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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

The digital economy delivers jobs: FACT

The Grand Coalition for ICT skills and jobs conference /Brussels

4 March 2013

Ladies and Gentleman,

So we agree that unemployment in Europe is unacceptably high and at the same time unfilled vacancies in ICT are growing. We also acknowledge that our competitiveness as a region is under threat if we're short of digitally skilled people. We cannot go on this way. Doing nothing is not an option: and that is why we are here today. Not to talk and analyse but to decide, commit and act.

We are here today to work together, in a totally new way, to deliver the jobs for our economic future, and to stem unemployment.

This coalition is not about reinventing the wheel It should be about building on existing success. I want people to be open in their commitments, join forces where they see the chance, and recognise we need to do things differently. Quite simply, facing hundreds of thousands of unfilled vacancies, we cannot continue as we were; and we must all do our bit. I know it needs us all to invest resources: but the payoff will be for everyone.

So what are the issues we need to address in order to fill the gap? I see five.

And for each of those issues, we have potential solutions – the five work streams of today's event.

First, some people just aren't aware of ICT careers as an option: for them, we must raise awareness. Current initiatives like eSkills week and Get Online week are not stemming falling graduate numbers. Here, industry can take the lead: and fast. Like by school visits: I know they already happen; I know they are successful: why not have twice as many of them this year? Or even dedicate 1% of your advertising budget to a joint campaign on the attractiveness of digital careers?

Second, sometimes people are aware of ICT's potential, but don't have the background to dare embark on an ICT career. So we must modernise education, mainstreaming ICT for every pupil. That's a huge task, ranging from curricula to teacher training, and it will take time. But it needs to be done.

Third, even if they follow all the right courses and tick all the right boxes – some people still don't get the skills industry actually needs. We must better match what ICT training offers and what the labour market needs: that needs training providers and industry to work together to look at skills needs and define programme content, jointly.

Fourth, sometimes someone has the right training and the right skills – but isn't where the jobs are. Today some countries face a surplus while others a shortage. We must encourage mobility for ICT workers, and fix that problem. Of course, supporting free movement, in any sector, is the EU's core business. And so I welcome that several national employment services are already actively helping.

And last, maybe someone has the right awareness, the right skills, and is prepared to move to the right country – but can't demonstrate their skills and qualifications to a potential employer, at least not without prohibitive paperwork. Recognising qualifications in ICT isn't easy: it's a fast-moving world. But we have found a European solution through the eCompetences framework: a common system so employers can transparently understand people's ICT skills, wherever they're from in Europe. That's a powerful tool – now we need to commit to use it, employers, candidates, governments, agencies, and more.

This isn't just about workstreams and processes though. It's about action: pledges. That's my favourite part today. Not just talking about needs and hopes, but commitments: to new platforms, new programmes, new partnerships. Moving from “wouldn't-it-be-nice-if” to, “here's-what-we-are-going-to-do”.

And I am aware that I cannot make such a call without making a pledge myself.

The Commission will not just coordinate the work strands and governance of the Coalition.

We will also directly support the Grand Coalition through our sectoral policies: from the digital agenda, education, and employment, to innovation and enterprise policy. For instance,

This year, we will allocate €1 million from the Competitiveness and Innovation programme to support a Thematic Network on the Grand Coalition.

We will use Horizon 2020 to support the Grand Coalition, as part of tackling our societal challenges.

The Lifelong Learning and 'Erasmus for All' programme will promote using ICT in mainstream education and training.

We will fund projects to fill the digital skills gap under the PROGRESS programme this year,

We will propose a targeted intra EU mobility scheme focusing on ICT jobs, in 2014-15, under the Programme for Social Change and Innovation.

And finally, we will make € 3.5 million available this spring for a pan-European awareness-raising campaign next year. To progress ICT Professionalism and ensure SMEs have the right e-leadership skills.

Those are our pledges. And for yours, I'm particularly pleased to see the pledges from industry in this first round. It shows the industry recognises this imperative - and is stepping up to meet it. You are well placed to take action – and even better placed to profit from the results.

So, I'm going to invite those companies who have already made concrete pledges to briefly present their plans.

These are very promising projects indeed, which I'll follow closely. But let me underline that this is only the first round of commitments. Those of you who have not yet entered a pledge: ask yourselves, what can I do to fill the gap? And by this I do not mean: how can I re-brand what I am doing anyway as a pledge? I mean doing something different, or something extra, or something better than business as usual. Otherwise we will all be here ten years from now with exactly the same problems we have today, only worse. Nor do I just mean industry; I hope other stakeholders as well will come forward and make concrete pledges. You have from now until 31 May, that leaves nearly three months' time for preparation; we will then present all pledges together at the Digital Agenda Assembly in June.

This is serious: it matters to our people, to our global competitiveness, to our very future. But the European Commission can't do it alone. We can only reach our goals if all of us work together.

So those of you who have already pledged, thank you: those remaining, I hope I can count on your support.

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