Digitalisation was one of recurring topics at the European Business Summit. The roundtable on How to Digitise EU’s Industry brought together a group of speakers to look at particular aspects of this growing trend:
- Katarzyna Jakimowicz, Associate Director at the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal
- Antti Peltomäki, Deputy Director General, Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW)
- Sandeep Simon, Utilities Segment Head, Europe, TATA Consultancy Services
- Eva Maydell, MEP
- Bruni Basalisco, Head of Digital Economy service at Copenhagen Economics
- along with moderator Julia Fioretti, Correspondent for Reuters News Agency.
Various statistics related to digitalisation in Europe were presented, and these presented a picture of a long journey ahead and a lot of untapped potential. Mr Peltomäki was worried about the investment gap and the skills gap, and said that “we are losing out if we’re not acting now”. Mr Simon also talked about the need for changing mindsets, and this starts with leadership.
Ms Maydell reflected at length on change and on skills. She believes that digitalising brings a lot of opportunities, but there are also challenges. In her meetings with citizens of Europe, and as was scientifically proven too, most citizens are resistant to change, and many are worried about how these technological changes, including the rise in use of robots, will affect jobs. “There are jobs that won’t exist in 5 to 10 years, but there will be new jobs that will be there, and they will all require digital skills,” she emphasised, adding that we have a long way to go still.
When asked about what needs to be done to insure that there is not a gap in skills, she admitted she does not know the exact recipe, it is several things together in her opinion, and one of them is education. Education systems in Europe need to be improved, and an innovative education model is what is needed. “We’ve been way too focused on getting a diploma; we need to get the skills, bring out the talents.”
Still too many Europeans lack basic digital skills, she said, but it is not just those: “Learning how to learn, being more adaptable, bringing out your creativity. That’s the things that will be very very important.”
Ms Jakimowicz agreed that improving digital skills of the general public and addressing lack of skilled ICT workers is a priority, but another aspect of education is also educating businesses – “digitising industry means that businesses themselves need to understand that they need to digitise”, and how this can be done effectively.
Mr Basalisco brought up the “shocking stats”: the gap between non-manual and manual workers in the EU when it comes to having sufficient digital skills, which he put at 47% for non-manual workers, but only 15% for manual workers. This is something that needs to be addressed.
Ms Maydell finds investing in skills key, and not only early on in our lives, as we have to always adjust to a changing situation. “We study, go to uni, graduate, open a bank account, buy a house … We need to change the way we think about our life,” she said, emphasising the importance of lifelong learning, professional training included in the concept of education, and flexibility.
At the same time, she believes there is enough statistics on digital skills, but we also need to see more data on skills in general, soft skills, creativity, skills related to ‘learnability’, analysing, critical thinking and others, all very important across industries and years. She is also a small employer as a startup and believes that, even a few years ago, different skills were required to what they are today. She is eager to help young people be prepared for the labour market, and not many of them can benefit from meaningful traineeships at present. “Why don’t we have classes to prepare better for what business will need from them?” She would also like to see teachers and professors be better prepared to teach new skills for success.
The roundtable, though touching upon a few other related topics, left YouthProAktiv with the important message of the need to ensure that young people are prepared for successful future, equipped with not just digital but also transversal and entrepreneurial skills, and that the right nurturing environment is there for everyone to be part of progress in the changing digital society.
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