The EU metalworking machine tool industry is a key enabling and advanced manufacturing sector supplying several industries including automotive, aerospace, energy and medical devices with customized, innovative and high-quality products. The sector is composed of 1,500 companies and 150,000 workers. Over 80% of EU metal working machine tool builders are an SME and most of the machine tool businesses are family-owned and established a few decades ago with the rise of CNC and CAD technologies.

The competitiveness of the sector is based on the knowledge, skills and competences gained through VET and work-based learning which are needed to design, produce, operate and maintain highly-customized, innovative and high-quality machines. Emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing provide new opportunities and challenges for the sector. To leverage such new technologies and seize the opportunities workers need to turn ideas into action with creativity and innovation. In the last decade, however, the sector is challenged with the shortage of skills with entrepreneurial skills and innovative mind-set, which hampers the competitiveness of the EU machine tools industry and the employability of workers.

Challenges that need to be addressed

The skills-related challenges of the EU machine tools industry are as follows:

  • VET learners and graduates do not possess the skills needed by the industry which causes unfilled posts and unemployment at the same time,
  • cooperation between the VET providers and the industry is weak and VET providers are not necessarily informed about the skills needs of the sector,
  • open educational resources (OER) are not well-integrated into teaching methods which blocks access to information,
  • mobility of VET learners and workforce is low due to the lack of transparency and recognition in education and training,
  • image of machine tool industry and VET in the sector is poor, making extremely difficult to attract new talent to the sector.