70% of CBI members (Confederation of British Industry 2012 Education & Skills survey) want development of employability skills as a top priority, rising to 82 per cent for graduates. Their 2007 Employment Trends Survey reflects concern over existing & potential employee skillsets – half of employers are concerned about team working, problem solving & communication. Swedish Enterprise 2010 survey asked 1000 employers whether soft skills impact on recruitment – they responded “very important” believing they would become more so in 10-15 yrs, especially social competence, driving force, problem solving & adaptability.

Poor soft skills are linked to a range of labour market problems: high staff turnover/difficulty recruiting (particularly in the young) (National Employers Survey 2005); lack of ability to compete in service industries in Greece (OECD 2010); inability to cope with change (Confartigianato Italian Employer’s National Assoc 2012); reasons for staff dismissal (Sandvikens regional project 2011); & problems in school to work transition (CEDEFOP 2010).

VET providers in Italy, Sweden, NL & Germany are responding by turning to learning outcomes/competence-based approaches but lack experience assessing soft skills & attitudes (CEDEFOP 2010). Soft skills development is rarely included in VET in partner countries, particularly Greece & Romania even though recent educational reforms emphasize the need. Lack of experience & methodologies hampers progress. NESSIE provides these by transferring proven methods to measure & assess soft skills to the workplace. Further development of these methods, address some of the above labour market problems & satisfies employer demand.

High unemployment rates in Europe, plus growing recognition of the importance of soft skills demonstrates the need for better links between VET & employers. NESSIE offers innovation in workplace training, linking with HR development to implement work-based learning consistent with labour market needs. Thus addressing Council of EU’s New Skills for New Jobs (2010). NESSIE strategically involves both sectoral organisations & VET (companies, VET providers, public & private employment services & public authorities) for diversity & sustainability whilst promoting EQF &ECVET.

NESSIE addresses EU Framework for Key Competences by promoting transversal soft skills development & EU Commission’s Think Small First (Small Business Act for Europe 2008) by actively involving SMEs & social partners.

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