CeBIT: Non-IT Graduates Plugging Tech Skills Gap

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The number of computer science graduates has been falling since 2003, despite increasing demand for IT skills, European authorities say

Europe is suffering from a lack of techies despite numbers doubling over the last 15 years, according to the European Commission, which has launched a scheme to highlight the issue.

Announced at the CeBIT IT show in Hannover, Germany on Monday, e-skills week is an attempt by European authorities to address a shortage of IT professionals in the region and encourage more citizens to improve their IT skills. The scheme will run until Friday with the participation of 35 countries across Europe, who have arranged a variety of activities to promote technology-related training and education.

“Improving digital literacy is crucial to Europe’s future. We must invest in the e-skills of all EU citizens to make sure that no one is left behind as the economy goes digital,” said vice-president Antonio Tajani, commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Neelie Kroes, commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Androulla Vassiliou, commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth in a joint statement. “Digital literacy and media literacy are crucial components of digital inclusion: people should be able to use computers and the Internet, while understanding how the web actually works and how to assess the online information.”

While the EC is keen to encourage general computing skills, the commission is concerned about a potential lack of IT professionals in the future amid increasing competition from India, and China

According to EC figures, there are currently around 4 million IT professionals across Europe – around twice the number in 1995 – but the increasing pervasiveness of technology means that this may not be enough. More than half of IT professionals now work outside of the traditional ICT industry according to EC and it is this demand which is placing a strain on IT staff numbers.

“Far from being an ‘ICT sector issue’, Europe’s growing e-skills shortage is affecting the productivity and the competitiveness of all types of organisations (large and small) across society,” the EC said in a statement.

Part of the blame lies with a lack of investment in education and training which has not kept pace with the demand leaving Europe with a shortage of home-grown computer scientists, the EC said. “Fewer young people have enrolled on computer science courses since 2003, leading to a decline in graduates,” the EC stated.

The shortfall is being made up by science, engineering or humanities graduates who are becoming ICT experts, the EC added. For example, non-ICT graduates make up 70 percent of Denmark’s ICT workforce.

Another study cited by the EC points to “an excess demand of 384,000 ICT practitioners by 2015”.

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