Taking a Collective Approach to Address the IT Skills Gap

How acute is the IT skills gap? In Europe, more than 40% of companies have expressed difficulties finding staff with the right skills and experience to fill IT positions. The Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) will host the 1st IT Professionalism Europe Conference. This conference aims to bring together key stakeholders to share best practices to develop IT talents and stimulate more efforts on corporate and government levels to tackle this challenge.

As a provider of training content and services to IT training and consulting companies, ITpreneurs has a strong interest on topics relating to competence development of IT professionals. I have an opportunity to speak with Fiona Fanning, Secretary General at CEPIS recently. Fiona explains why IT training and consulting providers will find this upcoming conference both relevant and timely.

Fiona, what is unique about the IT Professionalism Europe Conference?

There are ongoing issues in Europe around shortages and mismatches of IT professionals, combined with the need to develop, reskill and upskill the workforce.
With the conference, we’re going to catalyse the professionalisation of IT personnel. Also, we’re going to showcase the best practice in managing, developing and assessing IT staff across Europe.

The conference will bring together commercial testing and training organizations, IT managers, staffing agencies, consultancies, and professional bodies.

We’ll also be covering the emergence of a European standard on professional competence and a framework on IT professionalism. With these we can now start to expedite the solutions.

The conference will bring together IT managers, commercial testing and training organizations, staffing agencies, consultancies, and professional bodies from across Europe to discuss best practices and new practical tools. We can start to bring together the organizations who need solutions for their workforce with those who can provide them.

Why should IT training and consulting providers join this event?

At the heart of the discussions will be the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF). This is a newly published pan-European standard which has become the common language across Europe for IT competences and skills.

If you’re operating in the training space, this event provides insight into new opportunities based on the e-CF.

Some organizations join the conference to learn how to use the e-CF and other tools like it. Some join to learn, how to apply them in their respective companies And other join to showcase their tools and services, such as competence assessment and certification providers. If you’re operating in the training space, this event provides insight into new opportunities based on the e-CF.

So, e-CF is playing an important role during the conference. Can you explain the goals of e-CF?

The e-CF was designed to provide clear definitions to support decision-making with regard to the selection and recruitment of candidates, as well as the training and assessment of ICT professionals. Employers can adopt it to establish profiles and career development paths for IT professionals.

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The definition of career streams will offer valuable insight into potential career opportunities. A large company could, for example, use the e-CF to develop a tool to manage the process of training identification. In this way, it serves as a consistent benchmark of competences to assess training programmes addressing individual development needs.

How unique is e-CF? Are there similar initiatives in other countries of the world? How do you see e-CF helping to tackle the challenge to recruit IT professionals?

Organizations must be able to understand the core areas of IT expertise required by different roles, in order to recruit and develop suitable employees, and maintain adequate levels of competences. The e-CF is the ideal tool to support organizations in doing so.

Previously, there was no way to express ICT competences and skills requirements and gaps on a European level. Similar initiatives exist elsewhere, such as the UK and Japan, and this is very positive.
With the e-CF, there’s a recognized standard, one that can provide a common language within Europe and beyond.

IT skills gaps is not a new phenomenon, why is it a long running challenge not just for Europe but for the whole world?

Two factors explain this lack of IT talent. On the one hand, we are not producing enough IT graduates. On the other, competence mismatches are rampant across all sectors, as technology rapidly evolves.
The ongoing digitalisation of our society and economy is bringing about profound changes in working conditions and traditional job dynamics. Different sets of skills are urgently required to avoid further skills gaps and mismatches in the labour market. The image of IT as the domain of guys and geeks doesn’t help – part of professionalizing IT is about putting those who work in the field on the same status level as doctors and lawyers. After all, the work done by IT professionals is just as important.

Are governments, companies, training providers doing enough to help reduce that?

As long as the gaps and shortages persist, all stakeholders can and should do more.

What do you see as the most in demand IT skills these days in Europe?

Data analytics and cybersecurity specialists are very much in demand.

What are the causes for that?

Technological evolutions, such as the Internet of Things, are creating more demand for highly-qualified specialists. However, there are currently not enough graduates to meet this demand. The talent pool is not keeping up: there are too many threats and too few professionals.

And what does that mean as opportunities for IT training and consulting providers?

The problem is not always the lack of people, but the lack of adequately trained people. It is estimated that only 23% of European ICT professionals have the competences required for their job. There is therefore an urgent need for lifelong learning, continued professional development and different educational paths to attest to an employee’s competences and skills and enable ICT professionals to develop their careers. This represents a very tangible opportunity for IT training and consulting providers.

The problem is not always the lack of people, but the lack of adequately trained people.

Fiona, you have been involved in this domain for some time, any personal reflections or vision that you can share with our readers?

My own vision is for people working in IT to be recognised as true professionals. Our work with the European Commission on a professionalism framework has started to put some shape on this – it encompasses ethics, a body of knowledge, competences and of course education and training. The potential of IT to do good or harm today is enormous, and the skills gaps exacerbate this, as well as impede the European economy.

Organizations, governments, consultancies, education and training providers are all part of the solution.

Changing the public perception of IT urgently needs to happen to spur the supply, and career development program, education and training can bolster the existing talent pool. Organizations, governments, consultancies, education and training providers are all part of the solution.

Our own contribution is to catalyse this professionalization by bringing all the parties who care about IT staff, along with our own expertise and the professional bodies, to our IT Professionalism Europe event.

About CEPIS

CEPIS was established in 1989 by 9 European informatics societies. Currently, it represents over 450,000 ICT and informatics professionals in 32 countries.

Connie Tai
Connie Tai is head of products and solutions marketing at ITpreneurs, and engages with training and consulting companies to understand how they can best leverage ITpreneurs portfolio and capabilities. To share any feedback or ideas, please write to her at connie.tai@itpreneurs.com.