European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Speech: Job creation needs a Grand Coalition
Conference “Filling the Gaps: e-Skills & Education for Digital Jobs”/
Brussels, 4 March 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome and thank you for joining us at the launch of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs.
Let me begin with two simple stories.
One of the colleagues involved in the organisation of this event has a sister, who trained as physiotherapist. When selling things on e-bay in her free time, she started to get interested in ICT. While taking a break to raise her three children, she followed a 3-year ICT training and graduated as Bachelor of Science.
Today she is 38 years old and works as a software developer in a specialist German SME dealing in web2print solutions and product information management systems. In her new job she earns about 50% more compared to what she would earn as physiotherapist. She is more fulfilled and has a greater sense of productivity and skills utilisation.
My second story is about a company from a small town in the Czech Republic which specialises in industrial automation, employs about 85 people, and has recruited five ICT professionals from abroad in 2011 and 2012 with the help of advisers from the network of European Employment Services, EURES.
This story is interesting in the sense that even an SME in a country with a relatively strong tradition of engineering education feels the need to look abroad in order to get the workers it needs.
It also shows that smaller companies need support and assistance when recruiting beyond national borders.
These two anecdotes illustrate what we are actually trying to achieve with the initiative we are launching today: To help professional career transitions and to support job creation in the ICT world.
Boosting job creation
Unfortunately we now have over 26 million unemployed in the 27 Member States. Yet, despite restructuring and job cuts in the ICT manufacturing industries in recent years, demand for personnel in software development, consulting and the ICT user industries has continued to grow. We have to work together to do all we can to meet this demand for the sake of getting more people into jobs and making Europe's ICT sector more competitive.
Unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals in Europe are estimated at hundreds of thousands and set to rise over the coming years, even as overall employment remains depressed.
But we also know that job creation doesn’t happen by itself. You need a company to create a vacancy. Then you need a person with the skills that fit the company's needs, and they both need to come together and settle all practicalities of recruitment.
Only then you have a match in the labour market, and only then can we talk about a job being created.
In the Employment Package of last April, the Commission identified the job creation potential of the ICT sector (along with healthcare and the green economy) and advocated equal attention to labour supply and demand policies to achieve this.
It’s not just about skills supply, and it’s not just about business’ demand for labour. Employment policy as we see it must also improve the matching process between the two.
Effectively, this means helping jobseekers acquire and develop the skills that are sought by companies and bringing both parties together.
The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs we are launching today focuses on closing the gaps between expected vacancies for ICT practitioners on the one hand, and the supply of skilled candidates on the other.
The estimate of 700,000 unfilled vacancies by 2015 is in the process of being updated, but more recent calculations show figures of more or less the same magnitude, possibly reaching up to 900,000.
Mobility & EURES ICT vacancies
According to data on the EURES web portal, the total number of ICT vacancies was about 80,000 last week.
Countries with the highest demand for ICT jobs per inhabitant are in the North of Europe and around Germany, while in the other countries demand is either lower or the vacancies are not reported in the EURES system.
Intra-EU mobility can contribute to closing skills gaps by remedying geographic labour market imbalances and so reduce unemployment.
In order to help boost labour mobility the Commission and Member States are working on the modernisation of EURES.
The aim is for EURES to become a real pan-European placement and recruitment service from January 2014, to help employers and jobseekers across Europe.
This upgraded EURES service will include, among other things, targeted labour mobility schemes focusing on sectors with high growth potential but experiencing labour shortages, such as ICTs.
A reinforced push to create digital jobs
The Grand Coalition we are launching today will build on long-standing actions and help develop solid partnerships with industry players, the education sector, the world of employment services and the social partners.
Governments and the European Commission have been trying to address the issue of digital job creation through concrete initiatives for some time:
we have built the e-competence framework for certification of digital skills
we have also improved the monitoring and anticipation of skills needs through the European Vacancy Monitor and the EU Skills Panorama
the European Social Fund is a major source of investment in up-skilling, re-skilling and labour market matching in all fields, including the digital economy
and as far back as 2007 the Commission established a focused e-Skills agenda with the e-Skills Week having become a large-scale campaign across Europe.
The Grand Coalition will help bring all these pieces together by concretely acting on the job creation front.
It is on this basis that we have identified five key policy themes and sets of action for the Grand Coalition:
Training and matching for digital jobs
Awareness raising and
Innovative learning and teaching.
What is different about the Grand Coalition?
The Grand Coalition we are launching today is different from earlier actions at least in two ways.
First, we are bringing together a broad range of stakeholders: representatives of ICT companies, non-ICT companies, schools and universities, governments as well as public and private employment services.
The coalition is indeed grand in its size and breadth. We consider that it is necessary to create this broad partnership if we want to exploit the full employment potential of the ICT sector.
The second novelty is that we want to focus this multi-stakeholder partnership very clearly on every player’s firm commitment and action.
You will see later this afternoon that a number of large companies will make pledges to train and eventually employ a certain number of ICT professionals.
The Commission will also make a couple of pledges on what it will do to support creation of digital jobs. But this should be only the very beginning.
As the Grand Coalition develops in the coming months, we would like to see also other, smaller stakeholders making a clear commitment as to what they can do for the cause.
And something we should all try to keep in mind in developing the Grand Coalition is the potential of ICT to boost employability and social inclusion of disabled or handicapped people. The Danish software developer Specialisterne and Spanish ONCE Foundation are well-known examples which deserve to be widely repeated elsewhere.
To make job creation happen, Europe needs a Grand Coalition. We need you all – and we need you to engage with the other players and act.
If the ICT jobs gap is filled, everybody wins. So let’s work together today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks and months to identify and implement concrete cooperation projects to fill that gap.