The first European Sector Council on Education Training & Employment has been set up to try to bridge the skills gap in the EU textile, clothing and leather sectors, and create more and better jobs in the industry.

The initiative is part of the Europe 2020 strategy and will involve more than 400 key players in 27 countries. These will include national organisations, universities, research centres, companies, public authorities, trade unions and technical institutes who will work together to improve the quality of the labour force and help firms be better prepared to meet changing competitive demand.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme in Brussels this week, Jean-François Lebrun, head of employment and social affairs at the European Commission, said: "We are committed through the 'Agenda for new skills and jobs' flagship to support concrete actions that will equip [workers] with the right skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

"The Commission will support such [an] approach that is part of the answer to solving the important need for skilled people by important and innovative industrial sectors."

The European Council on Education Training and Employment for Textile Clothing Leather (EU TCL Skills Council) is an initiative of ETUF: TCL (the European Federation of Textile Clothing Leather and Footwear), Euratex (the European Apparel and Textile Confederation) and Cotance (The European Confederation of Leather and Tanning).

It has financial support from the EC directorate general for employment and social affairs.

As well as launching a web portal to update on progress and training materials, on a practical level the EU TCL Skills Council will identify and monitor training needs, match training needs and market demand, and support specific projects and initiatives at both EU and national levels.