IT giants pledge skills education to plug European job gap


Some of America's top technology firms have promised to help cash-strapped European governments improve IT education, a development that comes amidst a showdown over proposed EU privacy rules that the companies say will hinder growth.

Google, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft were among the companies pledging to help improve technology education in Europe at an EU digital affairs conference in Dublin on Thursday (20 June).

The move came three months after Neelie Kroes, the commissioner for the digital economy, launched a so-called Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and Training, during which she sought partnership pledges from the private and public sector.

Google pledged to help 20,000 entrepreneurs across Europe in 2013 through partnerships with start-up hubs in Berlin, London, Paris and Warsaw. These hubs provide office facilities and mentoring for new companies.

Google, which came under pressure from the European Commission on Thursday (20 June) for alleged non-compliance with data protection rules, also pledged to increase from 32,000 to 100,000 the number young people receiving e-skills training by the end of 2013.

Education for girls and disadvantaged

The training is to be carried out in partnership with six European educational institutes and will focus on girls and children from poor or ethnic minorities.

Google also plans to launch what it calls 25 Massive Open Online courses in collaboration with universities across Europe. The training will focus on maths, computer science, entrepreneurship, digital marketing and law.

Microsoft has promised to increase the number of its European-based apprenticeships and internships by 50% over three years, from the current 9,000, aiming to help young Europeans into digital jobs.

Meanwhile, HP pledged entrepreneurial and technology training for one million students and professionals by the end of 2015 by scaling up existing educational programmes.

France, Spain fine Google

Kroes welcomed the private-sector contributions, but the news coincided with criticism from the EU justice chief over Google's data protection policies, echoing complaints from national data watchdogs.

Commissioner Viviane Reding tweeted that developments in France and Spain represented “yet another reason why we have no time to lose on the EU's data protection reform”, adding: “Time is running out for Google to get serious about data protection.”

France's data protection watchdog (CNIL) on Thursday said Google had broken French law and gave it three months to change its privacy policies or risk a fine of up to €150,000, Reuters reported.

Spain's Data Protection Agency (AEPD) told Google it would be fined between €40,000 and €300,000 for each of five violations of the law, that it had failed to be clear about what it did with data. AEPD also said the firm may be processing a "disproportionate" amount of data and holding onto it for an "undetermined or unjustified" period of time.

A spokesman for Google said: “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.”

Europe faces a skills shortage that has led to as many as 700,000 unfilled ICT jobs and declining competitiveness.

Meanwhile, 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.

  • By end August 2013: Google must answer further enquiries from European regulators on its privacy policies

European Commission

Industry Federations

  • DigitalEurope: Letter to four European Commissioners offering support for the Grand Coalition (22 May 2012)
  • Europe faces a skills shortage that has led to as many as 700,000 unfilled ICT jobs and declining competitiveness.
  • Meanwhile, 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.

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