Report: E-Skills and Jobs in the Digital Age

E-Skills and Jobs in the Digital Age: Accelerating Europe’s Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth

Wednesday 10th of March 2017
Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre, Brussels


On Wednesday May 10th I visited the above mentioned event. The organisation, Public Policy Exchange, offered a nice combination of “theoretical” talks and examples of practical application of e-skills in companies. There were 6 speakers during the day and I give a short summary of each talk.

Speakers and summary of talks

The first speaker was André Richier, a very passionate Principal Administrator and DG for the internal market of the European Commission. Mr. Richier emphasised the importance of not only digital knowledge but also to develop skills in the IT-field. During the coming years we will see a radical change in the job market. 50-70% of the jobs will change. Most of the European countries are not prepared for this change. The middle-class jobs will disappear: for low level jobs we ask migrants, the jobs that need a high education are growing. The middle class will not be interested in the low level jobs but those who are not equipped for the high level jobs will be the ”victims”. Mr. Richier stated that digital skills are vital and that governments of the European countries should invest in developing these skills. The fact that 37% of the European labour force has insufficient digital skills and 13% have no digital skills at all, and the fact that employment of IT-specialists has grown by 2 million over the last 10 years explain the need of development of digital skills. Mr. Richier finished his talk with the goals for Europe:
– Develop a large digital talent pool
– Ensure that this group is equipped with enough digital skills .
The member states of the EU are asked to develop national digital skills strategies.

You can find his presentation here.

Carsten Johnson was the next speaker. He is an Area Academy Manager at the German company Cisco Systems. He told us that Cisco has its own program for the development of E-skills. The program focuses on learning by doing and problem solving and is therefore very practical. In the programme students learn to think costumer directed and to focus on the centre of the problem. The program is available in more than 20 languages. Mr. Johnson emphasised that there are no “non-IT-jobs” anymore. Because the program is available for everyone, Cisco decided to invite refugees for the program. When refugees have to wait for the asylum, they mostly cannot do anything regarding education or work. With the Cisco program they can participate in the education program that also pays attention to learning the language. It has resulted in the fact that some of these refugees are now employees of Cisco.

You can find his presentation here.

Then there was Saskia van Uffelen, CEO of Ericsson Benelux. She underlined the importance of development of digital skills. She said that technology is not a problem (people know more about you than you know about yourself) but we should think on the long term, > 5 years. The development of skills should be flexible and tailor made, education should be adapted to what is necessary. New business models should be developed because 65% of the current jobs will not exist anymore in 2020. Tasks will appear and disappear. Mrs. Van
Uffelen stated that for the development of digital skills no new initiatives are needed but
that the current initiatives should be used more intensively. She is a supporter of the
creation of digital networks. Furthermore she advised to include all employees in the
development of E-skills, to work sustainable and to communicate the good news (and not
only warnings or bad news).

You can find her presentation here.

Laurentiu Bunesco, CEO of Telecentre Europe, was the next speaker. He told us the
definition of digital skills. According to the Digital Competence Framework, digital skills are:
– Digital content creation
– Safety
– Problem solving
– Communication and collaboration
– Information and data literacy.
He warned that most of the teachers (75%!) are not equipped for the development of digital skills. He said: ”IT is the global connector” with which he also underlined that the Digital Age has already begun.

His presentation can  be found here.

Martina Dlabajova, member of the European Parliament, was the next speaker. She
confirmed that the world is changing very fast. She also had some numbers: in 2020 90% of
the jobs ask for digital skills; 9% of the jobs will disappear because of robotics; Already 50%
of the Europeans have used social media while searching for a job. Martina is one of the
people who are developing a new Skills Agenda for Europe.

Eva Fabry, the director of the European Centre for Woman and Technology and Chair of the
Global Women and Technology Network, focused on women in relation to E-skills. As an
introduction she showed us a short video
( Unfortunately only 19% if the ICTmanagers
in Europe are women (compared with 45% women in other service sectors). She
used a quote of Neelie Kroes, a former (Dutch) European Commissioner who put digital skills
on the agenda: “The most important things for women are no longer diamonds but IT-skills
and technical skills”.

You can view her presentation here.

The final speaker was Steven de Haes, professor of Information Systems Manager at the
University of Antwerp. He investigated if non- executive boards of companies in different
parts of the world are prepared for the Digital Age. Therefore he analysed their yearly
reports. He found that only in South Africa, companies are prepared for the future. In most
(also European) companies and countries IT is regarded as something operational that costs
a lot and that no one understands. There is hardly any technology governance. The reports
only explains what should be done in case of an incident. The fast-response processes in
case of an attack are not described. As the previous speakers he told that IT is the most
important fundament of the university. He concluded with the statement: Everything is IT.
Powerpoint presentations of the speeches are available on demand.

His presentation can be found here.

May 15th 2017,
Mariëtte van den Heuvel
Eindhoven University of Technology