This article is part of our special report ICT: Fuelling the economy.
Millions of Europeans face being locked out of the jobs market in five years time due to their lack of ICT knowledge, according to a new report which claims 90% of jobs will require computer skills.
The vast majority of vacancies across almost all sectors will demand computer literacy as a minimum requirement by 2015, sparking fears that those who lose their jobs during the current recession will become permanently unemployable.
The study of 13 European countries published yesterday (1 December), sponsored by Microsoft and carried out by research firm IDC, found that 58% of employers believe the education sector is not doing enough to prepare young for the modern workplace.
Training for advanced ICT skills will grow significantly over the next three to five years, according to the report, which highlights the importance of certification for ICT professionals.
In addition, it says the majority of the workforce will need their skills updated if they are to use technology to enhance productivity.
'On-the-job' training may not be enough
Marianne Kolding, vice-president of European Services Research at IDC, said a higher proportion of jobs in Central and Eastern Europe currently require no ICT skills at all. However, she said these countries will catch up with Western Europe over the next five years.
This, said Kolding, illustrates the need for investment in training the workforce but she expressed scepticism about the true value of 'on-site' and 'on-the-job' training, suggesting professional educators are best-placed to teach new skills.
She added that while the younger generation are adept at working with user-friendly gadgets, they often do not have a fundamental understanding of how these technologies work.
There is also significant concern that the competition posed by emerging Asian economies will put serious pressure on the higher-end of Europe's ICT sector due to the volume of engineering graduates being churned out by India and China.
"ICT undergraduates need to enter the workforce with much stronger business understanding and soft skills, as well as knowledge of leading-edge technology such as cloud computing and Web 2.0," Kolding said.
The research is based on interviews with business leaders in several sectors, and a web-based survey of almost 1,400 employers across Europe. The participants were drawn primarily from organisations with fewer than 500 employees.