and education. In this cost-of-living crisis we are facing, students are more likely to have part-time jobs or want to join the workforce as soon as possible. Equally, working adults may not have the time to enrol in educational programmes, even if they want to. Provide enough flexibility on dates and timings to adapt to students’ schedules. 

  4. Partner with employers. Employers are facing an unprecedented talent shortage. Instead of hiring new employees, they may well try to make do with their current employees by upskilling or reskilling them. This isn’t great news for the Higher Education sector, but partnering with employers to create work-relevant courses that align with their skill needs will help position you as a partner of choice. 

  5. Reconnect with unengaged or overlooked pools. There are groups of people that may be wanting to study and work, but don’t have the means to or don’t know how to integrate back into society. This includes, for example, people with disabilities, long-term unemployed or formerly incarcerated. Higher Education institutions have an opportunity to be the bridge between these talent pools and employers. 

  6. Get insights into international enrolment  trends. Europe attracts students from all over the world, and there’s high student mobility even within European countries. But there isn’t a one-method-proves-all of anticipating what student enrolment will be like in the near future. Understand international enrolment trends and spot regions that are forecasted to see higher population decline or migration rates. This will enable you to set more realistic expectations and plan ahead. 

  7. Equip students with digital skills. Digital skills like AI are highly in-demand across Europe. While the concept is broad, digital skills involve having a working knowledge of technology or software platforms, all the way to knowing how to programme and use infrastructures like AWS. Understand what digital skills are most sought after in your region and in different sectors, and adapt your programmes or portfolio to reflect this. 

  8. Articulate the language of skills. It may sound confusing but, actually, the goal is to make it simpler and more straightforward for Higher Education institutions and employers to benefit from each other. Defining courses and job postings in terms of skills makes it easier to skill-match course specifications with relevant job opportunities. This means that Higher Education institutions like yours can more easily adapt course specifications to market requirements. 

  9. Be a driver for innovation. Innovation and entrepreneurship are not just buzzwords that get clicks online. They actually define and drive our current workforce. Encourage your students to be innovative and come up with new solutions to problems, to think outside the box and have an entrepreneurial mindset. Employers are increasingly looking for employees who can solve challenges and add value to the company with their ideas. 

Employers and Higher Education working together 

Collaboration has never been more needed between employers and colleges and universities across Europe. Joining forces is the only way both sectors can move forward and navigate a difficult labour market marked by this unprecedented workers shortage. But before you roll up your sleeves and start rethinking your strategy, you need detailed current data that can help drive your decisions. 

Lightcast helps colleges and universities across Europe understand the labour market through our unparalleled data, so they can make the best decisions for their institution and their students. We have a vast array of solutions available to suit each and every need. If you want to learn more about Lightcast data and how it can help you, visit our Education page or drop us a line.  

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