Needs analysis, Europe’s Most Needed Software Roles and Skills

The 2021 Needs Analysis draft report sheds light on the most needed software roles and skills in Europe. The conclusions are drawn based on the study of job vacancies, available research on software skills, education and training programmes, labour market reports, and databases. We also collected experts’ input about their expectations for the future of software roles, skills, and provision.

Europe’s Most Needed Software Roles and Skills report is our starting point to develop a coherent European Software Skills Strategy. We’ll use the report’s insights and conclusions to propose corrective or novel recommendations to close the skills gap in software development and operation.


Main results

1. Roles

Among all software-related roles, the demand for developers is the highest. Not only now, but also in the future. Soft skills and knowledge of the business are increasingly important for developers to be able to function.

The role of the digital media specialist is — according to the study — not relevant in relation to software development, deployment, and maintenance. Preferably, job applicants need to have the right skills for the job when they start, as a lack of time for training is the main cause for a backlog in training.

Table, relative importance of software roles now and in five years
Table: Relative importance of software roles







2. Skills

Programming is the most in-demand hard skill with Java, Javascript, SQL, HTML, PHP, C++, C#, and Python being the most needed programming languages. Software professionals must have a solid understanding of programming principles as it is not clear which new programming languages will last in the long run and become more important.

There is also a need for certain profession-related skills like security management and project management. It is expected that, in the future, sustainability management and sustainable software development will become important.

Personal soft skills are becoming increasingly important for people in software roles. The most important soft skills are critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, and self-management.

In addition, people in software roles also need interpersonal skills — mainly teamwork and communication skills — since almost all activities in these roles nowadays require collaborative working.

3. Education and training

As time for training is limited, upskilling people will be challenging. This requires short and modular training programmes that should be updated regularly and follow the newest technologies and trends. Micro-lessons and microcredentials will gain importance.

Software professionals should have more soft skills, but also need broader education. T-shaped professionals and Π-shaped professionals are considered to be the future. This means that initial education should provide comprehensive foundations in the field.

It is becoming increasingly important that software professionals know what and for whom they are programming. Every software professional should be equipped with basic business knowledge and skills, which must be part of curricula and training programmes. The ideal situation would be that every software professional has a second degree or at least some education and training in another field. To bridge the gap between education and practice, organisations and education providers should work together more closely.

Education of flexible lifelong learning software professionals is essential. Ideally, educating software professionals starts in primary school with teaching programming logic. The rest of the initial education should steer in the direction of flexible software professionals with fundamental understanding of hard and profession-related skills and good personal and interpersonal soft skills. This forms the foundation for lifelong learning to stay an up-to-date software professional and be able to adapt to new situations and technologies.

Main takeaways

The most in-demand software role is “developer”. The content of this role in terms of skills is changing, and organisations find it challenging to keep their developers up to date.

Certification plays an essential role in this. Especially the development of microcredentials related to smaller learning units is important as this helps to overcome time limitations.

The skills needed in software roles are certainly not restricted to hard software skills and other profession-related skills. There is a growing importance of soft skills that are needed to be successful as a software professional.

The cooperation between (large) organisations and educational institutions needs to be strengthened to close the gap between demand and supply.

The current and future demand for software professionals and corresponding skills require adjustments in the education and training offerings available to ensure a sufficient supply of professionals with the right skills, such as broader education, flexible programmes and learning paths, more attention to soft skills and broader professional skills, and knowledge of the business.

Use of this report

This document can be relevant to different stakeholders in a variety of ways. Some examples of possible uses are:

Policymakers may use the document to build policies or strategies upon or to assess the relevance of initiatives or proposals to enhance the software sector.

For education and training providers the document contains suggestions that are worth considering when designing learning programmes or training courses for (future) software specialists.

To know what trends and needs are relevant and will be relevant in the future is important to know for businesses, e.g., when attracting new personnel or in case of upskilling or reskilling personnel.