As digitisation speeds up so the demand for digital skills is growing in Europe, and people need adequate and appropriate digital skills to be empowered in a digital eco­nomy and society. Digital skills are needed at all levels, ranging from high-level ICT specialist skills, to skills needed by the labour force and the unemployed, to broader skills needed by ordinary citizens.

However, digital skills gaps are growing as the supply is unable to meet increasing demand. Ironically, while EU-wide youth unemployment is at almost 20 per cent the European economy may lack as many as 756,000 ICT professionals by 2020. More than a third of the labour force and, more broadly, around 45 per cent of EU citizens are, in effect, digitally illiterate.

The eSkills Malta Foundation is an active member of and contributor to various expert working groups set up to reflect on Member States’ current and future needs. Last December the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition was launched, and as Malta was due to hold the EU Council presidency the Foundation presented the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Charter to European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the launch event.

To adequately address these challenges the coalition identified four areas that Member States should tackle:

1) Educate and train more young people for digital professions so that a large pool of talented young digital professionals is created, with increased female participation, to be ready to take up the growing number of unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals in Europe;

More than a third of the labour force and around 45 per cent of EU citizens are, in effect, digitally illiterate

2) Up-skill and re-skill the European employees with the digital skills required to remain productive in their current jobs, and to become employable for new ones;

3) Modernise education and training systems for the digital age to bring digital skills and competences to all levels of education and training, and bring them closer to industry needs;

4) Improve the digital skills of all citizens so that they can play an active role in modern society, strengthening social inclusion.

The solutions to Europe’s digital skills challenges cannot be implemented by any single Member State, nor by any single group of actors in isolation. They require strong pan-European and national partnerships, adequate policies and appropriate funding. They also require strong and sustained commitment to reverse trends, and ensure European citizens and workers are prepared for the digital revolution.

Digital technologies have transformed the world and the EU Commission regards technology and innovation as pillars in the digital economy. This is why the EU is promoting and implementing a Digital Single Market, whereby existing barriers are torn down and the 28 Member States national markets converge into one large market. This will create economic expansion, jobs and wealth in all countries and give equal opportunities to all EU citizens.

The eSkills Malta Foundation looks forward with enthusiasm to this challenge.

Carm Cachia is executive coordinator, eSkills Malta Foundation.

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