EU labour and companies need to be more flexible, ICT skilled

Office building construction worker. [Alan Kotok/flickr}]

This article is part of our special report European Business Summit 2015.

SPECIAL REPORT / New technologies are changing the structures and dynamics of companies, adding extra pressure on workers to improve their ICT skills, experts say.

Despite the past year’s economic downturn in Europe, the ICT sector is creating many jobs in various corners of society via new technologies, such as big data and smartphone applications. The Commission has predicted that this year alone, the EU will lack 700,000 workers in ICT.

But evolving new technologies are also quickly changing the ICT skills which companies find necessary for their workers to have. It remains uncertain how many of the available new jobs can be taken on by Europe’s many unemployed workers. The latest statistics from the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat, show that the unemployment rate in March 2015 was 9.8% in the EU and 11.3% in the euro area, with many having been long-term unemployed.

In Greece, more than one-in-four in the country is unemployed (25.7%), and Spain is closely behind, at 23%.

Speaking at the European Business Summit in Brussels on Thursday (7 May), Aongus Hegarty, President of Dell for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), called for European companies to give employees more choice regarding how they want to structure their work, as the new technologies make it possible to collaborate in many different ways.

“We see that people come to Dell specifically due to that flexibility at work. It can keep more people available in the work place,” Hegarty said.

But the Dell chief also enphasised that future employees would have to be mobile, multilingual and need to have a ‘multinational nature’ so that they would be willing to move across Europe for the right job opportunity.

Peter Zemsky, Deputy Dean of Degree Programmes at INSEAD Business School in France, agreed, saying that technology is changing the entire corporate sector and can make it more dynamic, but only if employers use the right talent in the right way.

“I hear three things when talking with companies when talking about how they need to be successful in their environment; one is a core group of very talented ICT people. Secondly, they need a very adaptable organisation, whether this is in sales or service; and finally they need systems to give the people the skills they need to change,” Zemsky said.

Right to failure

Renate Hornung-Draus, Director of European and International Affairs for the Confederation of German Employers Associations (BDA), pointed out that even in times of crisis, one thing European corporations need to learn is to accept failure in business, and take chances. They also need to have a realistic view of their skilled employees, realising that they are human beings.

Marianne Thyssen, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, also mentioned that companies in Europe should stop saying that Europe’s workers have low skills.

“In European societies, with the competences we have, we should do what we can. This means bringing people, management, enterprises, employers and unions together. We should set up partnerships. Together, we can make analyses of which kinds of skills we need and how we can improve vocational training. Everything is changing and the change is going faster, and the only thing we can predict is that we will have demographic problems,” the Commissioner said.


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.

As a result, Europe faces both hundreds of thousands of unfilled ICT jobs in the future as well as declining competitiveness.

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