The Internet and information and communication technologies (ICT) provide essential enabling infrastructures and tools for boosting the innovation and competitiveness capacity of European enterprises.
A return on investment does not come from technology alone. It comes from the productivity of the users of the technology. It requires relevant and up-to-date ICT related skills (e-skills) for entrepreneurs, managers, practitioners and users.
Industry is increasingly sourcing talents and innovation skills on a world-wide basis. Higher level ICT-driven innovation skills are crucial for the competitiveness and the attractiveness of Europe as a region. The number of ICT practitioners in Europe was 4.7 million in 2007 and is forecast to reach between 4.95 and 5.26 million in 2015. Advanced ICT users represent over 30% of our workforce (68 million). They are the key players of the digital transformation of our economy.
Over the last ten years business leaders stressed that the EU was not producing, attracting or keeping enough ICT practitioners, managers and users equipped with the necessary e-skills to meet the requirements of industry. To start to remedy this situation, the Commission adopted a Communication on "e-Skills for the 21st Century". The Council welcomed the e-skills strategy. An external evaluation on its implementation has demonstrated that good progress has been done. Broademing the EU e-skills agenda to encompass higher level innovation skills is a necessity for supporting European innovation and competitiveness.
Europe remains well placed to address the challenges ahead. This is already happening but there is a need for coherent and consistent actions to overcome bottlenecks. Change can not rely on a handful of visionaries and the goodwill of high level stakeholders' groups. EU action is strongly advocated by stakeholders and will be developed and implemented based on multi-stakeholder partnerships and close cooperation with Member States. There is a need to:
- Reaching critical size and developing a more integrated and synchronized approach;
- Increasing the quality and relevance of education and training offers;
- Raising the level of awareness and attractiveness.
The separate discipline areas of design, engineering, computer science, business and marketing have developed to a point that an integrated framework for the development of higher-level ICT driven innovation skills is needed.
Success would be measurable on three major levels:
- Generation of a larger talent pool in Europe for global competition and innovation;
- Better education and training curricula and offers (including industry-based training);
- Greater awareness and attractiveness of curricula, jobs and careers for the younger generations (taking into account gender and societal issues)
To address the challenges created by increasing innovation skills shortages and mismatches in the workforce the Commission will support the development and the promotion of e-skills for innovation and competitiveness based on partnerships with stakeholders. This requires specific actions at the EU level to complement and coordinate the initiatives of Member States and stakeholders. Some of these have already been successfully initiated within the implementation of the Commission's Communication on "e-Skills for the 21st Century". They cover:
- Analysing regularly the supply and demand of high-level innovation skills (shortages, gaps and mismatches) in cooperation with the stakeholders. Foresight scenarios will also be developed;
- Monitoring the implementation of the EU e-skills strategy as defined in the Commission's Communication on "e-Skills for the 21st Century" to assess progress and discuss future developments;
- Developing and maintaining a European e-Competences framework (to provide common definitions including skills description, job profiles and qualifications) and promoting ICT professionalism;
- Developing and promoting European guidelines for new curricula based on the needs of enterprises and cross-disciplinary cooperation in particular with business schools;
- Supporting European awareness raising campaigns (European e-Skills Week) based on role models, jobs and career perspectives to mobilise stakeholders, the workforce, citizens and the youth;
- Supporting industry-based training by increasing transparency for industry certificates on innovation skills and promoting quality labels for mutual recognition.