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Interview with Manuela Geleng, Director of Jobs & Skills at the European Commission 

Wednesday, 29 May 2024
HOTREC Social Affairs


  • For almost a decade, labour and skills shortages have been increasing in all Member States. The hospitality sector is lacking skills and is facing labour shortages especially since the pandemic. For these reasons, HOTREC welcomes the European Commission Action Plan to tackle labour and skills shortages. Can you briefly describe the main pillars and next steps?

The Action Plan on Skills and Labour shortages was adopted on 20 March 2024. It followed up on the Member States and Social Partners present at the Val Duchesse Summit. It builds on existing policy actions and sets out the additional actions that the EU, Member States and social partners will or should take in the short to medium term to tackle these shortages.

The Action Plan lays out the actions to be taken in five main policy areas:

  1. Supporting the activation of underrepresented people in the labour market such as women, low-skilled workers, older workers, young people, persons with disabilities and people with a migrant background with new targeted actions to motivate these citizens to find a job.
  2. Providing support for skills, training and education to align education with labour market needs, promote adult learning, update VET curricula and qualifications and improve skills intelligence and forecasting.
  3. Improving working conditions to ensure physical and mental health at work, adequate wages, the right to disconnect and the effective implementation of labour law as well as to strengthen collective bargaining.
  4. Ensuring fair intra-EU mobility for workers and learners by improving validation of qualifications and skills, facilitate the calculation of the remuneration of posted workers, progress on the digitalisation of social security coordination and promote learners’ mobility.
  5. Attracting talent from outside the EU. In the coming months and years, the Commission will implement with social partners and Member States the actions foreseen.


  • The European Commission has just organised the closing conference on the European Year of Skills. What lessons can you draw from the European Year of Skills? What are three key achievements?

The Year made it clear that skills matter and successfully promoted up- and reskilling initiatives, bringing skills to the centre stage. The Year has underlined the importance of investing in skills development and lifelong learning. The European Year of Skills does not end here, connecting the dots and delivering for people and organisations across Europe remains our top priority. 

I would like to highlight three key achievements:  

  1. The collaborative efforts across national, regional, and local levels facilitated the organisation of over 2000 events continent-wide. These events ranged from grassroots gatherings in factory settings and community spaces to educational institutions opening their doors, as well as sector-specific highlights and national conferences. 50 National Coordinators played an important role in implementing the Year.  
  2. The European Year of Skills made a significant contribution to the implementation of EU Skills Agenda by raising its visibility and providing a solid platform for stakeholder engagement and exchange of best practice. For example, the ‘Pact for Skills’, one the flagship initiatives of the Agenda, reached in 2024 2500 members and established 20 large-scale partnerships across 14 industrial ecosystems, deepening cooperation for knowledge development and innovation and opening up more training opportunities for people across Europe.
  3. Engaging people through initiatives and communication campaigns. Our communication activities reached millions of people: including 69 million people through social media platforms and 90 million video views on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. The “Real People Real Skills” initiative showcased over 200 individuals and stakeholders sharing their personal skills stories.  

I think this goes to show just how much up- and reskilling is a shared endeavour and how much people are interested in skills and want to take action because they see the benefits: individually, to organisations including business, and to our economy and society more broadly.


  • Our sector is committed to upskilling and reskilling, as well as implementing the Green Deal. To accomplish our goals, we need massive training and adequate support. What are EU funding possibilities for upskilling and reskilling in the tourism sector?

Let's first acknowledge and congratulate the players of the HORECA sector not only for this commitment, but indeed for making the effort to invest in skills development. The sector has specific new challenges everyday to address. Re- and upskilling of workers is an effective way to address them in a sustainable manner. The EU offers several opportunities for funding. I would highlight primarily the long standing instrument, the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+). The ESF+ is undoubtedly the EU's main instrument for investing in people and most of it is one way or another linked to skills investment. In 2021-2027 more than €99 billion make up the fund, which is co-managed by the Commission and the Member States and Regions, precisely to make the programming closely to the ground.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility, is a new extraordinary instrument which supports Member States' reforms and investments, including in the area of skills and jobs. Around 13% of its budget is devoted to education and training in a broad sense and it will run until 2026. Another longstanding instrument is the well-known Erasmus+ which supports the development of learners, staff and institutions in adult learning learning and vocational education and training. It also funds the Centres of Vocational Excellence. For this action is has a budget of €26.2 billion. There are also other programmes that can support skills development such as the European Regional Development Fund, the Just Transition Fund, the European Solidarity Corps, InvestEU, the Programme for Environment and Climate Action (LIFE), the Modernisation Fund, the Technical Support Instrument, and the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, among others. 


On behalf of HOTREC, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Manuela Geleng and her team at DG EMPL for bringing this insightful interview to life.