Opinion | What we can do to answer the shortage of software professionals in the EU

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The software skills mismatch between organisations and the workforce in Europe is significant. Software professionals with the right skills for the job are scarce and our education systems struggle to deliver sufficient ICT graduates to fill the ever-growing demand.

Tomorrow, companies will also need people that have a good understanding of the day-to-day business activities. That is why soft and profession-related skills need to be integrated — in the way we train individuals for software roles, but also in the way we think and embed software in our organisations. The European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA) is part of the answer.

Digital skills for a successful digital transformation

The job market evolution and technological changes have pushed forward the digitalisation in the ICT and many other sectors. This exacerbated the need for businesses, governments, and learning providers to address the (advanced) digital skills gap in a more horizontal way.

In March 2021, the Commission adopted the 2030 Digital Compass. It presents a common vision for a greater EU digital leadership. Skills are one of the priorities whereby Europe wants to drastically increase the number of ICT specialists from the current 9 million to 20 million, with greater convergence of gender balance in taking up such roles.

“In our rapidly changing world, without the right skills, people fall behind. Today, 52% of European workers need reskilling. Investing in digital skills and lifelong learning opportunities for Europeans is not an option. It is imperative.”, says Helena Lovegrove, Director for Operations and Projects at DIGITALEUROPE

DIGITALEUROPE and other public and private organisations are joining forces to up- and reskill people across the EU — driving one of the Erasmus+ Sector Skills Alliances in the software sector: the European Software Skills Alliance.

A European Software Skills Alliance to answer the shortage of software skills 

A key initiative helping to boost software skills and bring about change in the way we design the educational offer and train people for professional software roles is the European Software Skills Alliance. The EU-funded project develops a solid and up-to-date skills strategy based on an in-depth needs analysis of the demand and supply of skills in the software industry.

“ESSA focuses on specific, high demand software role profiles such as Developer, DevOps Experts, and Test Specialist. It is important for us to integrate emerging software skill needs but also develop the learning instruments stakeholders need to up- and reskill.” – Helena Lovegrove

ESSA – Representation of the market demand in educational language
Figure: ESSA – Representation of the market demand in educational language
  1. Widening access to ICT education

SMEs and large organisations report having difficulties in filling ICT-related vacancies. Within companies, most of the backlog in training people in software roles is attributed to the lack of time available to the workers and/or organisations[1].

In this light, training that can be followed at a suitable time and at a pace that is manageable for learners have the potential to drastically increase the opportunities for people to undertake training. ESSA wants to promote and develop role-specific, flexible learning paths. Self-paced learning and microlearning can help make training more accessible and inclusive for a wider pool of individuals — including women and girls, youth, and underserved communities.

  1. Strong public-private partnerships for global software skills development

For Europe to be a leader in digital skills development, it needs to bolster and incentivise public-private collaboration and ensure a whole-of-government approach. The results of the structured dialogue on digital education and skills are expected to bring forward a collective and concrete response to the current and emerging digital skills gap. This is what we intend to bring to the discussion.

Transnational, intersectoral collaboration is one way to offset the software skills needs of EU Member States. Countries like Poland counts 11,000 IT specialists graduating every year. Many also organise initiatives to provide foundational ICT knowledge from an early age such as the Junior Olympiad in Informatics and bring market knowledge into education (see the Hungarian “Code your Future” project).

Next year, ESSA projects to deliver market-oriented curricula and programmes to skill, upskill, and reskill individuals into high demand software roles. The Alliance welcomes all kinds of organisations interested in the topic to join forces to establish long-term cooperation.

More ideas on how to tackle the shortage of software professionals can be found here.

About DIGITALEUROPE: DIGITALEUROPE is the leading trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe.

[1] ESSA, 2021, Europe’s Most Needed Software Roles and Skills. Needs Analysis Report.

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