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Grand Coalition Launched to Fix IT Skills-Gap

News   •   Feb 25, 2013 16:20 GMT

·  Industry Morally Obliged to Help Youths Find Work

·  Launch of Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and Training

·  Andrew Corbett, MD of the UK IT Association, Comments

The Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Europe has recently been hit with the news that it will be losing much of its EU funding over the next five years, and it seems that the news has forced the EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, into adopting a conservative policy of IT recruitment focusing on the next generation of workers. Once again the opportunity to re-train the current generation of workers who have valuable experience is being overlooked.

Commissioner Kroes is launching the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and Training and she hopes to bring together the private and the public sector to pledge to partnerships in an attempt to close the IT skills gap that is widening every year across the EU. The Grand Coalition is seen as a key part in Europe’s need to build up a ‘digital ecosystem’ to avoid companies leaving the EU due to frustrations with the tech employment market.

Talking about ICT companies Kroes said, “The truth is they are the new backbone of the European economy and that brings some moral responsibility alongside the obvious self-interest they have in joining such an effort.”

Upon hearing about Neelie Kroes plans for the Grand Coalition Andrew Corbett, managing director of the UK IT Association (UKITA), had this to say:

“At UKITA we welcome Neelie Kroes’ recognition that the IT and digital sectors underpin the success and competitiveness of almost all other sectors in a modern economy.  The Ecosystem which Ms Kroes identifies is diverse and the largest IT employer is actually the small and micro sector when aggregated together. Apart from software, the only other category I can think of where one person working alone in a back room can take the world by storm is in writing wizard-based fiction. Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook for $1bn in 2012, is a perfect example of the upside-down nature of growth in our sector. Their headcount was something like 13. In many areas of IT growth means you need a bigger cloud capacity not necessarily more people.

The IT ecosystem is a collection of smaller ecosystems and it is the micro-business system which is not being served well by existing structures like Universities and apprenticeships.

We watch with interest to see what the Grand Coalition will bring forward for that group and its needs from new recruits”

The words of UKITA will echo around the IT sector across Europe as they wait to see which direction the Grand Coalition takes. The skills gap in the IT sector is a pressing concern and it is one that the Grand Coaliton will be aimed at plugging in the short term as well as the long term.

With the ICT sector globally growing year-on-year Kroes is concerned that failure to act now will have a deep, long-term impact on prospects across the EU. “Time is not our friend… I want the digital sector to show that it is job-creating, that it has a positive impact and to show to entrepreneurs and companies that we want them to stay in Europe,” she said.

Kroes was dismissive about the idea that the ICT sector was not attractive to young workers saying ICT is…“hugely sexy. It changes lives. It's about design, about shopping, about entertainment, about making life better. It's not just about programming!” Her suggestion that if she had been born 50 years later she “would have loved to build a career in this sector,” suggests that she doesn’t see how re-training could fill the immediate void in the IT sector.

In addition to young workers Kroes also wants to see more women in the workplace saying the sector needs to do more to make up the numbers because “the pool of women not in ICT is very big…extra women will attract extra women”.

The news that the problem of the skills gap is being addressed is very welcome to the IT industry, but whether the Grand Coalition will be able to take the necessary steps to eradicate it remains to be seen. As Andrew Corbett said “We watch with interest to see what the Grand Coalition will bring.”