Europe’s widening ICT skills gap

Across Europe, the need for workers with relevant digital skills is intensifying, despite the gloomy economic outlook. Yet skills supply is failing to meet this demand. The latest figures forecast that European ICT job numbers will grow by more than 670,000 by 2020, but that the market could absorb another 756,000 ICT practitioners, if they were available[1].

Recent Eurostat statistics showed that almost 40% of companies trying to recruit ICT professionals in Europe reported difficulties in finding skilled workers[2]. This growing lack of digital skills in Europe is leading to an increasing shortage of ICT practitioners, which in turn hinders economic growth, competitiveness and employment.

Why Europe has so little ICT talent

Two factors explain this lack of ICT talent. On one hand, Europe is not producing enough ICT graduates. On the other, competence mismatches are rampant across all sectors, as technology rapidly evolves.

The digitalisation of Europe's society and economy is bringing about profound changes in working conditions and traditional job dynamics. Different sets of skills are urgently required to avoid further skills gaps and mismatches in the labour market.

Moreover, until recently, Europe had no common agreement and understanding on how to express ICT competences as well as skills requirements and gaps. The various forms of education, certifications, qualifications, non-formal learning and informal learning made it difficult for individuals to select those best for their needs.

How to tackle the e-skills shortage and competence mismatches

Organisations need to know the core areas of expertise required for each role and maintain appropriate levels of competences. They must be able to recruit and train suitable employees. A shared pan-European understanding of the capability and competency needs of ICT specialists is therefore essential. The European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) was developed to provide a reference of 40 competences that apply to the ICT workplace. It describes the competences, skills and knowledge requirements of ICT professionals at five proficiency levels. It allows businesses, recruiters and ICT professionals across Europe to speak a “common language” and make informed decisions on recruitment, training needs and staff assessment.

Today, only 23% of European ICT professionals have the competences required for their job, according to figures compiled by the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS)[3]. There is an urgent need for lifelong learning, continued professional development and different educational paths to attest to an employee’s competences and skills and enable ICT professionals to develop their careers. Mapping to the e-CF would improve the comparability of courses and equip people to make more informed decisions.

Where the e-CF is already helping

After creating several new divisions and two new company subsidiaries, RTE and ERDF, French energy company EDF needed to rationalise the roles of ICT professionals working on different customer support systems and an overarching information system integrating functions for the entire group. EDF used the e-CF to develop new job profiles, building on existing structured job roles.

In 2010, Euro Disney initiated a programme for competence-predictive management as a key component of its future corporate strategy. The company had to create a comprehensive set of revised job profiles and chose the e-CF as a reference. Euro Disney then updated the existing job profiles using competences extracted from it.

Dutch telecom operator KPN had a well-developed human resources management system that provided the basis for job evaluation, pay scales and performance management, but did not include linkage to education and training opportunities. The e-CF was used to create an online tool to manage the process of education and training identification. It provided a methodological approach to identify the competences and skills required within the organisation. The e-CF served as a benchmark of competences to reference education and training programs, whether they were developed and delivered in-house or outsourced.

More illustrative case studies of the e-CF in practice are available on the ecompetences.eu website.

Download the CEPIS e-CF Backgrounder

[1] empirica, e-Skills in Europe: Trends and Forecasts for the European ICT Professional and Digital Leadership Labour Markets (2015-2020), 2015

[2] Eurostat, Almost 8 million ICT specialists employed in the EU in 2014, 2015

[3] CEPIS, e-Competence in Europe: Analysing Europe’s Gaps and Mismatches for a Stronger ICT Profession, 2014