The Human Capital project is the EU educational sector’s answer to robots taking over jobs—and AI has a role to play

Supported by the European Institute of Technology (EIT) and endowed with an annual budget of €3 million, the Human Capital project, which focuses on innovation in education and on digital skills and competencies, is an EU-wide effort to build bridges between research communities in climate, energy, food, health, manufacturing, raw materials, urban mobility and digital technologies.

It aims to ease exchanges between a number of scientists and innovators within each of these fields, as they would usually work separately on the same topic: The future of education and what this means to Europe’s workforce. Particularly, it aims to explore these questions in a context where both a changing climate and increased automation are already putting tremendous pressure on workers. While robots could take over 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world by 2030, 70 per cent of jobs in Europe’s coal country are expected to disappear in the coming decade.

From Polish coal mining regions to factory cooperatives in Spain’s Basque country, local authorities and enterprises are under intense pressure to re-train entire swaths of the local labour force. Their aim is to safeguard jobs and avoid, at best, brain drain, and in the worth case, the massive unemployment past industrial disruptions have brought to some of Europe’s regions. 

The Human Capital project offers a range of possible answers to this issue and led to the development of new online education programmes within the EIT, which are backed by some of the old continent’s most prestigious universities and are all available on a single digital platform.

One of the originalities of the project is that it used artificial intelligence (AI) tools to support the creation of the courses. These were used to predict future “skill gaps,” areas where trained workers are needed but unavailable to employers in sufficient numbers, for example, in the energy sector where coal powered plants make way to renewable energy and help to bridge them with relevant courses as part of the EIT’s existing offer. 

AI was also explored as a tool to help develop new education methods, particularly answering the needs of people who are already in employment or what education experts call “lifelong learning.” AI tools, researchers argue, have a key role to play in keeping older, remote and increasingly distracted students engaged in their own education. It also allows for the development of new gamification techniques to make learning later in life less challenging.

Earlier this year, the EIT Lifelong Learning Conference brought together, from the comfort of their online pulpits, researchers and teachers from across the European continent to present their conclusions after  running the Human Capital project. Over a day, they discussed an array of innovative tools which are already being used in virtual classrooms to engage online learners and encouraged meaningful behavioural and structural change in EU member countries’ national education systems.

“In the past century, education methods have not changed much, there is a lot of room for improvement” said Martijn Klabbers, a scientist from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands involved in the Human Capital project. “Universities have a market gap to fill where it comes to lifelong learning, there is not enough offer compared to the demand.” 

COVID-19 has helped in fostering interest for the overall project, speeding up its deployment as universities were scrambling to develop their online course offers in the early days of the pandemic. 

Younger people were not left behind and heavily contributed to the development of technological solutions through education-focused digital hacking events or DigiEduHacks, with new tools already up and running despite hacking events having taken place mainly online due to the pandemic.

Despite the challenge COVID-19 brought to the Human Capital project, major shifts to online working and learning have highlighted the need for high quality and accessible digital learning platforms. The project is planned to be continued in 2021, with a renewed focus on climate and the environment, to align with the aims of the European Green Deal.

 
Location
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova

Moldova is one of Europe’s most modest contributors to...

Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova
In The News
Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality

Poland’s former capital and one of its oldest cities,...

Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality
In The News
Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?

On 23 April, EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop spoke...

Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?
In The News
EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy

The European Commission has published its EU-wide classification system for...

EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy
In The News
New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?

On 22 and 23 April, the first conference dedicated...

New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?
In The News
Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase

EIT Climate-KIC supported Estonian start-up Sympower has raised €5.2...

Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase
In The News
Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list

Twelve entrepreneurs from across the EIT community have been...

Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list
In The News
These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe

Google, in partnership with EIT Climate-KIC, launched the €10...

These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe
In The News
New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups

Found by us, funded by you, a new start-up...

New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups
In The News
From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching ...

It’s a beverage revolution: Healthy hydration while fooling your...

From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching in new markets
In The News
#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enabl...

As part of the fifth SDG Global festival of...

#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enablers
In The News
New EIT initiative to boost innovation in higher education

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is...

New EIT initiative to boost innovation in higher education
In The News
Just transition within reach for Polish coal city Rybnik

“We are preparing plans for the next decade. Mentality is...

Just transition within reach for Polish coal city Rybnik
In The News
Inclusive guide helps communities build urban resilience

The new Urban Action Kit, launched by the International...

Inclusive guide helps communities build urban resilience
In The News
Climate app among DigiEduHack 2020 global finalists

The DigiEduHack, supported by EIT Climate-KIC as well as...

Climate app among DigiEduHack 2020 global finalists
In The News
GreeMko receives Climate Reality Project Award in Spain 

GreeMko (for Green Management Technology), a Spanish start-up that...

GreeMko receives Climate Reality Project Award in Spain 
In The News
What’s the future of trade in a climate crisis?

EIT Climate-KIC Chief Executive Officer Kirsten Dunlop addressed the...

What’s the future of trade in a climate crisis?
In The News
Wanted: Green business ideas to fix climate change

Starting today, the seventh edition of the global green...

Wanted: Green business ideas to fix climate change
In The News
Why sustainable water management needs a systemic solution

Ensuring that fresh water is available, in a sustainable...

Why sustainable water management needs a systemic solution
In The News
Integrating nature with technology to strengthen climate adaptation

The European Commission released the new EU Climate Adaptation...

Integrating nature with technology to strengthen climate adaptation
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC is a key player in helping Europe adapt to climate change

EIT Climate-KIC welcomes the new EU strategy on adaptation...

EIT Climate-KIC is a key player in helping Europe adapt to climate change
In The News
Edinburgh: building climate resilient infrastructure and communities

A labyrinth of cobblestone streets, dimly lit and presided...

Edinburgh: building climate resilient infrastructure and communities
In The News
Residents of Kessel-Lo, Belgium, are invited to shape the future of their neig...

EIT Climate-KIC is working with the city of Leuven...

Residents of Kessel-Lo, Belgium, are invited to shape the future of their neighbourhood
In The News
Improved urban parks increase communities’ climate resilience

Start Park, a project led by citizens from Florence,...

Improved urban parks increase communities’ climate resilience
In The News
New accelerator programme geared towards systemic change secures key partners

Following its Open Call, the New Accelerator programme has...

New accelerator programme geared towards systemic change secures key partners
In The News
New videogame builds climate awareness among players

Change Game, a videogame financed by EIT Climate-KIC and...

New videogame builds climate awareness among players
In The News
Organic and homemade food brought to the dining rooms of large corporations

Carlota Mateos and Juan Vila, co-founders of PlenEat have...

Organic and homemade food brought to the dining rooms of large corporations
In The News
Climeworks added to Microsoft’s climate portfolio

EIT Climate-KIC supported Climeworks, a carbon capture technology, is...

Climeworks added to Microsoft’s climate portfolio
In The News
Circular Slovenia named in 100 Climate Policy Breakthroughs

The peer-to-peer learning platform for governments, Apolitical, included EIT...

Circular Slovenia named in 100 Climate Policy Breakthroughs
In The News
New tool uses satellite imagery to accelerate sustainable agriculture

Supported by EIT Climate-KIC and developed by its partner...

New tool uses satellite imagery to accelerate sustainable agriculture