EU Commission warns of slow progress in digital skills development

The European Commission is looking to step up efforts to help member states accelerate digital skills development in order to achieve the EU goals set for 2030.

The Commission’s plan, which falls under the measures for the European Year of Skills, includes two Council recommendations for member states to foster digital education and training and reach the decade’s digital goals.

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The EU seeks to ensure 80% of adults have at least basic digital skills and 20 million ICT specialists are employed by 2030.

However, currently, only half of Europeans have basic digital skills and only 9 million Europeans were employed as ICT professionals in 2021, the great majority of which were male specialists.

“We are not making fast enough progress and if we want to attain the goals that we set ourselves we need to accelerate and be more audacious,” Commissioner for Education Mariya Gabriel told journalists during a press conference on Tuesday (18 April).

The Commission’s aim, she said, is that all EU countries elaborate a national strategy for digital education and skills and monitor its impact. 

As education does not fall under the EU’s competences, the Commission put forward two Council recommendations encouraging member states to boost digital skills development strategies.

Reducing barriers

Commission’s vice-president Margrethe Vestager said the recommendations aim to overcome barriers limiting the EU’s progress on digital skills at individual, sectoral and national levels, as there are currently wide differences in digital competences between EU countries, stages of life and sectors of the economy.

In her view, barriers at sectoral level are linked to a “mismatch between what people are able to do in terms of digital skills and what they are required to do both in their present job and in a future job”.

According to the Commission, over a third of EU workers currently lack the digital skills required in the majority of jobs.

“We need people to be able to use digital skills across all sectors of the economy,” Vestager said, calling on member states to “open-up” their approach to digital skills.

Opening-up the approach

“[They need to] see every sector as a digital sector,” she said during the press conference, adding that the issue does not only concern education.

At the same time, the Commission is pushing for a more comprehensive approach to digital skills development also in the education sector, to ensure teachers are equipped with the tools and competences to use and teach digital skills.

According to the Commission, only 39% of teachers feel ready to use digital technologies in their work and only one third of students go to schools which put in place strategies on how to use digital technologies in teaching and learning.

“We should integrate digital skills in every subject that is taught at school as well as a separate subject on its own,” Vestager said.

Next steps

On Tuesday, the Commission also announced the launch of a pilot programme for a European digital skills certificate to facilitate the recognition of digital skills across the Union. The certificate will be rolled out in 2024, following the pilot stage.

The Commission’s recommendations do not mobilise new resources for member states. The Commission said it will support EU countries by facilitating mutual learning and exchanges and pointing to existing available EU funding.

The Council is expected to adopt the recommendations by the end of 2023.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]


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