The 20×30 Challenge: Advanced Digital Skills in Europe

The first panel of the day at the 20×30 ADS summit brought together key experts and stakeholders from across Europe to share their insights and personal experiences in creating advanced digital skills.

This panel was moderated by Brendan Rowan, Managing consultant at BluSpecs, accompanied by leading experts in advanced digital skills In the European landscape, Samia Ghozlane, Director General, Grande Ecole de Numerique, Government of France, Jack Hamande, DG Digital Transformation, Federal Public Service Policy and Support, Belgium, José Manuel Pingarrón, Secretary General for Universities, Spain and Rehana Schwinninger-Ladak, G2 DG CNECT, European Commission.

Bridging the digital skills gap

Samia Ghozlane, opened the discussion providing an overview of the initiatives undertaken by the Grande Ecole de Numerique. The organisation has managed to train more than 40,000 people in ICT with a return employment rate of 75%. Among others, it has also established the GEN_SCAN observatory of digital skill needs to analyse the evolution of training and job offers across the years.

According to analyses performed by the Grand Ecole Numerique, big data, cybersecurity, cloud computing skills will be among the most requested competencies in the years to come. Quantum and robotic process automation skills have recently been added to this list. However, looking at the current job offer, one will see a rather different picture. Samia explained how the Grand Ecole Numerique have divided the skills mentioned in open job vacancy descriptions into 6 families; the most commonly required skills revolve around cloud security, networks, communications and so on.

Surprisingly –or not– the demand for full stack developers has been decreasing. Samia stressed that as more complex programming languages are emerging, it is impossible for one person to master them all.

This clear example of the quickly evolving nature of jobs should make us think of how we can deal with such constant change. Samia believes universities have a key role to play in preparing the workforce for the future, particularly through upskilling and reskilling, and a collective change towards microcredentials. The latter, as well as skills-based hiring, would be  an effective alternative to the currently prevailing approach of valuing solely traditional diplomas. Samia expects this could boost innovation and positively impact advanced digital skills in Europe.

Spain boosts AI leadership with major university investments

José Manuel Pingarrón, then shared about the unique initiatives he has been involved with through his role as Secretary General for Universities. Spanish universities, aiming to establish a leading position in the area of Artificial Intelligence have allocated:

  • EUR 76.8M of grants for modernisation and digitalisation of public universities.
  • EUR 16M for professorships and research in AI.
  • EUR 31M to fund interdisciplinary research in AI.

This financial boost is intended to contribute to various sectors, including agriculture, health, law and even arts, equipping students with skills in advanced algorithms, quantic technologies and physical systems among others. In his words, digital skills should be embedded in education, across all fields of studies, as recruiters now require at least a basic level of digital competencies regardless of domain.

See here the importane of managing talent pipelines in the companies of tomorrow 

EU pushes for skills and inclusivity in ICT

As Rehana Schwinninger, reiterated, developing digital competencies is not an option anymore, just like achieving the rather optimistic goal of creating 20M ICT specialists by 2030 is not a choice, but a necessity

Jack Hamande suggested upskilling and reskilling should be considered a ‘responsibility’ of all private and public employers, as skills are the core means for achieving the EU goals for the digital decade. Additionally, the ICT sector should strive to become more inclusive. Policies to promote female participation and incentivise the public and private sector to work together need to be developed and adopted at all stages and not as an after-thought. Finally, people need to be convinced that digitalisation is intended for facilitating their lives.


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