The contribution of ICT sector and tools to the European economy to boost productivity and the development of innovative products and services is of growing importance among all member states.
In order for European cities to stay competitive and innovative and to reinforce the employability of urban workforces, the E4C thematic network aims to promote employment related to E-SKILLS through the joint definition of integrated urban strategies, policies and practices to:
- enable the ACQUISITION OF E-SKILLS: ICT user skills, ICT practitioner skills and e-business skills,
- facilitate the UPGRADING OF E-SKILLS,
- PROMOTE ICT PROFESSIONS.
In this context, the thematic network“E4C: E-skills for innovative cities” will promote employment related to e-skills and thus will contribute to improve the effectiveness of sustainable integrated urban development policies in Europe with a view to implementing the Europe 2020 Strategy.
In addition, the E4C project will take into account the three cross-cutting
issues to be addressed by URBACT projects:
- How to manage urban development in the context of the economic and financial crisis: since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis, the European unemployment rates have significantly increased, and
one of the solutions proposed to create new jobs is to promote innovative jobs based on new technologies or R&D.
- How to foster integrated and sustainable approaches to urban development: the promotion of e-skills in urban areas will help fighting against new types of social exclusion and will foster both the e-inclusion and labour inclusion of urban citizens.
- How to develop efficient partnerships and multi-level governance processes.
This report summarize the work undertaken by the thematic network during the Development phase, from May to October 2012, under the framework of the URBACT II Programme. The present study is providing a background and inspiration to the definition of the thematic network’s activities to be set up by the work programme for the second phase (implementation phase).
The E4C thematic network is leaded by Red Local, a group of several Municipalities from Madrid metropolitan area in Spain and includes as initial partners the cities of SUNDERLAND (UK), GHENT (BE), PATRAS (EL) and AGUEDA (PT). The partnership has been extended during the development phase to the cities of ALBA IULIA (RO), ARADIPPOU (CY), KIELCE (PL), TERNI and PALERMO (both in Italy). The Lead expert, Mr. Alberto Cerdá Micó with the active contribution of all partners and their local coordinators, project representatives, has prepared this study, which shows information collected from major studies and well recognized documents on the issue.
The thematic network is aimed to promote employment in European cities through an integrated and sustainable approach for urban development that improves their competitiveness and innovativeness while promoting growth and employment in the framework of a digital economy. The project is addressing the following 3 challenges:
Challenge 1 – improve the workforce’s employability by overcoming digital illiteracy
Challenge 3 – increase the number of ICT professionals to counteract the e-skills shortage
According to Urbact’s guidelines, this baseline study consists of three main parts:
Part I: An assessment on the state of the art, particularly at European level, on the topic of e-skills and ICT jobs. A systematic review of the existing knowledge, key findings, policy actions and the most remarkable experiences.
Part II: The partner profiles for better understanding different starting situations, ways of approaching the project theme and expectations on the final goals of the cooperation process. Mainly this short analysis is based in the study visit and the completion of a questionnaire as an internal template to tell each local story. Generally these profiles cover the partner background, experience implementing activities related to the issue, main economic challenges and trends, main gaps, on-going projects and lessons learned from previous ones and main expectations as regards the forthcoming local action plan dealing with the issue as well as the preliminary composition of their local support groups.
Part III: Finally, a synthesis bringing together the issues arising from analysis of the situation in the partner cities with the State of the Art, resulting in a clear definition of the theoretical framework, a selection of a limited number of preferential sub-themes and the basis for focused and straight local action plans.
The study shows how ICT is present in all sectors of the economy and plays a significative role to create jobs. ICTs, together with globalisation, have already altered the economic structure of the world and labour markets, therefore the need for the EU to constantly adapt to compete internationally. Despite the economic crisis, ICT and e-skills related jobs are on demand. ICT user skills have to be spread out and improved, ICT practitioner skills are highly required and need to be constantly updated and e-business skills are not sufficiently covered while digital iliteracy is still persistent.
Chapter A on “E-Skills, ICT and Human Resources” deals with the e-skills gap (workforce not sufficiently qualified) and e-skills shortage (not sufficient numbers of professionals for labour market demand. The chapter also shows how ICT affects employment and how work is organized and understood. The workforce needs to have multidisciplinary capacities. It is shown how ICT facilitates the creation of new business and growth while it is needed to improve ICT infrastructure. ICT is present in all economic sectors and activities and create qualified jobs, but young people still show insufficient interest in ICT career, specially among women. Young people need to develop digital competence to be applied at workplaces. The e-skills gap and shortage can be reduced with retraining and increased workforce mobility. ICTs also supports lifelong learning and can spread new and more flexible educational methodologies.
Chapter B deals with “E-Inclussion”, a key element in the battle to overcome social exclusion. There are groups under risk of social exclusion with no access to e-skills and consequently to jobs. ICT is a tool for social inclusion facilitating the provision of social services, healthcare or education. Progress has been done to reduce the digital divide but more is needed to achieve e-Inclusion. Fragmentation of efforts and lack of collaboration continue to persist while municipalities play an important role to break the digital gap.
Chapter C deals with “E-business skills and ICT”, been ICT an essential tool for new ways of business, like electronic business and e-commerce. E-business requires new leadership capacities and skills been scarce and on demand. E-skills are an engine for innovation and ICT fosters business value chains.
Chapter D deals with the “Role of Municipalities to promote e-skills and ICT”, describing how by maximising the use of ICT the city can become more efficient. City councils promote the use and facilitate access to ICT tools and e-skills to their citizens, while local e-government make municipal services more accessible. Municipalities support social and community groups to facilitate social integration and the development of the digital school to expand educational tools. Municipalities will determine their stages of involvement to adopt ICT tools. ICT supports the development of smart digital cities, new ways for city service management and is contributing to change the way of city life. ICT business are supported by cities, cloud computing services provide flexible options for business, municipal open data facilitates new opportunities for people to use the data to the benefit of their communities, broadband access opens opportunities and green cities provide sustainable perspectives.
Finally Chapter E deals with the “European Union Support to ICT”, analyzing the role of the EU policy on the “Digital Agenda” and describing how ICT is an essential tool to achieve the objective of faster growth and more jobs. The ICT support from EU comes from different Directorates-General and programmes, been described the role of the “Competitiveness and Innovation Programme”, the “7th Framework Programme” and the Structural Funds.
Since the financial crisis began to hit labour markets in 2008, Europe has lost 5.6 million jobs. Recovering this lost ground is only possible if the EU returns to sustained economic growth, which in turn requires European industries and services to retain or regain international competitiveness. In this respect, the capability of industry and services to compete and evolve is becoming increasingly dependent on the innovative and effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) 1.
ICT jobs are significative: Employment in the ICT industry and employment of ICT specialist skills each accounts for up to 5% of total employment in OECD countries, but ICT intensive-users account for more than 20% of all workers in all branches.2
ICTs, together with globalisation, have already altered the global value chains and the economic structure of the world and consequently labour markets too. Whereas twenty years ago globalisation only affected the production of goods and touched blue-collar workers, it now permeates into every sector of the economy, specially affecting routine tasks.
EU needs to adapt to compete internationally: Faced with new emerging markets and rising competition from lower-cost countries with a fast growing and increasingly skilled workforce such as in China and India, European enterprises need to adapt to this new environment. In today's technological environment, innovation almost always involves embracing ICTs, which in turn allows for optimisation of business processes, efficiency gains and improved knowledge management processes and, consequently bigger market share.
ICT jobs are on demand: if European enterprises take full advantage of the potential of ICTs they will contribute to creating an important number of jobs and enhancing competitiveness. The demand for ICT professionals continues to grow whilst other jobs are disappearing. Ensuring that EU workers have the necessary higher end skills will help attract investment and prevent loss of key ICT employment to other regions of the world.
The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) distinguishes the following 3 e-skills types:
- ICT USER SKILLS: capabilities required for the effective application of ICT systems and devices by the individual, they generally cover digital literacy.
- E-BUSINESS SKILLS: capabilities needed to exploit opportunities provided by ICT, to ensure more efficient and effective performance of different types of organisations; to explore possibilities for new ways of conducting administrative and organisational processes; and/or to establish new businesses.
More ICT users and practitioners are needed: The European Communication “e-skills for the 21st century: Fostering Competitiveness, Growth and Jobs” (COM (2007)496 final) has underlined the urgent need to address issues related to the DIGITAL ECONOMY in order to respond to the growing demand for highly skilled ICT practitioners and users and, thus, assure the digital literacy of all citizens.
ICT jobs concentrate in cities: Since ICT related enterprises geographically concentrate in cities, the demand for ICT practitioners and users is especially high in urban areas. Hence, European cities will be particularly affected by the foreseen excess demand for ICT practitioners (European Commission and the European e-skills Committee: “Evaluation of the communication e-skills 21”,October 2010).
Digital illiteracy is still persistent: The persistence of digital illiteracy is still a common problem among European cities and one of the biggest challenges for the employability of workers. The acquisition of the adequate e-skills required by the labour market is crucial for improving the employability of individuals in order to access modern workplaces.3 Since the persistence of digital illiteracy is especially affecting specific collectives of citizens (vulnerable groups) the diversity of the cities population requires specific approaches for cities in order to ensure a high level of digital literacy irrespective of gender, age, education level and provenance and thus be able to improve their employability.
Need to upgrade E-Skills to adapt to labour market demand and trends: According to the “European Communication on Industrial policy in an enlarged Europe” (COM (2002) 714 final), for the EU as a whole, the ICT sector share of total business value added is 8.5 % and the ICT sector employment constitutes 3 % of total business sector employment in the EU..
From technological change and the spreading of information society stems the need to maintain and constantly upgrade the workforce’s digital skills. Therefore, on the one hand, it is important to tackle the E-SKILLS GAP between the current and needed competence levels of the staff within organisations in order to ensure that employees keep their employment.
On the other hand, in the context of globalisation it is important for the cities to dispose of a competitive workforce able to face the challenge of off-shoring. The European Communication e-skills for the 21 century states that 20% of total employment could potentially be affected by off-shoring.
Need to increase the number of ICT professionals to fill the E-skills shortage: In spite of the current crisis, the number of ICT practitioners in Europe has been growing over the past decades and the ICT sector is a significant sector offering employment opportunities. However, the image of the ICT sector seems to be deteriorating being reflected in the declining number of students starting ICT careers (COM (2007)496 final). It is foreseen e-skills shortages in Europe that will result in an excess demand of 348.000 ICT practitioners in 20154.