Two years ago we launched the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs to address the digital skills deficit and create more jobs in Europe. Today we need to build on our experiences and step up our efforts. Here is how.

This week is European Get Online Week (GOW), a campaign aimed to engage and empower people to use technology and the Internet with confidence and acquire digital skills. #GOW15 will see the involvement of 25 countries and directly target more than 50,000 Europeans. I take this opportunity to summarize our actions and targets with regards to boosting digital skills and jobs in Europe.

For everyone a natural consequence of technological innovation is the quest for new types of skills.  Yet skills development does not come about as fast as technological development, which is why we are faced with a paradoxical situation: although almost 24 million Europeans are currently without a job companies have a hard time finding skilled digital technology experts. As a result, there could be up to 825,000 unfilled vacancies for ICT (Information and Communications technology) professionals by 2020.

Moreover, there is a need for digital skills for nearly all jobs where digital technology complements existing tasks. In the near future 90% of jobs - in careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, art, architecture, and many more - will require some level of digital skills.

Two years ago we launched the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs to tackle the above paradox. Today, the Grand Coalition is the largest collaborative effort in Europe aimed to offer more ICT training co-designed with the industry; implement job placement programmes; provide more digitally aligned degrees and curricula at all levels and types of training and education; and motivate young people to study ICT and pursue related careers.

We have come a long way in 2 years but our job is not finished – in fact, it has just started. Now, more than ever, we need to build on our successes, address our challenges and step up our efforts. Here is how:

  1. Placing Digital skills at the heart of a flourishing Digital Single Market

The Commission will launch the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy this spring. This means new jobs, notably for young job-seekers, and a vibrant knowledge-based society. Our ambition is that all consumers, businesses, workers, researchers and students will benefit from the DSM and this can only happen if they have the right skills.

  1. Addressing digital skills at the highest political level

Commissioner Oettinger has been mandated by President Juncker to contribute to creating a connected digital single market and to reinforce digital skills and learning across society, To this end he will be actively discussing with Member States to design and implement effective national digital skills policies, in a collaborative effort.

  1. Growing and strengthening National Coalitions for Digital Jobs

Our strong belief is that national, regional and local partnerships can effectively strengthen local economies.We have 8 national skills coalitions to date and our goal is to double this number by the end of 2015. For this purpose we have developed a Toolkit, with recommendations on how to successfully start and implement stakeholder alliances. We will also make sure that national coalitions flourish and become stronger by encouraging use of relevant funding as well as by making concrete proposals in the context of the European Semester.

  1. Boosting the Grand Coalition

It is essential to widen the membership to the Grand Coalition to additional ICT-using companies, from banking to automotive, healthcare to energy, textiles to tourism, and many more, to increase their training offers. Likewise, we need all other pertinent stakeholders to pledge substantial support for our goals. Last but not least, we should ensure that digital skills are addressed by the social partners in the context of a social dialogue on the European level.

  1. Making better use of European funding towards digital skills development 

There are several funding sources at European and national level to support projects boosting digital skills. The European Council conclusions of October 2013 recommended the use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF 2014-2020) for digital skills development. This includes the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative. An additional source of funding is Erasmus Plus.  We have the funds; we have the mandate so let’s use them for more trainings, including work-based learning.

  1. Anticipating and analysing skills needs

We are and will be carrying out studies and projects aimed at forecasting and analysing skills needs. Recent examples are our Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) that contains a Human Capital dimension as well as the European Data Science Academy (EDSA) and a new study on ICT for Work: Digital skills in the workplace that have just been launched.

  1. Modernising education

We need to ensure that all Europe's kids and youngsters are equipped with the right skills. School and university curricula need to take into account how much young people are using digital technology. We need more investment in equipment and teacher training. It is essential to promote coding and computer science to make learning fun. In the short term, we will encourage coding and other digital technology classes as an extracurricular activity for school children, for example through the European Coding Initiative and its forthcoming updated and multilingual coding resources website and EU Code Week.

This is how we envisage our action towards a digitally competent and competitive Europe. Now it is time to deliver on this vision for a more digitally skilled Europe. We can’t do this alone and that’s why we ask for your support.

Feel free to send us your comments and ideas!

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