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Key Enabling Technologies and Digital Economy

e-Skills - Extended view

Definitions of key terms

E-Skills should encompass a broad set of skills necessary in the modern workplace. Successful innovation in ICT services requires cross-disciplinary, cognitive and problem-solving skills as well as an understanding of the fundamentals of business and communication skills, including competence in foreign languages. They should also be seen in the wider context of a core set of competences equipping all European citizens for the knowledge-based economy and society. These key competences should be provided in a lifelong learning context.

ICT practitioner skills

These are the capabilities required for researching, developing, designing, strategic planning, managing, producing, consulting, marketing, selling, integrating, installing, administering, maintaining, supporting and servicing ICT systems.

ICT user skills

These represent the capabilities required for the effective application of ICT systems and devices by the individual. ICT users apply systems as tools in support of their own work. User skills cover the use of common software tools and of specialised tools supporting business functions within industry.

At the general level, they cover "digital literacy": the skills required for the confident and critical use of ICT for work, leisure, learning and communication.

e-Business skills (also called e-leadership skills)

These correspond to the capabilities needed to exploit opportunities provided by ICT, notably the Internet; to ensure more efficient and effective performance of different types of organisations; to explore possibilities for new ways of conducting business/administrative and organisational processes; and/or to establish new businesses.

Further developments:

In 2012, in the scope of efforts to promote ICT professionalism, it has been proposed that ICT professionals should:

  • Possess a comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge, accommodating a common ICT body of knowledge, and pertinent specialist knowledge and skills;
  • Demonstrate on-going commitment to professional development, via an appropriate combination of qualifications, certifications, work experience, non-formal and informal learning;
  • Deliver high quality products and services, and value for stakeholders;
  • Adhere to applicable regulatory practices and/or a code of ethics/conduct.

In 2013, it has been proposed to define e-leadership as follows:

It is the accomplishment of a goal that relies on ICT through the direction of human resources and uses of ICT. Effective organisations are demanding e-leaders with a T-shaped portfolio of skills, representing expertise in both using ICT and developing organizations. Very simply, having a T-shaped portfolio of skills, means that a leader is both business and ICT-savvy. It means that a leader has the following skills:

  • A vertical set of skills that represent expertise or “deep knowledge” in a specific area (e.g. science; engineering; ICT; social sciences);
  • A horizontal set of skills that represent “transversal skills” (e.g. negotiation; critical thinking; design and systems thinking, business and entrepreneurship etc.) that enable collaboration across a variety of boundaries.
  • Both vertical and horizontal sets of skills require a basic level of ICT user skills, as defined by the European e-Skills Forum.

Examples of e-leaders may include a chief information and innovation officer (CIO), a chief enterprise architect, a business unit manager or an entrepreneur that relies on ICT to operate and innovate etc.

Skill deficiencies

The European e-skills Forum also proposed to distinguish the following deficiencies:

  • shortage: an insufficient number of skilled people in the labour market or in an occupational segment;
  • gap: a competence shortfall between the current and needed competence levels of individual staff within organisations;
  • mismatch: a mismatch between the competence of the trainee or graduating student/learner and the expected competence needs of the employers. Mismatch is assumed to arise from course/curricula misalignment

Coherent e-Skills strategy

The period 1997-2001 was marked by a significant growth of the demand for ICT practitioners in Europe. After a decline between 2001 and 2003 (due to the dotcom financial bubble and subsequent crisis) the demand started to climb again until the dramatic collapse of the financial markets in 2008 and its consequences on the economy and more recently the public debt.

The ICT workforce in Europe in 2011 amounted to 6.67 million, which is 3.1% of the overall European workforce. 5.25 million of these come from the occupational groups representing ICT practitioners and 1.42 million can be described ICT professionals at management level and include chief information officers, ICT operations managers, project managers but also ICT workers responsible for planning and strategy such as enterprise architects, systems analysts and ICT consultants. If we include the ICT mechanics and manual worker skills, 3.7 % of the European Labour Force, or more than eight million workers in the EU are ICT professionals, based on job classifications used in the Labour Force Surveys. The share can go up to 6 % in some countries. Of these ICT professionals, one in six is holding a highly skilled management and / or business architecture level skills position but the vast majority can be found in the core group of ICT practitioners.

Source: empirica, IDC Europe and INSEAD eLab, April 2013

The ICT workforce in Europe will continue to grow in the future. There has been a steady increase in the number of ICT practitioners in the workforce. And there is no indication that this trend will change. The annual growth of ICT employment has remained robust throughout the crisis so far.

A compelling concern is now the reported decline in supply of good graduates from ICT courses. Despite the crisis and its impact in the short-term on the demand, growing e-skills shortages and mismatches are expected in the future. This requires a strong and increased focus on quality and ICT professionalism.

Structural change in business practices is affecting the role of ICT practitioners, managers and advanced users as innovation, as well as the management and the delivery of high-level added value services, requires ever sophisticated and up-to-date skills. Finally, the impact of globalisation and the emergence of big data and cloud computing concern increasingly software and ICT services as well as the cross-border movement of highly-skilled workers. All this is creating fast changing opportunities and threats generating the need for rapid adaptation.

Long-term collaboration and commitment

There are no short term fixes to address e-skills issues. It is a complex topic requiring the long-term cooperation and commitment of stakeholders from both the public and the private sectors. The efforts of the Commission maintains a regular dialogue with stakeholders (Member States, all sectors of industry, associations and trade unions, academia and training institutions): steering groups were established and several meetings and workshops were organised to facilitate the development of te actions and the monitoring of progress. Conferences have been regularly organised by the European Commission sicne the European e-skills Summit in Copenhagen in 2002.

Key components of the long-term e-Skills agenda

The main policy objective is to contribute to improve framework conditions in Europe for the provision of a world-class e-skilled workforce to achieve stronger productivity, economic and social benefits and for the reduction of the digital divide. This objective can only be reached through the mobilisation of Member States and stakeholders to address the e-Skills issue in Europe and an optimal use of existing resources and instruments at all levels: local, regional, national and European.

The European Union needs to:

  • Develop optimal policies to prepare new workers and support current ones as they face the challenges of ICT led change and globalisation;
  • Reduce the digital divide and ensure that its citizens are digitally literate;
  • Provide a co-ordinated and timely response to implement change successfully

The five key components of the agenda:

1. Longer term cooperation

Strengthening cooperation between public authorities and the private sector, academia, unions and associations through the promotion of multi-stakeholder partnerships and joint initiatives including monitoring supply and demand, anticipating change, adapting curricula, attracting foreign students and highly-skilled ICT workers and promoting ICT education on a long-term basis.

2. Human resources investment

Ensuring sufficient public and private investment in human resources and e-Skills and appropriate financial support and fiscal incentives, in full respect of State aid rules, as well as developing an e-competence framework and tools facilitating mobility, transparency of qualifications, and promoting recognition and credit transfer between formal, non-formal and industry ICT education and certifications.

3. Attractiveness

Promoting science, maths, ICT, e-Skills, job profiles, role models and career perspectives with a particular focus on young people, especially girls, and providing parents, teachers and pupils with an accurate understanding of opportunities arising from an ICT education and an ICT career to counter the alarming decline in young people's interest for science and technology careers in Europe.

4. Employability and e-Inclusion

Developing digital literacy and e-competence actions tailored to the needs of the workforce both in the public and the private sector, with a particular emphasis on SMEs, and also to the needs of the unemployed, elderly people, people with low education levels, people with disabilities and marginalised young people.

5. Lifelong acquisition of e-Skills

Ensuring that workers can regularly update their e-Skills and encouraging better and more user-centric ICT-enhanced learning and training approaches (e-learning). Government should promote good practices for the training of employees using e-learning, with a particular emphasis on SMEs, and should publicise successful solutions and business models.

Action lines at European level

The efforts of the European Commission are concentrated on the promotion of the shared long-term EU e-skills agenda and on the implementation of key actions at EU level bringing added-value to the efforts of Member States and stakeholders.

Long-term cooperation and monitoring 

  • promoting a regular dialogue with Member States and stakeholders;
  • monitoring the supply and demand of e-skills at EU level;
  • assessing the impact of global sourcing on ICT jobs in Europe

Supporting actions and tools

  • supporting the development of ICT profesionalism and promoting the European e-competences framework developed by CEN;
  • fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships;
  • promoting mobility of highly-skilled ICT professionals;
  • promoting European quality criteria for ICT industry training and certifications;
  • supporting the development and promotion of curriculum guidelines;
  • encouraging appropriate financial and fiscal incentives.

Raising awareness

  • exchanging good practices for the promotion of STEM, ICT and e-skills;
  • supporting awareness campaigns at EU and national levels;
  • promoting ICT education to young people, especially girls.

Employability and social inclusion

  • implementing the Communication on e-inclusion adopted in 2007;
  • encouraging CSR and partnerships with job placement support services;

Better and greater use of e-learning

  • promoting successful strategies and policies for e-learning;
  • supporting the development of e-learning courses and exchange mechanisms for e-skills training resources;

An external evaluation was completed in 2010 and concluded positively both on the relevance and the achievements.  It formulated useful recommendations for the continuation of the EU long term e-skills strategy and Member States and stakeholders initiatives.
The next evaluation will be released in January 2014.

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