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Lack of coding skills may lead to skills shortage in Europe

Archana Venkatraman

The European Commission (EC) is urging people to learn coding this Summer, warning that a lack of basic coding skills could result in Europe facing a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020.

Coding is the literacy of today and key to enable the digital revolution, according to European Commission vice president for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, and commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, Androulla Vassiliou.

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Programming is everywhere and fundamental to the understanding of a hyper-connected world, the EC has said.

According to the Commission, more than 90% of professional occupations require some ICT competence. But the number of graduates in computer science is not keeping pace with this demand for skills. As a result, many open vacancies for ICT practitioners cannot be filled, despite the high level of unemployment in Europe, warned Kroes and Vassiliou.

“If we do not appropriately address this issue at a European and national level, we may face a skills shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020. The share of women in choosing technical careers is also alarmingly low. Coding is a way to attract girls to choose tech careers,” they said.

Kroes and Vassiliou have sent a joint letter to EU Education Ministers urging them to encourage children to get involved in EU Code week which takes place across Europe in October (11-17 October 2014).

Basic coding skills will become crucial for many jobs in the near future as we move to a more cloud-based and connected devices world.

Coding is at the heart of technology. Each and every interaction between humans and computers is governed by code. Programming skills are fundamental for tasks ranging from creating web apps, enabling online shopping, and optimising GPS software through to sifting through LHC data for the Higgs Boson particle, simulating the formation of stars or simulating the neuronal pathways in the brain, according to the organisers of EU Code Week.

The Commission is backing the EU Code Week and aims to make coding more visible and motivate more children and adults to learn the skill.

In the letter, Kroes and Vassiliou said: “Youth unemployment is one of Europe's biggest challenges. Promoting coding skills in Europe is part of the solution.”

A survey of Britain’s boardrooms revealed that nearly all senior executives (94%) view digital skills as very important to their business - but a fifth said the quality of digital skills among graduates is below average.

The importance of teaching coding skills to Europe's pupils is growing. Coding has been taught in Estonian schools since 2012. The UK will introduce programming in the national curriculum this year. France announced the introduction of an optional coding course in primary schools. Finland and Italy are also considering coding initiatives for young people.

Earlier this month, the event Girls Get Coding brought together students and teachers from forty schools across the UK to take part in coding challenges with MPs.


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