EU attempts to bridge e-skills gap between north and south


Young coders. Greece, 2008. [Ed Yourdon/Flickr]

This article is part of our special report eSkills for Growth.

SPECIAL REPORT / The EU is betting on rapidly developing e-skills among the workforce in order to adjust it to the digital economy. Every year, approximately 100,000 new vacancies are created in an attempt to fill the gap between the ‘e-skilled south’ and ‘e-demanding north’ of Europe.

Yannis Sirros, head of the Federation of Hellenic ICT Enterprises (SEPE) told EURACTIV Greece in an interview that Europe will need 900,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020. To address the issue, the SEPE together with Digital Europe on Tuesday (6 May) hosted the conference “E-Skills for Jobs 2014 Grand Event: Mobilising to Support Job Creation and Upskilling of the Workforce” in Athens, Greece.

>> Read also: ICT specialist: Europe’s south has lost its speed in developing technology

Sirros said that due to the crisis, the European south has decreased its speed in developing technology comparing to Northern Europe.

“Therefore, the jobs that are being created by Northern Europe can, via outsourcing services and service-level agreement (SLA), create collaboration with Southern Europe, in order to ensure a competitive Europe with innovative services and products,” the SEPE head said, adding that the e-skills conference tries to address this development.

According to a recent report published by the World Economic Forum (November 2013), Greece ranked seven out of 148 countries when it comes to in e-skills of its scientists and engineers.

“Greek professionals in the ICT sector are in the top 10 of engineers on a global level,” Sirros stressed. 

Athens signs National Coalition for Digital Economy

Greece is also signing the National Coalition for the Digital Economy, which is part of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and Training, launched by the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, in March 2013, Sirros stated.

“The National Coalition for Digital Economy is our commitment. We mean it when we say that the digital literacy is on the top of our agenda,” said Greece’s minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Kostis Chatzidakis.

Greek minister for Education Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, told EURACTIV Greece that the EU is not efficiently prepared for the challenges of the digital economy, despite the fact that in the future, “90% of jobs will require at least some basic digital skills.”

“In Europe, 25% of adults do not know how to use basic digital technology, whereas more than 50% of students do not make any use of digital textbooks and other digital educational resources,” the minister continued.

Arvanitopoulos underlined though that the Greek education system is getting prepared for the new digital era.

“We are developing a common education platform and digital content in the primary and secondary education, by using interactive means in the classrooms and ensuring high-speed internet in all schools,” he said.

Regarding higher education, he stressed, students will benefit from the creation of e-courses and e-textbooks in an effort to make them familiar with new tech trends.

“Need is the mother of innovation

Chatzidakis noted that the revenues from “big data” are expected to amount to €16 billion on a global level, creating additional 4.4 million jobs over the next two years.

“In addition, the creation of a digital single market in the EU could add up to €800 billion in the European economy. The data mentioned is catalytic and shows us that this is the direction we need to move in,” he continued.

The Greek minister also quoted Plato, saying that “need is the mother of innovation”, referring to the crisis that helped his country and the EU to orient towards innovative solutions and the digital agenda.

Regarding e-skills, he mentioned that it is an issue that is a concern for everyone and not only governments.

“E-skills are an issue that concerns everybody, research centres, universities, private companies, and citizens […] not only the governments,” he concluded.

Europe faces both hundreds of thousands of unfilled ICT jobs in the future as well as declining competitiveness. The number of digital jobs is growing, by 3% each year during the crisis, but the number of new ICT graduates, and other skilled ICT workers, is shrinking.

Subscribe to our newsletters