Identifying and Meeting Digital Skills Needs in the European Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Rubber, and Plastics Industry

Social Partner Initiative to prepare the Sector now and for the Future

A. Context and Motivations

The digital transformation is one of the main drivers of change in all sectors in the European Union and globally, and the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry are no exception. To the contrary, production processes and innovations in the sector change at a staggering pace, and there are clear signs that this speed accelerating even further.

The European the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry currently stays at the forefront of developing and integrating digital solutions and the use of artificial intelligence into its processes, and thus stays competitive in a global market. This is a clear benefit for the European Single Market, employment in the sector the European economy overall.

Hand in hand with the digital transformation, goes that the workforce in the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry needs to develop and be trained increasingly in digital and social skills. It is thus important for companies, workers, managers, vocational training institutions and universities to be prepared and to communicate and teach the specific digital skills that are needed.

As the recent study “Digital transformation on the workplace of the European Chemicals Sector”, as part of the EU-funded social partner project between the European Chemical Employers’ Group (ECEG) and industriAll European Trade Union has shown, the first wave of digitalisation, (i.e. digitising analogue data and integrating cloud solutions) is successfully accomplished in the European chemicals sector. Even though the implementation rate increases with the company size, where especially the implementation rate of digital solutions in micro and small enterprises (<50 employees) is lagging.

Given the extreme speed of the digital transformation, it has also become clear that the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry is not yet sufficiently prepared for the future development. The study also found that the second wave of the digital transformation, starting now and coming into full effect within the next five or so years, will be driven by the Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, automation and augmented reality.

Against this background, it has also been diagnosed that currently basic digital skills broadly exist in the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics sector. However, more advanced digital skills and transversal skills require the full and urgent attention by all stakeholders in the industry: employers, managers, trade unions, vocational training institutions and universities alike.

The project partners ECEG, FECCIA and Ledarna with the additional support of industriAll European Trade Union, representing the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry within the EU 27, have therefore initiated a new project to identify and anticipate the digital skills needed in the sector. The main objectives are

  • to find pragmatic solutions as to how to upskill the current workforce on all levels (workers and managers) now,
  • and to also look at vocational education and training (VET) and university curricula with regard to digital and social skills to make sure that young people who will train to work in the future in the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics sector possess the required necessary skills and qualifications.

 

B. Project objectives

The project comprises several objectives:

1. Identifying advanced and specific digital skills currently needed (i.e. “now”) on all levels of the workforce of the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry

  • Workers

    • Status quo analysis of specific digital skills needs relevant to specific job profiles in the industry and potential skills gaps
    • Analysis of how the role and perception of workers in general has changed through digital transformation
  • Managerial staff

    • Status quo analysis of specific digital skills needs for company employees in general and potential skills gaps
    • Status quo analysis of specific digital skills needs for managers and potential skills gaps, relating in particular to Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR)
    • Analysis of how the role of a manager and management in general has changed through digital transformation
  • Employers

    • Status quo analysis of which specific digital skills current employees lack, both at workers’ and managers’ levels
    • Analysis of how the management of companies and enterprises and of the workforce has changed though digital transformation

2. Anticipating advanced and specific digital skills needed in the future on all levels of the workforce of the chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber, and plastics industry

  • Workers

    • Analysis of potential future digital skill sets and proficiencies
    • Development of measures to upskill current workforce
    • Development of social partner strategies of how to integrate them into current VET regimes, including an integrated concept of LLL on advanced digital skills sets
  • Managerial staff

    • Analysis of future digital skills needs for employees in general
    • Analysis of future digital skills needs for managers, relating in particular to AI, VR and AR
    • Development of measures to upskill current managerial staff
    • Development of social partner strategies of how to integrate them into current VET regimes
    • Anticipation of leadership in the future
  • Employers

    • Analysis of which specific and advanced digital skills are needed by employees in the future
    • Analysis of how the management of the company will adapt to digital transformation in the future
    • Development of social partner strategies of how to integrate them into current VET regimes

It is clear that many of the questions under 1. and 2. are interlinked, and while some are specific to the group, many will be the same/similar and have to be seen together.

3. Developing new/ amend existing skills profiles/job descriptions in the industry

The basis for this is laid in the systematic analyses under 1. and 2., and may thus easily follow from the results achieved there. 

4. Devising general frameworks for upskilling trainings with concentration on digital skill sets

The objective here is to find pragmatic solutions in a relatively short time scale in order to upskill the current workforce (workers and managers) as quickly as possible to address possible skill shortages identified under 1.

5. Developing strategies for amending existing curricula of Universities and Vocational Training Institutions

The objective here is to find solutions for the future training and education of the workforce (workers and managers) in the sector to address the anticipated future digital skills required as identified under 2.

 

C. Implementation

In order to achieve the objectives formulated under B., the following actions are proposed to be implemented during the lifetime of the project.

i) Undertaking in-depth desk research to determine

  • the digital skills currently needed
  • the digital skills anticipated in the future

A number of interviews will complement this in-depth desk research with carefully selected members of each of the proposed groups with relevant knowledge and experience on the research topics, i.e.

  • Workers
  • Managers
  • Employers

in as many EU Member States as possible.

The Steering Group consisting of representatives from FECCIA, ECEG, and Ledarna determines the framework and contents of the in-depth desk research.

 ii) Organising two European conferences

  • the first conference is intended to discuss the results of the desk research and to gather informed input for the thematic workshops (see below)
  • the second conference in intended to discuss and disseminate the results

iii) Organising five thematic workshops

These workshops, devised and set up by the Steering Group, are intended to support and inform the empiric study. The provisional thematic focal points of each workshop are:

  • WS1: Preparation of methodology and content of the empiric study
  • WS2: Focussing on digital skills of workers and their role in the future
  • WS3: Focussing on digital skills of managers and their role in the future
  • WS4: Focussing on employers
  • WS5: Focussing on implementation of new curricula in VET Institutions and Universities. Given the differences between educational systems in different EU jurisdictions, this would be done by way a pilot project for 3 to 5 countries. The Steering Group would determine these countries.

In order to keep the workshops manageable and effective, it is intended to have between 10 to 15 participants.

 AB, RL 13/10/2021

Mobility & Mentoring

Increasing the Employment of Young Workers in the European Chemical Industry

Mobility of Young Workers in the Chemical Industry

Stimulating Voluntary Mobility of Young Workers in the Chemical Industry in the EU

Social Partner Mentoring-strategies for an increased employment of young workers in the chemical industry after the crisis

ECEG, industriAll Europe, and FECCIA, representing the chemical sector within the EU 28, have embarked on a new project funded by the European Commission. The aim of the project is to encourage young workers who look for employment opportunities in the chemical industry to increase their voluntary mobility to seek job opportunities across Europe. The focus lies on offering these workers qualified support through a dedicated mentoring network, supported by both employees and employers, to help them to improve their working life.

The deliverables of the project include:

- a Mobility Mentoring Portal (MMP) which allows young workers who voluntarily look for employment opportunities in the chemical industrie to connect with a relevant mentor within the EU country (or countries) this worker is considering moving to

- the collation of current mobility patterns of young workers in the chemical sector within the EU 28 and the underlying reasons for it.

- an E-handbook in the most relevant European languages for mentors to help training them in their respective tasks and responsibilities

- the organization of four Mobility Mentoring Workshops (MMW) at which a number of the identified mentors will take part and during which the e-handbook will be tested and optimized

- the organization of two international conferences for discussing the issues and the project results, and to exchange best practices on mentoring programs

Lifelong Learning Project 'Leonardo da Vinci'

Leonardo Learn Partnership ‘Women in Leadership Positions’ successfully completed

Four members of FECCIA, CFE CGC Chimie, VAA, AMPS and Ledarna, together with the German management training institute FKI, have sucessfully completed a two year Leonardo Learn Partnership funded by the European Commission. The project partners developed the syllabus for a Europe-wide workshop ‘Women in Leadership Positions’ for managers and professionals to promote and help women to successfully pursue a management career in the European chemical industry. The results – which also include a coach handbook and extensive training material for the workshop – are to a large extent based on face-to-face interviews with and responses to a dedicated questionnaire from women who have had a successful career in the sector, and were created by the core group of the project partners during eight working meetings in the participating countries between October 2013 and June 2015.

FECCIA fully supported the efforts of the project partners and was able to contribute relevant facts, figures and further information. These include the two major studies The Impact of Demographic Change on the Chemical Industry in Europe, by Prof T. Tivig, and National policies to support the reconciliation of employment, childcare and the care of older family members. A comparative review to inform personnel policies in the European chemical industry, by Prof C. Fagan and Dr H. Norman, which were themselves results of two major EU-funded projects that FECCIA undertook together with the two social partners in the European chemical industry, ECEG and industriAll Europe. 

Further information on the Leonardo partnership and its results can be found on www.workshop-wilp.eu.

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VAA Leonardo

Children - Care - Career: Equal Participation of Women in the European Chemical Industry

The proportion of female workers in the European chemical industry is lower than in most other industries. The demographic study carried out by ECEG, industriAll Europe and FECCIA has shown that there is a large unutilized potential of female workers in the chemical industry which is set to grow even more in the future.

This potential must be activated in order to achieve the desired equal opportunities in the medium term, and thus, as a positive synergy effect, to lessen the negative impact of demographic change on the chemical industry in Europe. What we need to do is devise and implement strategies for combining training opportunities, jobs and careers with raising children and the increasing need to look after elderly parents and other family members.

IndustriAll Europe, ECEG and FECCIA plan to maintain a collective dialogue and take on this challenge by way of this project supported by the European Commission. The findings of this project are intended to help companies, associations and national governments from the EU 28 to develop appropriate strategies in the coming years to achieve equal participation of women in the European chemical industry.

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Promotion of active ageing as a way of dealing with demographic change

The European chemical industry is a key sector for the maintenance and growth of Europe’s competitiveness. With 3.75 million employees, it alone employs 10.9 per cent of all employees involved in production in the EU. Thanks to its research, innovation and consistent growth, the chemical industry is one of the main actors in the EU economy.

Just like the economy as a whole, the chemical industry has to adapt, as a result of demographic development, to decreasing employee numbers caused by a reduction in the size of the workforce, and at the same time the average age of employees is increasing. The demographic study by ECEG, EMCEF and FECCIA showed that the age structure of employees in the chemical sector is already very different from the age structure of the active working population. The chemical industry will be seriously hit by the effects of demographic change if it does not succeed in increasing the employment quota of older workers.

With their mutual project, ‘Active ageing in the European chemical industry‘, ECEG, EMCEF and FECCIA would therefore like to develop strategies to counteract the negative effects of demographic change in the chemical industry in Europe through the promotion of active ageing. These strategies range from attractive jobs and increasing the employment quota of older employees to sustainable age management.

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Demographic change in the European chemical industry

Demographic change is set to become a major concern for industry, and particularly for the highly specialised chemical industry, in Europe in the coming years. As a result of the falling birth rate over the last decades, we can expect to see a dramatic shortage of appropriately skilled workers. Restructuring processes in the near future will also mean the retirement of almost an entire age group of workers in some businesses.

The umbrella organisations for the European chemical industry - the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers‘ Federation (EMCEF), the European Chemical Employers Group (ECEG) and the Fédération Européenne des Cadres de la Chimie et des Industries annexes (FECCIA) - intend to confront this issue through a joint dialogue together with a project sponsored by the European Commission, "Demographic change in the European chemical industry".

Companies, associations and the national governments of the 27 EU states will all be assisted by the results of this project in developing appropriate strategies to mitigate the impact of demographic change in the next few years.

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