by Kenneth OE Sundin
The forecasts indicate a lack of 900 000 ICT skilled individuals in Europe 2015.
If we add to that number all the jobs we already know we can supply with educated and skilled people, it shows how important ICT is for the growth and sustainability of our future Europe.
ICT skilled individuals wanted
ICT skills are not just about programming and designing new systems and tools. It is also a matter of development of Education, Training, Jobs, Businesses, Healthcare and all other sectors you can think of.
We are not only talking about the ICT professionals in ICT Companies. We are talking about ICT skills and ICT understanding in all kinds of situations and activities.
Even our social life and what we do with our time outside our jobs and studies requires ICT skilled people. Edutainment, Gamification, Mobility, Local awareness, Geographically related information (GIS) and many other new domains are example of there we need to recruit ICT skilled people. But only the pure/core ICT knowledge is not the solution, we need to merge the ICT skills with other knowledge and skills.
That is also the reason why we can point at individuals in all ages and with all kinds of backgrounds, and say – “Add some ICT skills – and you will have a good position in the labor market”.
ICT Businesses as a Growth factor of Europe
Along with some other knowledge-based industries, ICT is a very important growth factor. Some would say it is crucial for all other businesses. As I am “born” in the ICT sector – I let others say that, but I totally agree.
If we look upon the “competition” between regions in the world we can see that one of the games to win is the ICT development and its implementation in the society and into the life of our citizens. The Digital Agenda of Europe is one of the tools for making us understand how ICT can be a critical factor for us all.
What we need to do is to further develop our educational systems on all levels to be able to supply our ICT companies with the resources they need to grow, develop and enhance their products and services. If we do NOT manage that – we will see tremendous hinders and barriers for grabbing the opportunities that are ahead of us and we will be behind other regions. Not only in ICT competence – but in quality of life for us all.
ICT in all workplaces – why?
Why do we need to implement and develop the use of ICT in all our workplaces and jobs?
Simply because we see some advantages in our efforts to develop our life. Letting all citizens – young, old, consumers, workers, students, healthy, sick and all others – have access to services wherever they are, whenever they want and whatever device they can manage, will improve life and allow people to be a part of the society and not outside.
ICT skills on all levels required
The great thing, and maybe the most interesting change, is that the requirement for ICT skills goes from top level of experts, down towards medium-skilled professionals and users, all the way to relatively limited skills in narrow sectors of all kinds.
That gives us also a different view on required education and training of all these individuals. We still need the University level with not at least a deep theoretical understanding. We need programs with more practical focus. We need shorter and longer courses for updating and upgrading skills and knowledge. We need more of Vocational Education and Training. There are also definitely room for specific “Labor market programs” there people outside the labor market gets a chance to enter it.
In addition to specific ICT skills we have to include both what we call soft skills and transversal skills to reach to the checkpoint “employable”. To be able to recruit job ready individuals are particularly necessary for the SMEs in Europe.
ICT Education and Training vs. Job ready
Being well educated and being ready for a job are actually two different things. In the labor market today there are often very limited possibilities to have a long introduction to get the necessary skills to manage a specific job. The more ready you are as an individual the more interested are the employers. This also goes for other sectors than the ICT sector of course.
If the labor market in general lacks the possibilities to introduce new individuals to a job, it is even more obvious in the smaller organizations and companies.
You can often see “Experience required” in job ads but very often it is not long experience that is required. It is more a readiness to manage the job from day 1.
NEET Youth – a future resource for the ICT jobs
Not Employed, Educated or Trained young people are of course in a very difficult zone of the labor market. That means we have to start to be able to recognize and verify also the non-formal knowledge and skills these individuals have.
We sometimes hear the expression “Digital natives” and automatically think of the younger generation, born and raised in a digital environment, using all kinds of ICT tools for a number of activities. Very often they have adopted skills that could be of a great value for a lot of employers, but it is not enough. To support these NEETs with some shorter programs and to provide them with knowledge in certain sectors could have a great impact on both the unemployment situation among youth as well as it could give access to valuable resources in many workplaces, not at least in SMEs. It is said that 4 out of 5 new jobs in Europe are created in SMEs the last years.
If we find a way to support the ICT industry with experts and mid level competences, we will open up for a lot for the lower level jobs, as an entrance to the “World of Workers” – WoW!
This is definitely a balance of resources and focus in the Labor market, but with new types of cooperations between public organizations, education and training institutions and stakeholders on the labor market – the matching process can be more successfully done. There is not one single stakeholder that can solve this entire problem or manage to take care of all the existing opportunities. We need to create new types of cooperating networks, PPPs, Private Public Partnerships. We need to increase the interaction between all actors, not at least students and teachers. To involve employers already in the recruitment of students, to invite them as guest-lecturers, to send teachers to companies and workplace, to have a constantly ongoing dialogue to meet the demands for changes – all this matters and can only be done in joint partnerships. Add to that the possibility to bring regions and countries together – to share the view, to find a common system to define and verify skills, to share the view of competences.
ICT in the growing SMEs
As mentioned above there is a lot of opportunities in developing ongoing and new businesses in SMEs. No matter if they are ICT professionals or just advanced/less advanced users, the supply of ICT skilled people are critical for the future competitiveness.
Can you imagine a touristic business without ICT tools for marketing, sales, booking, customer relation, value adding services etc.? Can you name a restaurant or a transport company with no need for ICT? Do you see the potential in using ICT as a key to internationalization of a company?
To provide SMEs with new knowledge we are more or less dependent on the use of net based learning modules, tips and advice, dialogue with colleagues around the world etc.
To give more opportunities to let people have a great life with their families and still having a possibility to a developing career – ICT is one of the keys.
To support mobility over today’s geographic borders – ICT is a fantastic opportunity.
Living in one country, working for a company in another, supporting customers in a third and getting support from colleagues in a forth country, is today a reality. One of the reasons we don’t do this more in practice is the lack of skilled ICT competences in different levels, in different roles.
2015 is soon here, very soon. No time to lose – let’s do it now!