Digital Skills and Employment Programmes for Smarter and Resilient Communities
This brought together about 120 participants. Panellists shared experiences and learnings from work done at government, non-profit organisation, private training provider and university level. The conclusions were that, while technology opens up many opportunities for the European economy and society, it requires reskilling and upskilling investment to get everybody on board. EU funding features in many success stories on this topic. These are based on combining technical and soft skills and guaranteeing mutual benefits for learners and future employers. These elements must be prioritised in the skills funding programmes in the next MFF. More ambitious funding is also required to meet market needs and follow the lifelong learning concept where learning is a continuous process, not a one-off event.
Samia Ghozlane, Director at La Grande Ecole du Numerique, talked about the importance of a win-win approach to succeed in training. It has to meet the interests of learners and the needs of employers at the same time. Mutual benefit, together with soft skills in training activities, is a key element for La Grande Ecole du Numerique.
Alexandra Hay-Plumb, Chief Partnerships Officer at Generation Foundation, echoed these words. Her organisation relentlessly focuses on providing a comprehensive set of skills where mindset, behavioural and technical competences have prominence. Data analytics provided by technology partners, she also explained, are crucial at Generation. They give insights into possible learner dropout and help in mitigating this risk accordingly as well as helping measure the programme’s effectiveness and results.
Talking about success factors for training delivery, Yann Mazuet, Reskilling Manager at Global Knowledge France, highlighted the importance of diversity in recruitment. Bringing together a team of people with different backgrounds and experiences, he elaborated, is likely to increase the added value of training for students.
Giorgio Ventre, Professor at University of Napoli Federico II (Italy), presented the success story of his university. Thanks also to EU funding, it has been transformed into an international hub for digital innovation where a more learner-centric experience and challenge-based teaching are embraced. This story can be replicated elsewhere. For it to happen, a paradigm shift in the teaching of digital skills and slimmed-down bureaucratic procedures for earmarking funds would clearly help.
Weronika Jakubowska-Pietras, Head of WSCS Centre for IT Technologies Research and Implementation Office at the Warsaw School of Computer Science, showed concrete examples of how EU funding was a determinant in boosting the uptake of advanced digital skills among students in her university. Looking at the near future, she said, it will be crucial to continue boosting local competence networks, including schools and adult learning initiatives. This will enable the university to extend its traditional remit to new audiences (students and current workforce), and help to spur demand for ICT competencies and student enrollment.
Take away message
There is a critical shortage of digital skills at basic, medium and advanced level. Training providers, non-profit organisations, academia and their technology partners have proved that collaboration with industry and employers can successfully impact and boost new teaching methods and a holistic approach to skills development. The role of EU funds in bridging the digital skills gap should be expanded in the next MFF, and the good practices need to be replicated at local and regional level.
Giorgio Ventre, Professor at University of Napoli Federico II: ''As our economies embark on a digital transformation journey, there is a need for a paradigm shift in teaching methods. New technologies like big data require new teaching approaches''.
Helena Lovegrove, Director of Operations and Projects at DIGITALEUROPE: "Digital Transformation has an impact on every aspect of Europeans’ lives. We need digital skills to be guaranteed enough funding at EU level and, indeed, we need them to be prioritised in local and regional funding programmes across Europe".
Samia Ghozlane, Director at La Grande Ecole du Numerique: "There are five types of soft skills we think are very important to teach to our students: permanent learning, critical thinking, team and communications skills, ability to transmit what has been learned and defining your own path."
Alexandra Hay-Plumb, Chief Partnerships Officer, Generation Foundation: "We look for people with 'fire in the belly', a keen interest in being trained to achieve personal career goals. We then run intense boot camps and, ultimately, we help them fulfil professional ambitions they previously thought unthinkable."
Yann Mazuet, Reskilling Manager at Global Knowledge: "By 2022, there will be 100 000 new job functions. 90% of job roles in 2025 don't exist yet. It is clear there is a huge need for continuous digital training to stay up to date."
Weronika Jakubowska-Pietras, Head of WSCS Centre for IT Technologies Research and Implementation Office at the Warsaw School of Computer Science: ''The effectiveness of our projects is assessed by the students themselves. For us as a university, what matters is their position on the job market.''