Digital Single Market
Digital Economy & Society

Report shows digital skills are required across all types of work, also for jobs outside the office

Article
The European Commission has just published a report on the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on job quality. Looking at the evidence from 12 specific types of non-office jobs, the report found that the use of digital technologies is beginning to have a profound effect on the tasks carried out and the skills required for many jobs outside the traditional office.

The report is the first part of a wide-ranging study which will provide comprehensive evidence regarding digital skills in the workplace. The results will feed into the Commission's work on digital skills and its new initiative the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition.

The 12 non-office based job profiles presented are: dairy farmer, machine operator, industrial designer, building electrician, transport clerk, car mechanic, police detective, VET teacher, property caretaker, doctor in a hospital, animator and desktop publisher.

The main findings are that the use of ICT profoundly affects the work tasks and skills requirements of the profiled jobs:

  • Information technologies increasingly take over routine, analytical tasks and this is not only confined to manual tasks in manufacturing, but also to analytical tasks of decisions-making e.g. the transport clerk using software to optimise transport solutions or the car mechanic using analytical software to diagnose problems with a car.
  • The use of ICT tends to increase the speed, flexibility and independency of work e.g. animators are able to automate the time-consuming task of drawing and colouring in-between drawings and machine operators increasingly programme machinery and monitor production themselves.
  • The use of digital technologies differentiates the level of skills among employees e.g. car mechanics with good digital skills can work with more advanced tasks while less proficient manage simpler tasks.
  • The use of ICT affects what skills – both digital and other – are required for the job. Advanced digital skills are needed for applying profession specific software. In some profiles, only basic user skills in general software and applications are required. Complementary skills in communication, service and documentation are more important. Life-long learning is an important element of all profiles.
  • The adoption of digital technologies takes time to become mainstream.
  • Lack of knowhow and skills among employers and employees is a challenge for future adoption of digital technologies in a job.
  • The use of information technologies blurs the boundaries between occupations or merges them e.g. computer software has increasingly permeated traditional electronics blurring the boundaries between electricians and ICT professionals and, similarly, digital technologies in desktop publishing is leading to the burring of boundaries between for example desktop publishers and multimedia artists.

The study ICT for Work: Digital skills in the workplace focus on questions such as: Which digital skills are needed in today's workforce? In which sectors and occupations are these skills most lacking? How do companies deal with the lack of skills of their employees? It has been carried out by ECORYS and DTI on behalf of the Commission. Full study results will be published at the end of the year.

Intermediate report "The impact of ICT on job quality: evidence from 12 job profiles" (SMART 2014/0048)