Europe calls for more IT specialists, but the digital transition will need IT professionals
The European Commission has announced an ambitious target to have 20 million IT specialists within the European workforce by 2030. This initiative should be welcomed by all, since developing and leveraging emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and Blockchain, will only happen with the appropriate IT know-how to support these processes.
There are many approaches about how we can strive to reach this goal. These include upskilling and re-qualifying employees from other backgrounds, attracting a more diverse population, and developing high quality education programmes and apprenticeships. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but rather ensure that best practices are shared while scaling up the successful actions through initiatives such as the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition and Platform.
‘’However, while increasing the number of IT specialists is fundamental, the European governments, social and education systems must not only focus on quantity, but also on the quality of the IT workforce skills set and the actions needed to ensure this quality’’
Focus on the quality of IT workforce competence
We can think, for example, of the non-technical implications of an Artificial Intelligence technology developer's work. AI ethical aspects and potential bias are important topics frequently discussed, and many, including members of the European Parliament, have called for more regulation to prevent potentially discriminatory algorithms. In addition to developing such new regulatory measures, Europe must also invest in IT professionals that understand the scope and risks related to their development work and how they go beyond the purely technical aspects. Developers should be able to refer to existing good practices and guidelines and be aware of the societal responsibility related to their product, to create solutions that are ethically balanced and bring real value to the end-user. They must also be committed to continuous revisions of these solutions as well as to following emerging challenges and embedding them in their work.
Working together is key in supporting high professionalism standards
Such professional behaviour and competence should not be limited only to the IT sector workforce. Every relevant actor should be involved: employers, social partners, as well as education and training providers, should facilitate the accessible and suitable opportunities for professional growth.
This common approach is already being developed by the European Standardisation Committee (CEN) with the release of the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF), which has already supported numerous companies across Europe in describing the existing and needed IT profiles and organising upskilling activities for their staff. The CEN is currently planning the release of a new ethics meta-framework in 2022.
In conclusion, Europe needs a common effort to face the challenges of professionalising the IT workforce, an effort that builds upon shared standards and that involves the full range of stakeholders, to support the development of highly skilled, innovative, as well as responsible and accountable IT professionals.
‘’We need an IT workforce which is recognized as highly skilled and authoritative in their fields and that merits end-users' trust in IT-based products and services, as well as in the digital transition at large.’’
Secretary General, ITPE
About IT Professionalism
You can find out more about the work being done on IT professionalism in ITPE’s policy paper on building the best IT workforce to deliver Europe’s digital transition.
IT Professionalism Europe (ITPE) is a network of stakeholders committed to the advancement of IT professionalism. The network includes public and private sector experts from critical IT domains, including policy, standards, HR and IT management, as well as education, training and other service providers that support IT professionalism.
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