Closing the Digital Skills Gap in Spain
Technology is a key enabler of the development of new business models and innovation. Spain is fully immersed in an intense digital transformation process, sped up by the COVID-19 crisis. In this period of adaptation, education and training are two areas seen as a crucial for development and employment.
What is the situation with digital skills in Spain?
The lack of technological knowledge affects government agencies, education systems, technology industries and entrepreneurs alike. In fact, 46% of Spanish companies experience difficulties to find the digital profiles they need and look for. Technology roles such as those linked to data analysis, cloud computing, and application development are the hardest to fill.
What are the main reasons for this?
There is a general decrease in the number of students in STEM subjects, often perceived as too difficult. This is very much true in the case of girls, with several studies showing that lack of confidence in one’s study skills, little social orientation of these disciplines and the negative influence of social stereotypes, end up hindering this process. This, combined with the lack of preparation of teachers and counsellors in schools, universities, and vocational training centres, increasingly influences our young people’s decision to choose and enrol in STEM subjects.
Many voices have raised this imbalance: between the education and knowledge of people and employees, and the needs of companies, especially in the context of secondary education and in vocational training. We now need to redirect our students towards intermediate and higher-level Vocational Training and promote Dual Vocational Training, which is still at its inception stage in Spain.
How to close the digital skills gap? AMETIC’s recommendations
"Education must become a priority. School educational programs should not only technology training, but also awareness-raising programmes on security, trust, and ethics in digital technologies.For one, programming is fast becoming a subject as necessary as English is".
Additionally, the visibility of relevant figures in this field is essential, bringing expert professionals of both genders closer to educational centres. Likewise, there is a need to update teachers’ knowledge, including their ability to work with new technologies and applications in the classroom or promote project-based teaching, including digital entrepreneurship. The use of digital education models and technology should become a given from the very first step of one’s education journey all the way throughout graduation and life.
"The provision of digital skills in education and VET needs to correspond to market needs. It is paramount to develop, update and build links between university degrees and vocational training, and to foster collaborative relationships between education institutions and companies, so that training curricula and teaching staff training evolve together with technology".
The new Vocational training regulation recently approved will further support dual vocational training programmes. Nevertheless, companies throughout Spain highlight the need for fiscal and/or economic measures that encourage university-business collaboration and dual training.
"We should design different educational programmes to see more tech-inspired activities geared toward school children to promote STEM vocations. Interest in these careers can be sparked by bringing together professionals from fields such as cybersecurity, AI, IoT, Cloud or Big Data experts and getting them to act as role models and mentors for students about to finish their degrees".
Some of the following programmes have been especially successful in helping youngsters learn and create through digital technology, such as STEAM Alliance by the Education Ministry, Club Inspiring Girls, DesarrolladorAs, WOMEN4IT, Mujer e Ingeniería, or ToolBox Academy.
To foster an environment, which promotes lifelong learning for employees, HR departments and companies’ management should promote both an active employment policy in the workplace throughout the one’s working life, including online training. Some private companies are already developing its own Universities for their employees: take Grupo Eulen, or CEPSA Digital Experience as an example. Many programmes also focus on upskilling employees, jobseekers, and citizens alike, such as: Conecta Empleo, Fundaula, Barcelona Digital Talent.
Also, it is important to carry out permanent monitoring, study, and analysis of the demand for professional qualifications and their evolution in the different productive sectors. It must be taking into account a training Plan for ICT training for the unemployed, AMETIC participates along with other digital associations and trade unions on the Digital Economy and Industry Sectorial Joint Committee organized by FUNDAE (State foundation for employee training), we are working in updating the training specialities in our sector.
Finally, the promotion of public-private collaboration will lead to concrete solutions that will make an impact on the digital skills gap. Both private bodies (associations, business schools, universities, educational centres, schools, companies) and public stakeholders and policymakers (Secretariat of State, Ministry of Education & Vocational Training, etc.) must be involved from the start. For example, an agreement signed on 28 February 2019 between the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and AMETIC reviewed the Vocational Training Titles related to our sector, and specifically, those of Higher Technician in Administration of Computer Network Systems, Higher Technician in Multiplatform Application Development and Higher Technician in Web Application Development. We are currently working on the development of specialisation courses on Virtual Reality and Blockchain.
About Francisco Hortigüela
Telecommunications Engineer with more than 30 years’ experience in the digital technology sector. Working in different areas, such as sales, marketing, communication, and public affairs for leading companies like Philips and Samsung. Since 2019 is the Managing Director of AMETIC. During his career he has led successfully national projects on Education and Digital Skills.
AMETIC represents the digital technology industry in Spain. Our members are companies of all sizes which include large global companies of IT, telecoms, consumer electronics, services, and digital contents, as well as other leading companies in digital transformation and other associations of the sector. Our main priorities are digitalisation and digital skills.