GREEN eDIH assumes an active role in European digital talent development initiatives

Misiunea Apollo 13, lansată în aprilie 1970, s-a transformat imediat într-o luptă pentru supraviețuire.  Rezervoarele de oxigen au explodat, urmând faimoasa misiune de salvare. Lumea întreagă își ținea respirația, în timp ce de la o distanță de 200.000 de mile se căutau soluții pentru problemele tehnice. Inginerii și astronauții au lucrat împreună pentru a-și da seama cum să manevreze și să navigheze o navă spațială grav avariată, să găsească modalități inovatoare de conservare a energiei, oxigenului și apei și, în cele din urmă, să descopere cum să repornească un modul de comandă care nu fusese proiectat pentru a fi oprit în spațiu.

Most students who walk into a school today have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and the impression of their familiarity with these devices is obvious. Often called “digital natives,” they mature in a technology-centric environment. However, there are experts who question whether these digital skills really align with reality and, above all, how long the road is from skills to digital competences.

Beyond specific sectors and occupations that develop and deliver digital goods and services, digital skills are a cross-cutting requirement, a feature of contemporary citizenship and a driver of sustainable transformation. The study “Digital skills: Challenges and opportunities” published by Cedefop in 2021 shows the importance of digital skills and knowledge in online job advertisements during 2020. Demand for knowledge about business ICT systems and applications, software development and configuration tools and web and for data analysis accounted for about half of the increase in demand for skills.
Cedefop’s skills forecast also identifies factors of change that will affect the skills of professionals: developments in technology and value chains, further digitization of the economy, outsourcing of technical skills to cheaper, non-EU markets, the shift to cloud computing, automation , the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the interconnectedness of intelligent systems.
At the same time, the education system does not necessarily produce the right skills. A recent survey, published in “Strategies to address the digital skills gap in the EU” showed that more than half of the companies consulted considered that graduates do not have enough of the IT skills they will need (especially technical skills), and an overwhelming majority felt that universities were not adapting their curriculum quickly enough to the needs of industry.

In Romania, the studies show parallel realities.

In July 2022, the International Trade Administration published optimistic data about Romania, which were intensively picked up by the mass media and even the business environment. Romania was presented as a leader in Europe, and in sixth place in the world, in terms of the number of certified IT specialists, with density rates per 1,000 inhabitants, higher than in the USA or Russia.
According to a 2022 study by the Employers’ Association of the Software and Services Industry (ANIS), the IT market in Romania now reaches approximately 220,000 IT and engineering specialists, of which more than 50% are software developers and representing more than 2.6 % of the employed population. Romania also has the second highest number of female coders among EU countries, with around 26% of the country’s talent pool made up of women, according to Eurostat.
On the other hand, the Digital Futures Index by which Microsoft measures the level of digitization in 16 European countries, including Romania, shows that Romania’s overall digital development score is 92, while the CEE average is 100.
In 2022 the Economy and Society Index digital (DESI) places Romania in 47th place out of 63 countries in terms of digitization, stating that the country faces difficulties in the dimension of human capital, with a very low level of basic digital skills compared to the EU average. With a score of 30.6 points, Romania is behind all other EU member states, the average being 52.3 points.
While the country maintains its high positions in the proportion of women specializing in the field (2nd place), ICT graduates (4th place) and connectivity (above the EU average), it lags behind in several other areas, with scores well below the EU average in terms of basic digital skills (28% vs. 54%) and digital skills beyond basic (9% vs. 26%).
It is not surprising to learn that only 27% of teachers in Romania have attended certified courses for the digital training necessary for teaching, according to the latest international study by the Vodafone Foundation. The European average is 39%.
In addition, digital public services continue to be a challenge for Romania. The country performs significantly below the EU average, as the availability of digital public services to citizens is quite low (a score of 44 compared to the EU average of 75) and only 17% of internet users use e-government services.

Digital talents, a pan-European concern

There were almost 9 million ICT professionals in the EU in 2021 (4.5% of total employees). As a percentage of the workforce, Sweden and Finland performed best, with more than 7% of the workforce consisting of IT specialists (8.0% and 7.4%, respectively). At the other end of the spectrum, the figures for the share of the total workforce made up of ICT specialists were lowest in Romania (2.6%) and Greece (2.8%).
In an era of profound demographic transformation in Europe, the talent development landscape is at a critical juncture. The ramifications of these changes ripple through our societies and economies, posing challenges that require immediate attention and innovative solutions. Most Member States are facing the consequences of population aging, declining birth rates and the migration of educated people. These dynamics are reshaping the fabric of our workforce and societies, presenting complex challenges that require strategic interventions.
Regions in Europe are experiencing varying degrees of impact. Among these, Romania is a focal point, faced with acute challenges generated by demographic changes. We face the dual challenge of retaining our highly educated talent while fostering an environment conducive to the development of digital skills.
In the midst of these transformations, there is a looming risk: digital talent development pitfalls. These pitfalls encapsulate scenarios where regions, especially those affected by demographic change, risk falling behind in the race for digital talent. Access to educational resources, technological infrastructure and opportunities to improve skills is becoming a critical factor in determining a region’s digital competitiveness.
Recognizing the urgency of addressing these challenges, in 2023, the European Year of Skills, the European Commission launched the Talent Boost Facility, which will support affected EU regions in training, retaining and attracting the skills and competences needed to overcome the impact of the accelerating decline in the working population.
Within this mechanism, focused actions are proposed, the General Directorate for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission (DG REGIO) launched the Harnessing Talent Platform (HTP), Green eDIH being invited to the event organized on November 23, in Brussels. This initiative addresses specific sectors such as digital, health, research and innovation and territorial development. The intention is to provide tailored strategies, foster collaboration between stakeholders, and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices.
Thus, through concerted efforts led by the EU mechanism and collaborative efforts such as the HTP, Europe is prepared to navigate these changes. By prioritizing tailored strategies, encouraging collaboration and leveraging shared knowledge, the region can mitigate the risks posed by digital talent traps and pave the way for a vibrant, digitally empowered future.

Green eDIH assumes a role in the DIGITAL working group

We saw how Romania is a microcosm of the challenges and opportunities that are reshaping the continent’s digital talent landscape. We face a unique confluence of factors that require nuanced strategies and collaborative efforts to navigate the evolving terrain of talent development. In recent years, Romania has faced profound demographic changes, reflecting broader European trends. Population aging, declining birth rates, and the emigration of highly educated people have combined to exert significant pressure on the nation’s talent pool and economic potential.
In this context, the Talent Stimulation Mechanism of the European Commission takes on a critical importance for Romania. Through initiatives like HTP, Romania has the opportunity to capitalize on collaborative efforts, capitalize on shared knowledge and adapt strategies to address the specific challenges it faces in cultivating digital talent. As part of pillar 7 of the Talent Stimulation Mechanism, HTP has created four working groups focusing on critical areas: digital, health, research and innovation and territorial development. The aim is to help regions overcome specific professional and territorial challenges, increase their competitiveness and attract a young, highly qualified workforce.
In the next 3 years, Green eDIH will participate in the activities of the DIGITAL working group, which will focus on challenges and potential solutions related to strengthening digital skills and capitalizing on talents in the field. The involvement of Green eDIH in HTP, alongside the group of 20 specialists selected from various organizations across the EU, signifies our dedication to harnessing technology for sustainable talent development. We anticipate that our involvement will bring new perspectives in attracting, developing and retaining talent against the backdrop of demographic changes, important for Romania’s digital future.

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