Computer driving licence take-up hits one million

A million people can't be wrong - that's the message from the BCS after one million students passed the European Computer Driving...

A million people can't be wrong - that's the message from the BCS after one million students passed the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualification for IT user skills.

The UK is among the front-runners in the take-up of the qualification by individuals and employers. The BCS launched the scheme in the UK three years ago, and growth of 250% in the last year has taken the number of candidates in the UK to 150,000 - more than three times the target set at the launch.

"The ECDL has beaten expectations every year," says Rodger Hake, director of the scheme at the BCS. "The UK is now third in take-up after Sweden, which has 300,000 candidates, and Denmark, with 150,000 - but these both pioneered the ECDL two years before the UK."

The millionth candidate was Sara Lundstedt, an environmental specialist at Tetra Pak Packaging Material. Stefanie Feldmann, ECDL project leader at Tetra Pak, says, "Our aim is to bring down IT support costs and reduce the number of calls to our helpdesk by increasing IT competence - and that's happened.

"We also wanted to get our employees interested in their own long-term competence development by offering an internationally recognised IT certificate."

Other large employers in the UK to adopt the scheme as standard include IBM, pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and the Bank of England, where deputy governor Mervyn King has led by example by gaining the licence himself.

IBM in Greenock, Scotland, has become an accredited testing centre to give all of its staff the chance to get the licence. Les Williamson, resourcing services manager at IBM Greenock, speaks for many employers when he says, "We all have varying levels of competency in IT skills, and the ECDL allows us the opportunity to gain the same standard of qualification."

An advanced version of the European Computer Driving Licence is being introduced to meet demand from people who want to build on the basic qualification. The two most requested modules, advanced word processing and advanced spreadsheets are available now, and others will follow throughout the year.

"We have found that once people have achieved their ECDL and experienced the resulting benefits of what they have learned, they are very keen to further enhance their skills and knowledge," says David Carpenter, managing director of the ECDL Foundation, a non-profit body that oversees the scheme internationally.

Computer Driving Licence
The European Computer Driving Licence consists of seven modules:
  • Basic IT concepts

  • Using a computer and managing files

  • Word processing

  • Spreadsheets

  • Databases

  • Presentation

  • Information and communication

John Kavanagh

Full details of the ECDL can be found at

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