Electronic skills for the 21st century: fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs
In this communication, the European commission shows how it intends to promote long-term actions for information and communication technologies (ICTs). Indeed, these are a major challenge for European Union competitiveness in a globalised world and efforts in terms of research and investment are proving essential.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 7 September 2007 entitled "E-skills for the 21st century: fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs" [COM(2007) 496 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) represent a major challenge in terms of productivity, growth and jobs. The EU and its Member States must quickly adopt rapidly-developing ICT in order to bridge the e-skills gap and be in a position to create a real knowledge-based economy.
The Commission's observations are as follows:
- e-skills are not really recognised as a major political challenge;
- there is no comprehensive e-skills strategy in the EU, where regulations still differ from one country to another;
- the image problem and decline in supply of highly-skilled ICT practitioners, which creates a labour deficit in this field, must be remedied;
- an even larger gap is opening up between supply and demand of specific e-skills, while digital illiteracy persists.
Therefore, the Commission is insisting on the need to establish a long-term e-skills agenda. Implementation of these measures is the responsibility of the Member States, but they must bring real added value at European level.
The Commission proposes giving its support to initiatives by defining the key components of the agenda and presenting action lines at the European level.
The key components of the agenda are as follows:
- creating long-term cooperation between the various stakeholders (public authorities, private sector, universities, associations, etc.);
- investing in human resources;
- promotion of sciences, maths, e-skills and ICTs and encouraging careers in this field, particularly for young people and girls;
- improving digital literacy with the emphasis on categories of the population like the unemployed, elderly people and also those with low education levels in order to encourage employability and e-inclusion;
- enabling lifelong acquisition of e-skills in particular through updating knowledge and developing e-learning.
Action lines at the European level
The Commission proposes five action lines, the activities of which must begin in 2007 for complete implementation by 2010. They will be implemented through European programmes, such as the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), and Structural Funds available for the promotion of Employment and Regional Cohesion.
These action lines involve:
- promoting long-term cooperation and monitoring progress: the Commission will promote regular dialogue between all stakeholders (Member States, industry, associations, etc.). The Commission will also publish an annual report on e-skills acquisition;
- developing supporting actions and tools. This involves in particular: supporting the development of a European e-Competence Framework, further promoting the Europass initiative, producing a European handbook on multi-stakeholder partnerships, setting up fast-track schemes for third-country ICT practitioners to the EU, encouraging women to choose ICT careers (IT girls shadowing exercise) and promoting e-training in the field of agriculture and in rural areas;
- raising awareness, in particular by encouraging exchange of information and good practices between Member States and by promoting awareness and information campaigns at European and national level;
- fostering employability and social inclusion: as part of the initiative on e-inclusion, the Commission intends to promote initiatives and partnerships between providers of training and trainees, and to investigate how public and private funding can support multi-stakeholder initiatives;
- promoting better and greater use of e-learning: the Commission will release a report in 2008 with recommendations for targeted e-learning initiatives. It will also promote the development of e-learning courses and exchange mechanisms of training resources for the workforce by 2009. Finally, it will support the networking of training and research centres to create better understanding of future e-skills needs.