The Commission is right to focus on digital skills as a key ingredient for the COVID recovery
DIGITALEUROPE welcomes the Commission’s revised Skills Agenda for Europe and calls for coordinated action to accelerate development of digital skills across Europe, which will be essential to empower the workforce, strengthen democracy and citizen participation, and create a more resilient society.
Today, Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and Commissioner Nicolas Schmit presented the revised Skills Agenda for Europe, the European Commission’s roadmap for a European recovery based on lifelong learning, reskilling and cross-border learning.
Director-General of DIGITALEUROPE Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl said:
“We heartily support the Commission’s efforts of developing skills as part of a rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis and a just transition to a more resilient society.
The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address the skill gap in the workforce and to equip everyone – especially the most vulnerable – for the jobs of tomorrow. Beyond addressing unemployment, digital skills are now an essential tool of democracy and citizen participation. Letting this gap widen is a threat for our whole society.
We call for decisive action from the EU to guarantee structural funds and to establish pan-European initiatives and programmes focused on equipping our citizens with the digital skills they need.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dire need to equip large parts of the workforce with the skills they need in an evolving technology landscape. In certain cases, such as in the health sector, this meant the difference between life and death, as chronic patients and healthcare workers switched to digital to ensure continuity of care. The scale of this challenge is dramatic: more than a quarter of the workforce will need to be retrained over the next five years. This calls for a re-skilling revolution, powered by a digital-first Pact for Skills aimed at filling skill shortages and bridging the digital divide.
Our policy work has highlighted the need to equip industry workers – especially in manufacturing – with a range of digital skills including coding, data-driven production systems, robotics and artificial intelligence, in order to relaunch the European economy post-COVID. The EU budget must clearly reflect this priority by guaranteeing structural funds to flexible reskilling and upskilling programmes.
At the same time, the pandemic has exposed the dramatic inequality between high-skilled workers who benefit from training opportunities – and can thus better navigate labour market transformations and economic shocks – and those that, despite performing essential roles in our society, lack the access to lifelong training, re-skilling and upskilling, and risk being hit the hardest. Vulnerable categories – such as women, young people, and minorities – end up being disproportionately affected.
This is a structural problem and needs coordinated efforts to be addressed. We believe that decisive action from the EU is needed to establish the development of digital skills as a priority across Europe, as well as to set up pan-European programs and standards to encourage knowledge sharing and societal integration.
To this end, an ambitious Skills Agenda with digital at its heart is crucial. Besides being an essential skill in itself for citizen empowerment, digital technologies are also a powerful means of non-formal education opportunities as well as flexible learning pathways with multiple entry points, as the massive proliferation of online learning platforms and virtual classrooms has shown us during the pandemic.