Digital skills are essential to youth employment

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Hervé Conan and Frédéric Sansier, from Expertise France.

Organising a videoconference, storing documents in the cloud, finding reliable information on the Internet or protecting your data… Digital skills have become essential in the labour market, especially for young people, write Hervé Conan and Frédéric Sansier.

Hervé Conan is executive director of operations at Expertise France.

Frédéric Sansier is director of the human capital and social development department at Expertise France.

Today, 90% of jobs require a minimum level of digital skills, and 42% of Europeans who do not have them are unemployed. Beyond the development of digital professions (web developer, data analysts, etc.), digital skills have become necessary in almost all other professions, which are in constant evolution.

Technology, employability and citizenship

To meet these new challenges, new public policies are being put in place both at the EU and at the member state levels, in order to strengthen the digital skills of young people, who are particularly affected by unemployment.

Beyond being a simple tool, digital technology has become a vector of social inclusion – not only for young people seeking employment, but also, more broadly, for the least favoured populations, such as young people, women, the elderly or migrants.

Mastering computer tools must go hand in hand with digital understanding. This contributes to making the learner “digitally competent”, particularly in terms of information selection, personal data protection and the spirit of online creation and collaboration.

These policies should enable young people to promote their employability, through access to online job offers in the context of job search and recruitment itself, but also to be informed consumers (e-commerce) and to learn to exercise their civic rights through access and proper use of online public services – “e-administration”).

An online platform to improve your digital skills

The goal of the pilot project for a free multilingual online learning platform, Compass, developed by Expertise France and its partners,Dara Creative, Lai Momo Cooperativa and SIVECO Romania, is to facilitate the professional integration of young people seeking employment by training them in the digital skills expected by employers.

The platform is co-financed by the European Commission and was launched in March 2018 during UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week in Paris. It is currently being tested in France, Ireland, Italy and Romania, in the four corresponding languages.

Based on the European e-Skills Framework (DigComp), e-learning modules are suggested to the user according to his or her level of e-skills and professional objective. Once the learning path has been completed, the platform assigns digital badges that certify the level of young learners to future employers.

With this project, Expertise France, a French international technical cooperation agency, supports the Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs, aimed at improving the digital skills of all Europeans, regardless of their occupation, as well as the Action Plan on Digital Education. This plan aims to “help as many people as possible to acquire the skills base necessary to live and work in the 21st century”.

Broader audience

Today, Compass must be made available to all young Europeans in order to facilitate their employability. The project must be promoted among the member states actors in charge of accompanying young people towards employment and among these young people, future users.

Initially developed to meet a need within the European Union, Compass is also intended to be a source of inspiration in other regions of the world whose economies are facing similar challenges. Indeed, the strong demographic pressure and the increased development of the tertiary sector that characterise emerging societies generate significant needs in terms of training young people, particularly in basic digital skills.

Compass’s methodological tools, developed in collaboration with the OECD’s Skills and Employability Division, are fully adaptable to other geographical areas.

Capitalising on European best practices and sharing them with partner countries is one of Expertise France’s main objectives. Extending the use of a tool such as Compass to emerging countries could help to promote better professional integration of young people in these countries, as in ours.

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