Manufacturing the skills for an automated future: future-proofing Europe’s manufacturing sector

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Digital & Data Governance
Manufacturing the skills for an automated future


Heads of state recently reiterated the importance of sustaining effort in refocusing and reinvigorating the European Union’s industrial policy in order to better contend with international stakeholders. In its conclusion from the 21-22 March Summit, the Council called on the European Commission to draft strategies to strengthen and deepen the single market, industrial policy and digital policy.

In light of this, Friends of Europe is offering its members a series of exclusive, off the record, roundtable debates with key policymakers, hence providing an opportunity to directly share their insights and expertise. The product of these roundtable exchanges will be a series of recommendations which will be shared with the new EU mandate in the aim to better shape the EU’s future industrial strategy in accordance with the needs of the different stakeholders.

Our ‘What the Chiefs Say’ discussions are an opportunity to engage in an exclusive, closed door discussion with a selected group of senior representatives from industry, civil society and diplomacy. These 60-minute discussions include a one-on-one exchange with the moderator, followed by an off-the-record question and answer session with our members.

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash



Registration of participants and welcome coffee
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A beacon of industrial development over the last two centuries, Europe’s manufacturing industry is still central to the region’s prosperity with almost 80% of the EU’s global exports being manufactured goods. Furthermore, the manufacturing industry is, nowadays, considerably prone to innovation, with technological and digital advancements rapidly changing the sector. However, the side-effects will ultimately be felt by the sector’s workforce.

Overall, it has been estimated that 46% of all full-time jobs in the five biggest EU countries are at risk of automation. While innovation is crucial to ensure that the manufacturing industry in Europe remains competitive with that of developing countries, the importance of its labour should not be underestimated. Despite the expected disappearance of many low-skilled jobs, the global manufacturing sector is expected to face a deficit of more than two million workers by 2020, and possibly more than 7.9 million people by 2030. In Europe, this shift to greener and more complex technologies has led to the challenge of filling these skills-specific professions.

  • How can innovation in manufacturing be spearheaded, while equally protecting the sector’s workforce?
  • What can the manufacturing sector do to upskill their workforce for the future and prepare for mounting shortages?
  • How can employment and industrial policies be better coordinated to ensure Europe is more sustainable towards both its workers and businesses?
  • How can the development of skills boost key European sectors such as the automotive industry?


Timo Pesonen

European Commission Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs


Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

End of debate


Timo Pesonen
Timo Pesonen

European Commission Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Show more information on Timo Pesonen

Formerly Director General for Communications, Pesonen has extensive experience in the European Commission having also held the positions of Head of Cabinet to former Vice-president Olli Rehn and Deputy Head of the European Commission Representation in Helsinki. His previous roles include that of Special Adviser on EU Affairs to the former Prime Minister of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, as well as Adviser on the Kosovo peace negotiations to the former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.


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