Tanya Suarez, Founder and CEO of BluSpecs & IoT Tribe, led a panel discussion on managing talent pipelines for the companies of tomorrow. Showing a list of the most valuable companies by market cap, she made an impactful acknowledgement; only two companies in the top 20 are European.

Addressing this reality is a matter of developing advanced digital skills. Technology is the biggest differentiator for companies and inadequate tech skills remains one of the principal reasons why companies fail. In line with this and the conclusions of all discussions during the 20×30 summit, Tanya urged the participants and speakers to take action, to maintain Europe’s position, leadership and values.

The need for change in Europe: reskilling & upskilling workforce

While there is still a lot of turmoil from external sociopolitical events, change should not be viewed as negative, but rather as an opportunity. This approach needs to be cultivated within European organisations, as in the case of the EU, change has to be immediate and radical. Kristen Doran, Global HR Business Partner at SAP, shared her own challenges with making employees comfortable with change and triggering their curiosity to learn new skills. In her experience, bringing in new agile talent can be easier than incentivising senior employees to adapt, but this is not the most effective solution.

To this end, SAP encourages its employees to set learning goals which will feed into the company’s bonus mechanism. Personal development can be verified through certification programmes lasting between 1-2 years or transferrable microcredentials recognised by SAP partners and other key players in the ecosystem.

Helen Packard, Data Strategy Officer at the UK Financial Conduct Authority added to this that learning opportunities should be holistic and prolonged rather than few-day seminars, if companies want their employees to engage with them and intrinsically strive to learn new skills. Still, building a mindset that appreciates continuous learning should be a task staring in school.

On the other hand, Diogo Santos, Global Ecosystem Strategist at Siemens sees reskilling not only as important, but also fair, as it enables existing knowledge and expertise within companies to be repurposed while the organisation changes.

What practices should Europe maintain in this period of change?

In terms what Europe does best, the speakers emphasised the collaborative nature of European organisations. Data and knowledge sharing enable a big part of the innovation and progress on ADS happening in the continent. According to José Manuel de la Chica, CTO of Santander Universities, the Santander Group has been working with more than 1000 universities globally on how to prepare students for the evolving labour market. Observatories and hubs have been established to gather and analyse diverse points of view. Such open approaches and cooperation will be essential as we approach the end of the decade.

Helen highlighted the strong relationships between European governments, NGOs and universities. Proof of that is that 43% of the best regarded institutions for STEM subjects are based in Europe.

Diogo sees in Europe a blessing, which can also be a curse. Europe is focusing a lot on developing the legal framework for advanced technologies, but although regulation is essential, too strict regulations can compromise innovation. Finding the right balance needs to be addressed on a political level.

See here the challenges Europe is facing to achieve its 20×30 goals

Where can Europe improve?

Helen believes leaders should put themselves in the position to innovate. Only then will they really understand the benefits of innovation and digitalisation as a core part of doing business, rather than a side activity. Moreover, she suggests governments can create programmes for labour that wants to re-enter the workforce and work with the education system, perhaps even primary and secondary schools, to promote ICT to the younger generations. José Manuel agrees in this regard that convincing the people about the importance of ICT is essential. In his words, technology, along with science, is the engine that will change the society, the market and the industry.

Finally, Diogo thinks that non-STEM students in European higher education institutions are not provided with enough digital perspectives. For example, law students who are set to be significantly affected by AI developments are not being taught digital skills as part of their curricula. The need to connect the technological reality with universities is urgent. 


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