Europe draws up Riga Declaration to drive e-skills and job creation

Governments, industry and academia join forces with European Commission to address the digital skills shortage

Europe has drawn up the Riga Declaration, which sets out 10 principles to unlock the potential of e-skills to boost growth and job creation across the continent.

Governments, industry and academia have joined forces with the European Commission to address the digital skills shortage and to build a single market for tech jobs in Europe.

Last year, the UK was ranked top among EU states for levels of policy and stakeholder activity on e-skills, according to a study by German research company Empirica, presented at the European e-Skills Conference.

EC president Jean-Claude Juncker recently highlighted the digital revolution as a means of ending Europe’s economic downturn.

John Higgins, director general of Digital Europe, said at the conference: “As the digital revolution begins to impact all corners of the economy, people are going to need e-skills to qualify for a wide array of jobs, not just positions in tech companies.

“Within a decade, plumbers, farmers, small shop owners, even bakers and shoemakers will be turning to digital technologies such as data analytics in their day-to-day lives to improve their efficiency.”

Marc Durando, executive director of European Schoolnet, said his organisation welcomed the Riga Declaration. “We are looking forward to continuing working with our members, the ministries of education across Europe and other partners, to support changes in education through teacher training and pilot projects,” he said.

Unemployment among 15 to 24-year-olds in Europe averaged 24% at the end of 2013, but IT roles were found to be on the rise.

Research organisation Empirica expects an extra 660,000 IT jobs to be created in Europe by 2020 and Tobias Hüsing, senior research consultant at Empirica, said: “In fact, a potential 820,000 jobs could be filled by 2020, if talent becomes available to an extent beyond our extrapolation of current trends.”

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Research from Empirica and IDC found that IT management jobs saw growth of 14% a year from 2011 to 2013, and demand for these roles is expected to increase by 4.6% a year up to 2020.

Signe Bāliņa, president of the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association, said: “E-leadership skills, especially for SMEs, and fostering of the digital economy are a high priority in Latvia.”

According to a report from recruiter Randstad Technologies, the popularity of IT and telecoms as a career is on the rise.

Its annual Randstad Award found that IT and telecoms companies are more popular as employers than they have been for three years.

The survey, of more than 10,000 Britons, puts the automotive industry as the most attractive sector in which to work, for the fourth year running.

However, just under one-third of respondents said they view IT and telecoms as an attractive career path – the highest proportion in three years. In 2013 this figure was 26%, in 2014 it rose to 28% and this year hit 30%.

Randstad put this upswing down to the introduction of the new IT curriculum in schools across England, as well as an increase in demand for staff in the IT and telecoms sectors, which was pushing up average salaries.

Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad Technologies, said: “The sector is thriving, helped by the high-profile development of tech clusters in the UK, including Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout – which have made the IT sector seem a much ‘cooler’ space to work in.

“IT professionals have moved away from being back-office support staff and are now on the front line, providing fundamental support across all industries and fighting cyber fires. Over the last few years, several high-profile hacks have demonstrated the importance of well-trained cyber professionals, and IT security jobs and IT support jobs are now rightly viewed as integral to all firms.”

The least attractive sectors revealed in the survey included business services, utilities and energy, leisure and insurance.

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