Pablo Picasso once said that computers are useless – they can only give you answers. Some years later, our world is ever-digitizing. Technology clearly plays a central role in addressing global challenges, the wellbeing of our societies, and the competitiveness of economies. If Picasso were alive today, I think he might change his mind.

There is no doubt that digital technologies have huge potential to deliver both jobs and economic growth in Europe recovering from the recession. Research shows that only cloud technologies can generate nearly €1 trillion in GDP (1) and up to 4 million jobs by 2020 (2). Digital technology can benefit the whole economy, not only IT sector. It is estimated that for every new high tech job, up to four non high-tech jobs are created in the local economy (3).

However, Europe is facing a dilemma:

On the one hand, unemployment is at 26% in Spain and Croatia, compared to 6.1% in the US (4). Youth unemployment is unprecedentedly high, reaching up to 53% in Greece and Spain (5). There is more competition from more senior people working longer and more women remaining in the workforce (which is good news!).

On the other hand, young people do not have relevant IT and business skills to fill the jobs that are being created by technology. In fact, Europe might be short of up to 1 million ICT practitioners by 2020 (6). The need for skills in areas like analytics, cloud, and programming will increase over the next three years according to Workforce 2020, an SAP and Oxford Economics survey. Without relevant skills to meet the market demands, young people will find it difficult to compete and contribute to economic development.

The jobs will not be filled, nor will young people be satisfied if the jobs do not much their skills. Already now, only 10% of young people report success in finding suitable employment and the satisfaction that comes along with it (7). Is the problem that human beings are never satisfied, or there is room for improvement, as the statistics show?

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And whose battle is it? Given the complexity of the skills gap problem, governments, NGOs, businesses and Universities have to work together to solve it by designing curricula that fit everyone’s needs. This is not a new idea, but Europe still seems to lag behind and actors remain in their comfort zone across parallel universes.

Policymakers and educational institutions have an important task ahead of them to adapt to digital age. To improve employment reediness, they have to design long term policies, reform curricula, revamp vocational education and boost dual education system. On top of that, they need to improve educational and labor mobility implement a pan- European training scheme and use un tapped potential of women. It’s a long to-do list. EU leaders have already agreed to make youth unemployment one of the five priorities for the next European Commission term. Now, we are counting on tangible next steps.  

Digital Industry clearly has a role to play in addressing the challenge and has been launching innovative initiatives to boost skills of young people by working together with Universities and governments and advocate for more digital skills and entrepreneurship culture in Europe. Recently, the European tech industry including SAP’s EMEA President Franck Cohen has sent a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission to ask for his continued support in addressing the skills shortages.

Clearly, this is a triple win. Europe needs dynamic and innovative young people and more high tech startups to grow and avoid social disturbance. Both public and private sectors need a digitally literate workforce to develop and manage IT solutions. On top of that, young people deserve a chance to succeed in the future. Pablo Picasso would have echoed that.

SAP initiatives to boost digital and entrepreneurship skills in Europe:

SAP feels responsible for the region and has been taking a proactive approach to address issues around the skills gap across Europe. The company has to also make sure that its ecosystem has access to highly skilled workforce.

  • SAP University Alliances, a partnership with 1800 Universities globally to support professors and students with technology and teaching materials;
  • An online job matching and e-learning platform for graduates called the Academy Cube, with over 80 courses and 700 job postings;
  • The open SAP MOOC platform, which provides teaching materials and instructors support;
  • A knowledge sharing community TeachSurfing.org
  • The SAP Student Entrepreneurshipprogram supporting young talents with innovative ideas with mentoring,

  • Working with key non-proit organizations like Ashoka, Junior Achievement, First Logo League to uncover the potential of youth from communities that need it most,
  • Partnering in the EU Grand Coalition for Digital Job, pan-European multi-stakeholder projects to boost ICT professionalism in Europe;
  • SAP is a pan European partner in the e-skills for jobs 2014 campaign to tackle skills mismatches;
  • Partnering in the EU Code Week 2014 to boost coding skills among youth;
  • Launching with partners the EU Coding Platform to provide online materials for children to learn how to code and empower teachers;
  • Co-founder of the first pan-European certification scheme the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass (ESP) to facilitate job market entry;
  • Supporting the European Digital Girls Awards to raise awareness of importance of untapped potential of women in digital sector.

Statistics:

  1. IDC Worldwide Cloud Black Book, 4Q update, April 2013
  2. IDC for the European Commission, 2012
  3. High Technology Employment in European Union, Discussion Paper, University of Leuven, December 2013
  4. Eurostat, Unemployment Statistics, July 2014
  5. Bureau of Labour Statistics, September 2014
  6. e-skills for Jobs in Europe, Measuring Progress and Moving Ahead (2014)
  7. Education to employment: Getting Europe’s youth into work, McKinsey Center for Development, January 2014

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