Six months ago we launched the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition to bring together Member States, companies, social partners, non-for profit organisations and education providers to commit to undertaking concrete actions to tackle the digital skills gap in Europe. As reported in Europe's Digital Progress Report, the lack of digital skills is a persistent problem in all European countries. As many as 169 million adult Europeans, or 44%, do not have basic digital skills. Neither do 80 million people who work or are looking for a job – despite the fact that digital skills are now needed in almost all jobs – from nurses and doctors to farmers, bankers and car mechanics.
A key pillar of the Coalition involves the setup of National Coalitions connecting actors involved in digital skills development at national and regional level to address specific challenges faced in their country. Therefore, I am happy to announce that we now have 17 such National Coalitions and more are in preparation.
The idea is simple. The National Coalitions create a strong ecosystem of digital actors from the private and public sectors, non-for profit organisations and social partners. Each country builds its Coalition to meet the specific needs faced by their own citizens. This could comprise for example actions to support digital skills development of teachers and pupils in education, to re-skill the workforce, or to provide digital skills to the elderly. The key elements of a National Coalition are the involvement of all relevant actors, to agree on a strategy, identify the areas they will focus on, develop short- and mid-term actions and start implementing.
There is not one recipe for making a National Coalition successful, but a number of success factors are emerging. We have seen that it is important that the National Coalition is backed by the government. This can be achieved for example by signing a memorandum of understanding focusing on shaping or updating a national digital skills strategy. We have also observed that effective National Coalitions continuously scale up their actions by involving new partners, growing their communities and making use of best practices experienced in other initiatives. Lastly, successful National Coalitions make use of all available sources of funding to help them implement their actions.
What have the National Coalitions achieved so far?
The 17 existing Coalitions champion a plethora of actions that contribute to improving European citizens' digital skills to enable them to live and work in an increasingly digital economy. Many National Coalitions are also advising their governments on how to roll out national digital programmes. Here are a few examples:
The coalition in Belgium is widening its stakeholder base and supporting the scale up of national digital initiatives such as the BeCentral and the Digital Skills Fair. It also recently unveiled the Digital Belgium Skills Fund to train Belgian citizens in digital skills.
The Coalition in Bulgaria, has a schedule full of activities including hmtl workshops for kids every Saturday in June and July. At the end of June a pilot programme to train teachers in digital technologies will be launched.
The Coalition in the Czech Republic is organising roundtables focusing on digital skills in education. The outcomes of these meetings will form the cornerstone in a new school curriculum which includes digital skills.
The National Coalition in Hungary is working with the government's Digital Workforce Programme – a national strategy for digital skills, which will include several short-term trainings and scholarship schemes for ICT students.
The Latvian National Coalition includes partners from several ministries, businesses, universities, NGOs, libraries. In March 2017 an updated Memorandum of Cooperation was signed. Another Memorandum was signed with the Ministry of Defence on education and investment in cybersecurity, as cybersecurity and teachers training are important topics in Latvia. An ICT security campaign will be one of categories of yearly national ICT award this year.
On 15 June, back-to-back with the Digital Assembly, representatives of the National Coalitions will meet in Malta to share best practices and discuss how to best contribute to Member States' national digital skills strategies. They will also meet the Digital Champions and discuss how they can work together. The following day digital transformation, the skills of the future and how digital internships and digital innovation hubs can support the transition, will be the topic of a workshop at the Digital Assembly.
If you and your organisation are interested in boosting Europeans digital skills, don't hesitate to contact your National Coalition or create one if none exists in your country. You can also keep up with what is going on by joining our LinkedIn community, following us on Twitter and Facebook or sending an email to the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Secretariat.