EU Commission launches "grand coalition" to fix IT skills shortage


The European Commission has unveiled a "grand coalition" to tackle Europe's growing IT skills shortage.

Around one million euros (860,000) will be invested into a scheme to boost awareness of careers in IT within Europe.

In a speech to delegates at CeBIT, Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, warned that the EU's competitiveness is "under threat" if it can't make up the shortage.

"This coalition is not about reinventing the wheel. It should be about building on existing success," she said.

"I want people to be open in their commitments, join forces where they see the chance, and recognise we need to do things differently. Quite simply, facing hundreds of thousands of unfilled vacancies, we cannot continue as we were; and we must all do our bit. I know it needs us all to invest resources: but the payoff will be for everyone."

Kroes claimed that many people in the EU had no idea about career opportunities in IT and said technology companies needed to do more to educate people about IT career options.

According to the commission's own figures, there will be 900,000 IT related vacancies by 2015. The number of IT-based jobs is growing by 100,000 every year but the number of IT graduates cannot keep up with demand.

She also said that education must be modernised, mainstreaming ICT for every pupil.

"That's a huge task, ranging from curricula to teacher training, and it will take time. But it needs to be done," said Kroes.

The commission made a series of proposals including simplifying the certification system to make it easier for graduates to prove what skills they have, regardless of where they have worked or studied in the EU.

"Recognising qualifications in ICT isn't easy: it's a fast-moving world. But we have found a European solution through the e-Competences framework: a common system so employers can transparently understand people's ICT skills, wherever they're from in Europe," she said. "That's a powerful tool now we need to commit to use it, employers, candidates, governments, agencies, and more."

She said that private companies should pledge to help fix the EU IT skills gap and work alongside the EU to achieve this goal.

"This is serious: it matters to our people, to our global competitiveness, to our very future. But the European Commission can't do it alone. We can only reach our goals if all of us work together," said Kroes.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.