The EU has set itself the objective of meeting two major challenges: the digital and the green transitions. The dual challenges and the need for a European recovery has been sharply amplified by the COVID pandemic and accelerated the need for digital skills.
The European Commission has set out its strategy for a ‘Digital Decade’, including a ‘Digital Compass’, presented in March last year, which outlines four main objectives. The Northern cardinal point of the compass — and the top priority — is the creation of a digitally skilled population and highly-skilled digital professionals. The goal: 20 million ICT specialists and basic digital skills for at least 80% of the EU population by 2030.
We need a human-centred strategy based on common values and a human-centred strategy is even more dependent on good and inclusive digital skills
This is an ambitious target that requires all hands on deck, and tough competition for talent and the fear of lagging behind in this race has sharpened minds. With this in view, ALL DIGITAL, an organisation that represents digital education stakeholders, including schools, adult education centres and NGOs, teamed up with Huawei, a leading provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices, to commission a study by EY Advisory to find where stakeholders can help bridge the skills gap.
The resulting report, ‘Strategies to address the digital skills gap in the EU’, identifies where and how industry, together with public and private actors, can help shape the ecosystem over the next 10 years and deliver the results needed. It also draws on close-up case studies conducted in Finland, France, Germany, and Italy.
“We need a human-centred strategy based on common values and a human-centred strategy is even more dependent on good and inclusive digital skills,” said MEP Carlos Zorrinho, one of two keynote speakers at the event launching the strategy in Brussels’ Solvay Library.
Speakers from the Skills for a Digital Europe Event
Five major areas where public and private actors could mutually benefit were identified in the report. First, while there certainly are efforts to improve ICT education and training in schools and universities, many companies complain that curricula are often rigid and don't correspond to their needs. The report suggests that industry should step up and offer greater access to learning material and certified courses, including training educators in digital skills to meet the needs of business.
As a global ICT company, it is our responsibility to increase opportunities for female leaders to create an inclusive digital age
Secondly, training within companies to constantly up- and re-skill employees in response to digital developments must be embedded in business planning. This seems to present a particular challenge to SMEs. The strategy argues that the policy response should be to help these companies gain a clearer vision of future developments and develop a talent strategy to match their future needs.
An issue that was raised repeatedly at the ‘youth debate’ was the under-representation of women in ICT. Nanna Marie Tørring Koefoed, winner of the Future Leader Award from the 2022 Huawei Winter School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age, said that role models were particularly important for young women. Huawei launched their School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age in 2021.
“We know that there is a large, untapped potential among us in the ICT sector, and that talent is female,” said Tony Jin, Huawei’s chief representative to the European Institutions. “As a global ICT company, it is our responsibility to increase opportunities for female leaders to create an inclusive digital age.”
Huawei’s School of Female Leadership is a good example of how taking an interdisciplinary approach with a range of other skills could prove to be highly valuable. The programme, which has a summer and winter school and a Leadership Academy, includes young women from a wide range of backgrounds — not necessarily technical — and teaches basic coding and how the digital revolution can be used to promote inclusion, sustainability, and ethics.
Keynote speaker Chiara Riondino, who leads on Vocational Education and Training in the European Commission, said that the ALL DIGITAL initiative is a very good example of where different kinds of stakeholders come together, from industry, national and regional authorities, NGOs and education and training providers, to work towards merging and bridging the gap. This sort of collaboration was highlighted in the strategy, but EY said that actors needed to share a common language to make co-operation effective.
The final point that the EY report highlighted was the need to invest in the digitalisation of public services as it is strongly associated with promoting adoption and integration of digital learning. Peter Palvolgyi, Chief Executive Officer at ALL DIGITAL, emphasised that this was an intergenerational challenge: “We believe that everyone can and should be able to benefit from digital transformation. We aim to equip all people with digital skills, but also the confidence and mindset that allows them to understand how digital transformation can contribute to a greener, more sustainable, and more inclusive and cohesive growth society.”
The launch event ended with a lively debate between three young people on how they saw the challenge. ALL DIGITAL has set up a quiz so that you can identify your digital persona. In a short quiz consisting of 12 questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your digital strengths and weaknesses. The quiz will tell you which of one of six personas you most resemble. These personas are not set in stone, but they are a broad indication of where you might want to upskill and learn a particular skill you may lack now. Are you a clumsy creator? A confused problem-solver?
Find out here: www.europeandigitalskills.eu/quiz/