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Brussels, 2 March 2010

e-skills: European Week 2010 underlines e-skills' potential to help Europe’s economic recovery

European e-skills Week 2010, from March 1-5, aims to review the EU e-skills strategy's achievements in terms of digital literacy and boosting the e-skills of all EU citizens, to share experiences, build links and mobilise stakeholders across the EU. The official launch of the European e-Skills Week at CeBIT, the world’s largest digital tradeshow, in Hannover, Germany, on 2 March 2010, marks the culmination of a campaign of more than 200 events and activities such as conferences, web seminars, company executive tours to schools and workshops. European e-Skills Week is the result of a coordinated effort by the European Commission, governments, industry and educational establishments to inform the European public about the critical role ICT skills play in securing Europe’s future economic competitiveness. A broad range of activities across 35 countries in Europe will highlight the demand for skilled ICT users and professionals. Public authorities, ICT companies and educational institutions have together engaged in hundreds of activities, training events and competitions to inspire people to discover e-skills (such as using the internet) from their youth to retirement .

On the occasion of e-skills Week 2010, Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, issued a joint statement: "Improving digital literacy is crucial to Europe’s future. We must invest in the e-skills of all EU citizens to make sure that no one is left behind as the economy goes digital. Digital literacy and media literacy are crucial components of digital inclusion: people should be able to use computers and the internet, while understanding how the web actually works and how to assess the online information.”

Regular internet use in the EU has grown from 43% in 2005 to 56% in 2008, according to the EU's Digital Literacy Report and the Digital Competitiveness Report. 43% of the population now use the internet daily, with higher rates among the young. However, large gaps still remain. People aged 65-74, the economically inactive and those with the least education are the most digitally excluded.

Demand for e-skills has boomed in recent decades - there are almost 4 million ICT professionals in Europe, more than double the level for 1995. These experts increasingly work in fields like the automotive, banking, finance, graphic arts and media sectors - and other ICT user industries - (54.5%) and less than half now work in the traditional ICT industry (45.5%).

While these numbers are a good basis for building a competitive knowledge economy, they are not enough. With the e-skills required by industry varying constantly, employers complain now about e-skills shortages as well as an insufficient level of professionalism and expertise. Far from being an ‘ICT sector issue’, Europe’s growing e-skills shortage is affecting the productivity and the competitiveness of all types of organizations (large and small) across society.

But Europe's education and training systems have not kept up with the exploding demand for e-skills, leaving us with a shortage of home-grown computer scientists and advanced users. Facing competition from the United States and Japan but also increasingly from India and China, Europe needs more highly e-skilled professionals of its own. Fewer young people have enrolled on computer science courses since 2003, leading to a decline in graduates. So far the shortfall is being made up by science, engineering or humanities graduates who are becoming ICT experts (for example non-ICT graduates make up 70% of Denmark’s ICT workforce). A recent foresight study anticipates that the EU labour market may face an excess demand of 384,000 ICT practitioners by 2015. In addition, according to a survey, in five years time only 10% of the job in the EU will not require e-skills.

The European Commission set out a long term strategy on "e-Skills for the 21 st Century" in its Communication of September 2007 (see IP/07/1286 ) based on advice from stakeholders and governments in the European e-Skills Forum. There will be a special focus on young people, ICT practitioners, small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs.

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