Authors:Roberto Viola, Director General DG Connect and Martine Reicherts, Director General DG EAC
The success of Erasmus and its successors, including the current Erasmus+ programme shows how the EU can be instrumental in broadening students' experiences as well as boosting their CVs. This is particularly relevant today, when we are confronted with a radical digital transformation of our society and economy, which requires pooling efforts to quickly adjust and seize new opportunities.
Digital is everywhere and is transforming the way we work and the skills we need at home and on the job. We believe Erasmus+ and EU support to national education policies can play an important role here. The recent Communications on School Development and excellent teaching for a great start in life and on a renewed EU agenda for higher education outline plans to better support the development of learners' and teachers' digital skills. To mention just a few examples:
We will develop a self-assessment tool on digital capacity for schools and higher education institutions in the EU. With it, schools can, on a voluntary basis, evaluate themselves on where they stand, and can get support to develop and improve their effective use of technologies for digital age learning. The tool, called Selfie, will start piloting this summer.
For higher education, we will help higher education institutions, staff and students implement digital learning strategies through a digital readiness model, which will also enable them to make full use of the state-of-the-art technology, including learning analytics. Guidance on open education initiatives will accompany the model.
However, digital skills, as any others, cannot only be learned in the classroom. This needs to happen also through practice, for example traineeships. A first step in supporting digital skills through traineeships is the Horizon 2020-funded Digital opportunity pilot project announced in the Digital Single market mid-term review. The EUR 10 million scheme will give students of all disciplines hands-on experience in fields such as cybersecurity, big data, quantum or artificial intelligence, that are highly demanded by companies and organisations. Students who take part will receive an average grant of EUR 500 per month for an internship of four to five months. The pilot will run from 2018 to 2020 and is expected to support 5,000-6,000 students. If successful, it can be scaled up so that to reach many more young people.
In this era of digital transformation, employers, educators and policy makers need to work together with students to find pragmatic solutions that will prepare learners for the types of jobs that do not yet exist, and will connect job seekers and employers in new and innovative ways. The Digital opportunity pilot project adds one piece to the many needed to close the skills gap. We hope that companies – especially those which are members of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition or active in Horizon 2020 – take the opportunity to host interns and give them the digital skills that are sought after on the job market.
Together we can help Europeans develop digital skills and continue to shape Europe in positive way.