On 28 June 2023, more than 35 representatives from National Coalitions for Digital Skills and Jobs from all over Europe gathered for a half-day co-creation workshop face-to-face in Brussels, Belgium. The workshop was a success – and a key takeaway from it that we need to mention is that it further served to highlight how high digital skills are on both national and EU level.
With 2023 having been announced as the “Year of Skills” by European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, the digital aspect has never been more important, with a range of EU initiatives being launched throughout Europe to support the development of basic and advanced digital skills. The Year of Skills campaign aims to help companies, and SMEs in particular, to address skills shortages within the EU and encourage a lifelong learning mindset in up- and re-skilling as well as access to the right skills for quality jobs.
A sound step towards making the next decade very digital, and very European
The workshop kicked off with the welcoming remarks of Rehana Schwinninger-Ladak, Head of Unit, DG CNECT, who highlighted the urgent need to continue racing against the Digital Decade targets of seeing 80% of EU citizens utilise at least a basic level of digital skills in their day-to-day and work lives, and get to 20 million ICT specialists in employment by 2030.
Digital skills are high on the European Commission’s agenda: and a tremendous amount of resources are currently being pooled to support the development of both basic and advanced digital skills through the Digital Europe Programme (take a look at the 4th round of open calls under DIGITAL, which close on 26 September – ‘Boost Digital Skills of young pupils (in particular girls)’, and ‘Reinforcing skills in semiconductors’). The CyberSkills Academy, hosted on the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform is another example of this increased effort towards ensuring EU citizens can make the most of the opportunities the future holds.
The official remarks were followed by another, in-person and warm welcome by Vitis Faure Tilgaard, Policy Officer, DG CNECT, European Commission, who highlighted some of the main achievements in the area of digital and skills from the past year – and thanked National Coalition representatives for their key role in bridging the digital skills divide in the EU Member States also in 2023, the European Year of Skills.
An interactive co-creation workshop on “hot” topics in digital skills and jobs
Barbara Quarta, Project Manager in European Schoolnet and part of the Platform team, presented some of the highlights from the past 2 years of Digital Skills and Jobs Platform activities – something that was again made possible by the activities and input of the National Coalitions for Digital Skills & Jobs and gave the floor to the jury of the European Digital Skills Awards 2023 to share some insights from the process and some tips for future applicants.
This was followed by an interactive co-creation session at the workshop, which dove into the hottest topics in the area of digital skills and jobs. National Coalition representatives were split into 5 round tables of around 10 people each, each tackling the main challenges and solutions across key topics: digital inclusion, women and girls in ICT, cybersecurity skills and Cyber Academy, AI for SMEs and professionals, digital skills for young people.
What made the session interactive was the availability of different and experienced moderators, including an NC representative in each group and dedicated note takers, who captured the main challenges, solutions and outcomes, together with the key points on a Miro board.
The last part of the workshop was reserved for presentation of the outputs from the Working Groups of the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform with National Coalitions for Digital Skills and Jobs. The Working Groups, set up at the beginning of 2022, offered a space for Coalition representatives to exchange knowledge, and discuss strategies on digital skills, editorial and content approaches to presenting initiatives in an engaging way, and successful community-building and communication activities.
Members of the Italian and Latvian National Coalitions presented the outputs of the Strategy WG, including Recommendations for National Coalitions on a higher, more strategic level as well as next steps, and various ways for European policymakers to support the National Coalition in this role. National Coalition members from Spain, Malta, Portugal and Luxembourg presented some key initiatives in the context of women and girls in ICT in the context of the Content WG.
Looking towards the future
The 2023 edition of the European Digital Skills Awards made parts of this possible and represent another way to highlight the important role of work on digital skills to take place in every European region, city, and area – and for each impacted group, whether this be EU citizens in general, the labour force, ICT professionals and digital experts, or students, teachers and educators.
There is a range of excellent initiatives out there, from training opportunities to good practices from all around Europe, and the role of National Coalitions for Digital Skills & Jobs in promoting quality initiatives to bridge the digital skills gap and gender divide is growing in importance as we are writing this. And so many engaging projects taking place all across Europe are showing us that digital skills are “for everyone” – regardless of age, gender, dis/ability, and location.
An evidence for this is the success of this year’s edition of the European Digital Skills Awards – with 330 high-quality entries across all categories, it is clear that one shared goal is making significant impact using innovative and effective ways. In case you missed the winners, you can find our highlights from the Awards Ceremony here.