'Grand coalition' will tackle EU's IT skills shortage

5 March 2013
By Edward Gent
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The EU’s Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced a

The EU’s Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced a "grand coalition" to tackle IT skills shortages

A “grand coalition” will be tackle Europe’s IT skills shortage according to the EU’s Digital Agenda commissioner.

Addressing delegates at the IT and telecommunications conference CeBIT Neelie Kroes said €1m will be invested into the coalition to help boost awareness of IT career opportunities.

Estimates by the European Commission show there will be 900,000 vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015 and while the number of digital jobs is growing by about 100,000 every year, the number of IT graduates is failing to keep pace.

And with about 26 million people currently unemployed across Europe, the failure to fill this shortfall is putting the EU’s competitiveness "under threat" according to Kroes.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Challenges outlined by Kroes include ensuring IT training matches the skills the industry needs, modernising education so more students have the opportunity to embark on an IT career, and increasing the mobility of IT workers across EU states.

Among the pledges made by Kroes is one to simplify the certification system, making it easier to prove what skills a graduate has, regardless of where they have worked or studied.

But Kroes said the burden to reform the system also fell on IT businesses.

She said: “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 per cent of your advertising budget to a joint campaign on the attractiveness of digital careers?”

The commission has already received pledges from several firms and other businesses and stakeholders have been asked to deliver their pledges by 31 May before they are presented at a Digital Agenda Assembly in June.

She said: “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.”

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