The place of Europe in the future of ICT will depend on its ability to work together to manage digital innovation and disruptive change on the continent. According to the European Commission, the demand for ICT workers is growing at 4% each year, jeopardising the EU’s potential for growth and digital competitiveness by outpacing supply. Europe faces a shortage of around 756,000 ICT professionals by 2020, with a lack of synergy between educational systems and the requirements of the labour market. Paradoxically, such changes occur whilst Europe stagnates, with millions facing reduced prospects and unemployment. E-Skills are now a major opportunity for job creation in a digital revolution.
In June 2016, the European Commission launched a New Skills Agenda for Europe, with digital skills as a key component. It presents a number of concrete actions and initiatives that seek to reduce the digital deficit in Europe, with the Commission also inviting Member States to create comprehensive national digital skills strategies by mid-2017. To raise further awareness, the Commission also continued the ‘e-skills for Jobs’ campaign, updated with a comprehensive e-skills manifesto released in December 2016. Plans to digitise European industry, in addition to improved training for the workforce and initiatives in e-government, demonstrate the profound structural shift in technology and society and the immediate need for collaborative action.
Despite a strong strategy, the explosion of mobile technologies, big data, the cloud and social media continue to radically transform today’s working environment. There are questions over cyber security and privacy, and many remain under-skilled or unconnected. On the other hand, digitisation of products and services opens up ample opportunities for innovation, investment, and the creation of new businesses and jobs. The EU app sector alone is expected to provide 4.8 million jobs by 2018, with a positive impact on youth unemployment and entrepreneurial spirit. Unleashing citizens’ full potential can thus enable Europe to catch-up and become a leader in web entrepreneurship.
This timely international symposium provides an invaluable opportunity for key stakeholders within the public and private sector to explore the measures that are being taken to reduce e-skills shortages, gaps and mismatches, and to utilize technology for a more competitive and prosperous European landscape. The symposium will support the exchange of ideas and encourage delegates to engage in thought-provoking topical debate with local and regional practitioners and policy makers at EU level.