Chapter 1

Skills and education


– Lifelong learning (LLL) is central in reducing half-life of knowledge, building talent and part of the solution to tackle social inequality;
– Change structures, less so contents: an agile labour market requires flexible and responsive education and training systems;
– Skills demand of a digital industry must be addressed by focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) and by making Vocational Education & – Training (VET) a 1st choice for learners;
– Integrate learning of digital technology and skills across all curricula and develop appropriate teaching methods;
– Foster digitally savvy leadership skills to create new business (models), transform businesses and inspire a digitally skilled workforce.

Digitalisation holds great potential and could have a lasting and positive impact on compagnies, individuals and society as a whole. The potential to capitalise on the promises of digitalisation largely rests on having an agile and right skilled workforce.

Today across the E, there aren't enough skilled workers to fill all of the manufacturing jobs available. And yet, talent is being wasted. Both are a major risk of reduced competitiveness of companies.

Delivering the right skills

Digitalisation holds immense potential for companies and society, but the mismatch between skills demand and supply is still not properly dealt with. This dedicated report zooms in on skills, education and training sharing insights and inspiration. The publication recommends actions for the EU, governments, education providers, employers and individuals requiring each to take its fair share to close the gap.

Vlogger testing technology

Video blogger (vlogger) Therese Lindgren became a rolemodel from the moment she took her interest in technology to her Youtube channel. In the videos she tested products in a fun, unpretentious and accessible way. Swedish employer organisation Teknikföretagen seized the opportunity and proposed a cooperation.

This origins from the difficulties of finding (right skilled) workers when the number of students choosing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) keeps on decreasing.

The aim is to inspire young people – particularly girls – to choose technical education. In addition, the communication has been focused on youth and industrial digitalisation. Through Therese Lindgren, technology companies can reach out to the target group of young girls when they are about to choose their high school programs.

Since the 1st season, the videos have had 1,4 million viewers. Her channel has +600,000 subscribers and her videos have won various prestigious awards. In 2017, for the first time, the number of girls registering for STEM courses in Sweden increased.

7 in-demande skills

It is a tricky business to predict exact skills requirements. 65% of children entering primary school today will likely work in jobs that do not yet exist. Nevertheless, we identified 7-in demand skills to cope with new occupations and tasks:

Interdisciplinary skills: developing and applying innovative solutions to complex challenges, e.g. the use of data analysis tools and production processes or mechatronics.


Computational thinking: knowing in what way a computer — human and/or machine— can effectively carry out the solution.


Analytical skills: analysing the exponentially increasing amount of digital information generated from sensors and platforms.


System design skills: continuing the development of business models and/or reinventing them.


Cybersecurity skills: protecting data,it is the new currency, decides if business is, not only secure, but also successful.


Creative & entrepreneurial leadership: encouraging unconventional thinking and build mechanisms to reward innovative thinking.


Soft skills: maintaining social and emotional intelligence in an agile working environment is instrumental.

Delivering the right skills

The mismatch between skills demand and supply is not new. New is the disruptive force of technological change and the lack of adequate digital skills and competences in the education systems. 75% to 80% of students are taught by teachers who are not digitally confident . What can we do?

1 ⁄ Improve anticipation
It is near impossible to achieve an exact anticipation of skills in an ongoing process with an open end. However, driven by broad developments all efforts must be made to anticipate those developments and master and shape the skills that will be required.

2 ⁄ Speed up transition to individualised learning
It should be possible to more freely combine studies from different (VET) programmes and courses from different educational levels. It is essential for education to reflect enhanced or new skills requirements.

3 ⁄ Rethink education & teaching
Digitalisation changes the functioning of our society. Consequently, we must rethink education and training by changing our mindset. Coding is where it all starts, but digital literacy is about understanding how technology works and the possibilities, risks and limitations. Policy makers must ensure that VET gets all the support to be perceived as what it is: a 1st choice for boys and girls leading to quality jobs.

Delivering ideas. Each partner is fair share

We are in the midst of a dynamic process requiring all partners to get involved, experiment and try new pathways. If properly dealt with, a good digital skills set can narrow the social inequality gap.

EU level

Within its remit, the EU has recently been accelerating its efforts. However, good initiatives alone will not be sufficient. E.g. a user friendly “EU one-stop-shop”, would help companies, especially SMEs, to tackle their skills gap. The post 2020 Multiannual Financial Framework must allocate more funding for adapting the different facets of (initial) education and training to a “digitalised world of work”.

Programmes make sense if they are easily accessible for industry and require tangible results.

National stakeholders

1 – Education policy

Lifelong learning

Member States should focus on how training systems fully can live up to their responsibilities by involving companies in the (re)education and training of skilled workers. The use of Vocational Open Online Courses (VOOCs) allow SMEs to train their employees with the least disruption to production.

Vocational Education & Training

Governments need to contribute to shifting the perception of VET. This can be achieved through greater industry – school cooperation in governance as well as through offering work-based learning, teacher exchanges and apprenticeships. Fostering permeability between VET, general and higher education will make it easier for students to move between systems and thus increase its attractiveness.

General & Higher education

Member States should strengthen and promote digital education at general and vocational schools. The introduction of Chief Digital Officers in schools would be the most efficient way to increase digital skills.

2 – Social Partners

Social Partners should take up their natural role as facilitators by accompanying the digital transition on the work floor. Their activities will add value to the uptake of digitalisation in the industry.

This consists of:

making concrete recommendations on the development of education policy and curricula;
accompanying the digital transition on the work floor by developing appropriate training models for workers in the transition period.

3 – Employees

Employees benefit as much as companies from ongoing training and therefore it must be understood as a joint responsibility. Dedicating a part of their free time constitutes a good possibility for the employee to contribute to the ongoing training effort.


Industry’s role can be summed up in C3: Cooperation, Coordination & Communication.


Employers should reinforce their engagement with schools, colleges and universities to better articulate the skills needs of industry and to encourage young people into the industry.


Employers must understand the benefits of offering training and career perspectives to (future) employees for attracting and retaining top talent. Companies must adopt a learning approach to cope with their own organisations’ different (digital) learning requirements. SME’s should consider how they, with lesser resources, can speed up learning.


There is no point in cooperating and coordinating long-term efforts without communicating about it. This has to be done via the right channels and credible messengers, in the appropriate language of -next generation – workforce, schools and other stakeholders.

Skills in Metal and Electro Industry

The manufacturing and technology-based industries employers’ organisations GZS (SL), MASOC (LV), HUP (HR) & ZEP (SK) joined forces in 2014 with national Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers and regulatory bodies.

Purpose was to identify the most pressing skill gaps and develop trainings to close those. The wider objective was maintaining a productive workforce that can successfully compete on a global level while facilitating workforce mobility, flexicurity and cooperation among EU members.

SkillME developed curricula and training materials following the European Credit system for Vocational Education & Training (ECVET) and European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education & Training (EQAVET) principles.

+ 400 students and workers participated in pilot trainings developing their skills and increasing their competences. Since end 2017, all materials are freely available for open use and distribution on the project website. Following the success of the project, the Alliance for advancement of VET was launched to keep the momentum.