EC proposals aim to close digital skills gap by 2020

Skills gap

The European Commission (EC) is calling on various private sector organisations and the CIO community to help bridge the gap between digital skills and available jobs in Europe by year 2020.

ICT has become an instrumental part of the developing European economy. While the demand for ICT practitioners is growing by about three per cent a year, the number of graduates specialising in such areas is declining. This could result in an estimated 700,000 unfilled vacancies by 2015, according to the EC.

The Grand Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs is a multi-stakeholder partnership the EU has created to help combat the digital skills and jobs gap by promoting greater education, training and employment. It will be officially launched with a pledging conference on 4 March where stakeholders will present their commitments and ideas for upholding to the main initiatives of the Grand Coalition.

The coalition's core aims include:

*Training and matching skills to jobs;

*Mobilising ICT practitioners from member states;

*Stimulating a single European certification scheme for digital skills;

*Attracting young people to a career in ICT by raising awareness and improving education and training;

*Attracting people in general to the ICT industry through innovative learning and teaching.

A number of companies have already confirmed they will support the coalition's aims. These include Alcatel-Lucant, ARM, CEPIS, Digital Europe, ENI, HP, Nokia, Telefonica, Telenor Group, Randsta and SAP.

IT skills body, the Corporate IT Forum, has also pledged its support. One of the forum's key focus areas moving forward will be to help implement some of the initiatives outlined by the Grand Coalition, according to executive director David Roberts.

"We live and do business in an increasingly digital world and businesses will struggle to flourish and compete in a global market if the education system cannot produce people with business-ready ICT skills," Roberts said.

"The root of the problem appears to lie in an ineffective education and careers system and this will be a major focus for the Education & Skills Commission in 2013."

Government and industry action us needed to prevent a lost generation and an uncompetitive European economy, EC vice president Neelie Kroes has warned.

"The commission will do its bit but we can't do it alone," she said. "Companies, social partners and education players including at national and regional level - have to stand with us, "Kroes concluded.