1. It’s clear that eSkills are essential in the world of today, but how far behind is the region compared to the countries of the European Union?
The greatest obstacle to harnessing the power of ICT is the shortage of digital skills. Digital skills are a key catalyst for the success of any digital transformation, both by enabling citizens to be active in the digital society, and by supporting economic growth through the adoption of new technologies. While the demand for digital skills keeps increasing, often supply cannot keep up.
According to The Future of Jobs Report 2018, a majority of companies in all industries perceive skills gaps in the labour force as one of the top impediments to the successful adoption of new technologies.According to this report, more than halfof the Eastern European and Central Asian workforce needs reskilling.
2. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done: what is EU4Digital doing to help the partner countries close the gap?
The first step towards remedying the digital skills gap is measurement to bring about awareness and support coordinated efforts to promote digital skills and jobs. Since 2014, the progress towards a digital economy and society is measured in every EU member according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) and the Digital Skills Index (DSI). However, the 2015 study on Harmonisation of the Digital Markets in the Eastern Partnerships, which assessed the readiness of digital markets in the Eastern Neighbourhood region for harmonisation and integration with the EU’s Digital Single Market, found a lack of systematic measurement of the digital skills gap across the region.
The EU4Digital Programme will support the measurement of digital skills through the development of a common methodology aligned with EU practices for the Eastern Neighbourhood region.
The coordination of initiatives related to digital skills, awareness raising and the adoption and sharing of best practices will be enhanced by the establishment of national coalitions for digital skills and jobs in the Eastern partner countries and inclusion of the region in Europe’s Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. Currently, national coalitions have been established in three partner countries – Armenia (2017), Ukraine (2019) and Azerbaijan (2020) – while Moldova and Georgia are on their way.
The EU4Digital Programme supports the establishment of national coalitions in the Eastern partner countries.
Finally, the development of digital skills among the workforce of microbusinesses and SMEs is of vital importance. SMEs are key for economies in the region as they account for 99% of all companies, though they represent just 57% of private sector employment. By contrast, in the EU, SMEs represent a significant driver of employment (85% of new employment is created by SMEs). To harness their full potential, entrepreneurial and fast-growing SMEs in the Eastern partner countries will require multiple digital savvy competences, such as big data analytics and tools, cloud computing and visualisation, mobile app design and development, web development and tools, IT architecture, and security skills.
The EU4Digital Programme will support the improvement of digital skills of SMEs through the development of a common Digital Competence Framework for SMEs and microbusinesses in the Eastern Neighbourhood region based on EU Digital Competence Frameworks.
3. It’s all very well measuring skills, but how does that help to address shortcomings on the ground?
EU4Digital has developed a common methodology for measuring and benchmarking digital skills gaps, thus enabling an evidence-based targeting of activities in identified problem areas and measurement of the impact of digital skills activities and strategic targets.
Availability of data plays a key role in the development of digital skills strategies in Eastern partner countries and their harmonisation with European level strategies. A part of eSkills activities is focused on developing a clear and concise methodology for measuring digital skills gaps in the Eastern partner countries that will consider the background of any individual country and tailor the approach of the methodology accordingly.
A harmonised digital skills measurement approach allows for the identification of skills shortages, mismatches and gaps, in order to seek remedies and assess the impact of regional and national initiatives. Harmonised data measurement also makes it possible to compare the individual progress in digital skills development among the Eastern partner countries and in comparison with EU countries.
The development of a common methodology for measuring and forecasting national digital skills gaps in the Eastern partner countries will enable:
- Tailoring national-level development strategies to concrete data measured in line with EU practices and will help to identify concrete problem areas and supply and demand gaps;
- A common approach to collecting digital skills related data that will enable comparison between Eastern partner countries and the EU and allow countries to seek joint solutions to digital skills related issues;
- Systematic and regular measurement to serve as the basis to predict the future needs of the labour market in relation to digital skills.
4. A common competence framework – this sounds very abstract… what exactly does it mean, how is EU4Digital helping, and what difference will it make?
Digital competences play an increasing role in all industries and sectors, as the lines between ICT and non-ICT roles increasingly get blurred. Professionals in SMEs and microbusinesses often perform multiple job roles and/or inter-sectoral (hybrid) job roles, including ones requiring varying levels of digital competence.
The Competence Framework supports the definition of career and learning paths, job roles, learning needs and results through a shared reference framework. It will serve as a clear guidebook for any SME in the region, regardless of its size or operational field, on how to find, train and recruit employees with the necessary digital skills. Furthermore, the Competence Framework establishes a common language for digital skills and competencies for its target audience, by explaining complex IT terminology in “business language”.
The Competence Framework:
- Supports the development of SME and microbusiness employee digital skills;
- Supports the improvement of Eastern partner countries’ SME and microbusiness competitiveness, export potential and innovation;
- Encourages SME and microbusiness participation in the development of the digital market.
5. What are national coalitions? Who do they bring together and in order to do what?
National coalitions are multi-stakeholder partnerships that collaborate to achieve a common and clearly defined goal on a national level, and their establishment in the Eastern partner countries will increase the oversight and coordination of digital skills development activities performed within the region, as well as playing an important part in improving the collaboration between EU member states and Eastern partner countries.
The stakeholders of the national coalitions are ICT and ICT intensive companies, education and training providers, public sector, employment services, associations, non-profit organisations and social partners.
The coalitions are able to promote digital skills in different ways that are agreed during the creation of the coalition. Some countries might choose a more proactive approach to the coalitions that enables the coalition to actively participate in gathering data related to digital skills and driving digital transformation through active participation in public sector discussions.
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine have already established National Digital Skills and Jobs coalitions, and discussions on creating similar coalitions are underway in the rest of the Eastern partner countries.
6. Looking ahead, how do you see the evolution of digital skills in the Eastern partner countries in five years’ time? How will EU4Digital have helped?
Digital skills are a key catalyst for the success of any digital transformation by enabling citizens to be active in the digital society. The need for such skills is crucial to maintain the growth of the economy and human capital in any country.
Eastern partner countries will be able to further fulfil their economic potential, enabling interconnection between the supply and demand side of digital skills in the labour market, which is a crucial building block for further economic development. Furthermore, Eastern partner countries will be able to incorporate more accurate digital skills related data in their national strategies supporting evidence-based policy planning.
Over the coming years, the activities performed under EU4Digital aim to support the following:
- Effective governance of digital skills in each Eastern partner country to coordinate, monitor and prioritise activities, allowing comparison between Eastern partner countries and the EU, as well as comparison and joint digital skills development activities among individual Eastern partner countries.
- Evidence-based targeting of activities towards identified problem areas that will be enabled by gathering data in a common way and in line with EU practices. Digital Skills and Jobs Coalitions are expected to participate in coordinating remedies for identified digital skills problem areas.
- Measurement of the impact of digital skills activities and strategic targets that will support policy making tailored to the specific needs of different ICT and labour market related issues.