Steely Neelie: EU is crippled by its clueless tech-ignorant workforce
Who will free us from this rabble of dunderheads?
Half of Europe's workforce is too tech-challenged to fill all the extra ICT jobs that will be knocking around in the next few years, the European Commission has said.
The EC's Digital Agenda crew released its scoreboard of how well the continent is doing on figuring out the interwebs today and said there were still a few areas that needed some work.
One concern was the lack of ICT skills in the labour force. The Digital Agenda study found that while 43 per cent of the population have medium or high internet skills – meaning they can make a phone call online or create a web page – nearly half of those surveyed weren't confident their online talents were sufficient for today's jobs... and a quarter had no skills at all.
"These problems are making it difficult to fill ICT vacancies, which will number 700,000 by 2015," the EC said in a canned statement.
The commission is also worried about how little is being invested in ICT by both the public sector and companies. Europe's ICT sector is now spending less than half of what the US splurges on R&D, the research found.
"Europeans are hungry for digital technologies and more digital choices, but governments and industry are not keeping up with them," digital doyenne Neelie Kroes said.
"This attachment to 20th century policy mindsets and business models is hurting Europe’s economy. It’s a terrible shame. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by under-investing. Europe will be flattened by its global competitors if we continue to be complacent."
Europe would like to see more small and medium businesses selling online and more people shopping across borders, but was running into difficulties with delivery issues and copyright complications, the commission said.
But, although the commission still reckons roaming charges are too high for mobile users in Europe, particularly now that so much online activity is mobile, it said it was chuffed with what its new roaming regulation had achieved so far.
The EC is also proposing some handouts to speed up its digital agenda. The Connecting Europe Facility will include over €7bn of EU support for next generation broadband and online services for procurement, health and justice, while Horizon 2020, an EU research fund, will have €80bn to splurge, and ICT will be a large beneficiary.
Meanwhile, the EU is preparing strategies on cloud computing and internet security, which it expects to present sometime this year. ®
Cut your coat according to your cloth
if there's a mismatch between the technical skills of an entire continent and the IT goals of a bunch of policymakers, my money would be on the goals being wrong.
If there really will be 700,000 ICT vacancies (a subtle but important distinction from IT vacancies, I'd guess the ICT element includes telesales agents - and I have to say I'm glad there's a shortage of them) the simple laws of supply and demand would require that the gap can be filled by raising the pay offered, until enough people retrain to fill them. What the report probably means is there will be a shortage of ICT staff who are willing to work for the pittance on offer.
Maybe the solution is to get rid of the bean counters who couldn't foresee such a massive shortfall when making their
dreams plans and replace them with a bunch who base their strategy for the future on solid reality. There should be no difficulty in performing this substitution as sadly, there is never a shortage of administrators.
"...43 per cent of the population have medium or high internet skills – meaning they can make a phone call online or create a web page..."
Trouble is, even that figure is vastly inflated by those who think they can create a web page because they can use some brain-dead hosting company tool which lets them choose from a few templates and set their own colours.
The trouble is, we still live in a society where it's seen as more 'cool' to be able to kick a ball or mime to an auto-tuned song than to understand the technology that makes our world function. A damn sight better paid, too.
These reports are a complete waste of time.
700k jobs? What kind? IT covers a LOT of ground. Are we talking programmers, db admins or simply people that know how to move a mouse?
"feelings" about whether the people think they are skilled enough is immaterial. What jobs do the companies in question think they need to fill?
In short, someone spent a lot of money saying that a bunch of "tech" jobs need to be filled but failed to state what those jobs actually are. Which begs the question: what is this report supposed to do?
As an owner of a tech company I can say over the next 12 months I'm going to hire 10% programming staff, 70% sales and 20% "support". Where support means that I need someone that knows how to operate a browser and talk to people. All of those could be considered tech jobs: due to needing a basic understanding of computers, but 90% of those positions can be filled with simple on the job training.
Basically what I need are people who are of average intelligence and willing to learn something new. I suspect most "tech" jobs in the next decade will be similar. Heck take a company like Facebook. Most of their hires can also be considered techish. However I guaranty there isn't a college course that would prepare a graduate for the job they need to perform.
So, if I had one commandment to schools it would simply be: teach kids how to think through complex problems. Don't bother filling their heads with useless crap about how to save a document in word. Quite frankly a two year stint ought to cover that.