The European Commission is promoting various initiatives aimed at increasing training in digital skills for the workforce and for consumers; modernising education across the EU; harnessing digital technologies for learning and for the recognition and validation of skills; and anticipating and analysing skills needs.
A strong digital economy is vital for innovation, growth, jobs and European competitiveness. The spread of digital is having a massive impact on the labour market and the type of skills needed in the economy and society.
- It is changing the structure of employment, leading to the automation of “routine” tasks and to the creation of new and different types of jobs.
- It is leading to the need for more skilled ICT professionals in all sectors of the economy. There are already hundreds of thousands of unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals in Europe.
- It is leading to the need for digital skills for nearly all jobs where ICT complements existing tasks. Careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, art, architecture, and many more – require increasing levels of digital skills.
- It changes the way we learn by fostering online communities, by enabling personalised learning experiences, by supporting the development of soft skills such as problem solving, collaboration and creativity, and by making learning fun.
- It is leading to the need for every citizen to have at least basic digital skills in order to live, work, learn and participate in the modern society.
The full potential for improving education through ICT in Europe remains yet to be discovered and this is why the European Commission is developing policy and supporting research to make learners fit for 21st century life and work.
Digital Skills in 2021 and beyond
The magnitude of the digital skills challenge requires a long-term strategy and new partnerships between European, national, regional, public and private players including civil society.
To tackle the digital skills gap, significant investments are needed. In the new EU budget, the Commission proposes coherent and comprehensive support for building up the digital skills needed to support reskilling and upskilling in Europe for a successful digital transformation. Different funds will target different skills needs.
The new Digital Europe Programme with a budget of €700 million will expand the digital talent pool with around 256,000 people who will be able to deploy the latest technology in business throughout Europe. It will focus on three types of actions:
- Master’s Programmes in cutting-edge digital technologies developed together with EU excellence centres in artificial intelligence, cyber and high-performance computing. The aim is to offer 160 new master programmes training 80,000 digital specialists.
- Short-term specialized training courses in advanced digital technologies for around 150,000 job seekers and employed people especially in SMEs. The aim is to equip them with the competences that will enable the deployment of digital technologies across all sectors of the economy.
- 35,000 job placements in companies or research centres where advanced digital technologies are developed or used. The aim is to give people the opportunity to learn specialists’ skills working with the latest available technologies.
The European Social Fund Plus will support EU Member States to improve the quality, effectiveness and labour market relevance of national education and training systems to support the acquisition of key competences, including digital skills. It will also promote upskilling and reskilling opportunities for all, placing a particular emphasis on digital skills.
The European Global Adjustment Fund will support training, which will all have a digital skills component, to help laid-off workers find another job or set up their own business.
Erasmus+ will support digital learning from early childhood to vocational education and university education. It will also continue to support the acquisition of digital skills through cross-border experiences.
Horizon Europe will finance grants for master, PhD and post-graduate research activities in all fields including digital through Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions as well as the European Institute of Innovation & Technology.
A New Skills Agenda for Europe
On 10 June 2016 the European Commission published a new Skills Agenda for Europe, working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness. It presents a number of actions and initiatives with the ambition to tackle the digital skills deficit in Europe.
The new agenda sets out to improve the quality and relevance of skills formation, to make skills and qualifications more visible and comparable and advancing skills intelligence, documentation and informed career choices. Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition is the new flag ship initiative among a number of other initiatives that were presented.
The mid-term review of the Digital Single Market strategy, published in May 2017, focuses on digital skills oriented actions, aiming to manage digital transformation of our society and economy.
Digitising European Industry
On 18 April 2016 the European Commission published a Communication on Digitising European Industry, which introduced a set of coherent policy measures as part of a Digital Single Market (DSM) technologies and public services modernisation package. A part of the Communication is dedicated on digital skills. In particular, it calls for a human capital ready for the digital transformation with the necessary skills.
The digital transformation is structurally changing the labour market and the nature of work. There are concerns that these changes may affect employment conditions, levels and income distribution. Alongside investment in technology, we need investment in skills and knowledge, to be ready for the future. The need for new multidisciplinary digital skills is exploding.
Together with all stakeholders, such as Member States, industry, social partners and education and training providers, the Commission will:
- Address these challenges as part of a comprehensive dialogue on the social aspects of digitisation that engages all stakeholders involved in all aspects of work, education and training.
- Reinforce the role of industry and research organisations in the Grand Coalition and stimulate further commitment from industry to take action.
- Improve the understanding of skills requirements for new technologies, including within H2020, and promote the development of digital skills and stimulate partnerships for skills within the framework of the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
- Engage Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) in skills for mid-caps and SMEs.