Europe faces massive skills shortfall

Europe faces an ICT skills shortfall of massive proportions which the region's educational systems will be unable to fill, says...

Europe faces an ICT skills shortfall of massive proportions which the region's educational systems will be unable to fill, says the European Information Technology Observatory (EITO).

By 2003, claims EITO, Europe risks having 3.8 million vacant jobs for IT and e-business specialists (including call-centre staff), which represents 18 per cent of total employment in this sector. These figures combine shortages in core ICT skills, with a predicted shortage in e-business skills, plus call-centre skills, which include technology, operators and marketing.

"Separating these components," comments EITO, "the picture will be that, in 2003, 13 per cent of the demand for core ICT skills, 7 per cent of that for call centre skills, and 31 per cent for e-business skills will not be satisfied in Western Europe. This could lead to an average loss of some 2.5 to 3 per cent of GDP in Western Europe by 2003."

"This represents an important challenge for Europe and calls for urgent action to adapt educational systems and retraining programmes, to promote ASP and outsourcing activities, and adapt immigration policies towards favouring ICT skills."

But Doctor Bernhard Rohleder, EITO managing director, doesn't believe Western European and UK educational systems and policies will be able to provide anywhere near the number of newcomers with suitable ICT skills. "Since 1995 this has been flagged up as an issue by the European Commission but there had been no impact in schools and universities. We fear that educational systems will always be lagging behind."

He says selective immigration of skilled IT staff from outside the EU could help fill the gap, but points out that there is international competition for skilled ICT personnel. Commenting on the dangers of non-EU IT experts being recruited on low wages - which some FI readers have expressed concern about - Doctor Rohleder says the German model offers a solution. There non-EU ICT staff are offered five year visas, must have a recognised IT-related degree and are offered a minimum salary of 100,000 DMarks, about £40,000.

EITO estimates that the UK is currently suffering a shortfall of about 200,000 skilled ICT staff, which will rise to circa 326,000 by 2003.

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