Digital Transformation is not just a buzzword. It’s happening right before our very eyes and will eventually affect us all, one way or another. Despite the awareness, a recent study by Technical University Munich (TUM) showed that there is still an immense digital skills gap: “90% of the people surveyed agreed that the digital transformation is important for their business strategy, yet 64% said that their company did not have staff required for the digital transformation”. SAP strongly believes that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Industry 4.0, the design thinking methodology, and Machine Learning should be incorporated in trainings offered to students, apprentices, and employees through collaboration of schools and companies across sectors.
Back in 2016, the European Commission established the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition as part of the actions on the New Skills Agenda for Europe to promote cooperation among education, employment and industry stakeholders with one common goal: improving the digital skills of the wider population in the European Union (EU). SAP has long been supporting the EU’s goal, with Executive Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer Dr. Bernd Welz being part of the Governing Board of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition which provides strategic leadership and gives high-level advice to the European Commission.
Moreover, SAP Next-Gen is a member of the coalition and has pledged to open 24 Next-Gen Labs and start 180 SAP Next-Gen Consulting projects by 2020 to support the closing of the digital skills gap. In addition, SAP will join the European Alliance of Apprenticeships, launched by the European Commission to strengthen the quality, supply, and image of apprenticeships in Europe. SAP will pledge to offer apprentices and students a vocational training or dual bachelor degree in Germany, Ireland, and Hungary in the areas of business informatics and applied computer science.
SAP will also soon publish a white paper entitled ‘The European Prosperity Through Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence. The Intelligent Enterprise’ – which contains a set of recommendations to the European policy makers on how to develop skills for Artificial Intelligence among students and the current workforce.
Digital opportunities for Europe – Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Conference
To raise more awareness as well as to look into the future of digital skills policy in the European Union, the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Conference was held in Brussels on December 7, 2017, for 450 participants. Mariya Gabriel, the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, gave a keynote speech outlining her vision for future digital skills policy in Europe. The Governing Board, where Dr. Welz is a member, worked on recommendations for EU Commissioner Gabriel, which were presented to her at the High-Level Roundtable organized during the conference.
SAP was prominently represented at the conference, with Thierry Siraut, SAP University Alliance Country Manager Belgium/Luxembourg, taking on the role of a speaker in a panel on the topic of “The future investments needed in digital skills.” The panel, which included a Member of the European Parliament as well as experts from Microsoft and Tallinn University of Technology, discussed issues such as the current and future digital skills gap and how to tackle this challenge, focusing also on the respective roles of the European Union, its member states, and of the private sector. Additionally, the European Digital Skills Awards 2017 ceremony was held during the conference. Dr. Welz was invited by the Commission to be part of the jury for the award, which aims at showcasing initiatives that develop the digital skills of Europeans in school, at work, and in society in general.
Here are some of the key messages from the conference:
- The European Union should promote the image of IT by demonstrating how technology helps to build a better world. This could help increase the number of skilled people.
- Women in the tech industry are essential for economic and social growth.
- Coding should be further encouraged among children, for example, with fun tools such as the SAP Gardening App or with the SAP Young Thinkers Initiative.
- Digital skills are needed in everyday life, not only at work
- Artificial Intelligence should be demystified: It has been here for many years and brings benefits to people.
- We need to communicate that digital skills are needed in all sectors, private and public.
- Solid partnership between universities, governments, and industry is needed to develop digital skills.
- 50% of all European schools should participate in the EU Code Week by 2020.
- The huge gap in cybersecurity skills increases vulnerability and needs to be addressed.
In addition to the panel, SAP showcased various learning offerings at the dedicated SAP information booth. At the pod, SAP experts gave insights into a smart gardening module for schools, based on Snap!, a graphic coding language, and talked about how free massive open online courses (MOOCs) from openSAP or offerings in SAP Learning Hub can help EU citizens upskill in preparation for the digital transformation. The 450+ participants showed great interest in openSAP, SAP Young Thinkers, and SAP Next-Gen, and were impressed by how SAP helps to increase employment in the EU by retraining people.
Why Europe Matters
The involvement in the fight to close the digital skills gap, however, is not SAP’s only engagement with the European Union. SAP also partnered with the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) where SAP CEO Bill McDermott, is a member. Together with JA Europe, the ERT has launched a joint initiative called “Why Europe Matters.” The campaign is aimed at young EU citizens aged 16 to 25 and is comprised of a survey about Europe, their education and employment, and their ideas for the future. Young people from the SAP network, as well children of SAP employees can take a short survey in 9 languages.
In addition, 9 innovation workshops are taking place across Europe with the active engagement of SAP volunteers. The final European workshop and the high-level policy debate with EU Commissioners, MEPs, CEOs of the European companies and young people is planned for March 20-21 in Brussels – where the goal will be to bridge the gap between the decision makers and youth to make their ideas a reality.
Being part of this initiative shows that SAP is eager to not only tackle the current skills gap issue by helping to upskill people, but also to look ahead and try to find ways of getting to the root of the problem – that is, trying to minimize the potential for future skills gaps.
- Digital opportunities for Europe – Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Conference
- Why Europe Matters
- The Governing Board of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition
What are your thoughts on fostering skills to support the younger generation in Europe?
Karin Fischenbeck and Dominik Strauß
Communications, SAP Knowledge, Products & Innovation