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Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all EUROPEAN UNION

Committee of the Regions

Contents Foreword4 Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, Eva Paunova, Member of the European Parliament

Echoes from the 2015 Study Visit Introduction7 What are digital and entrepreneurial skills and who is responsible for teaching them?

Expectations for the 2016 EU Skills Initiative


Twelve recommendations for a digital and entrepreneurial friendly Europe


Essays from participants




Olalla Alonso Pérez, Spain Paula Campbell, Ireland Victoria Voda, Romania Augustin Roncin, France Olivia Anderson, Sweden Alice Navrátilová, Czech Republic





Vitor Ricardo dos Santos Mendes, Portugal Michael Ward, Ireland George Serban, Romania Simona Sobotovicova, Slovakia



Florentina-Elena Zaharia, Romania



Jan Borunský, Czech Republic István Csáka, Hungary Tina Debeljak, Slovenia Botyo Botev, Bulgaria Silvia Sassano, Italy



Vesela Iliyanova, Bulgaria Veronika Lázár, Hungary Etienne Kassnel, Germany Elise Lignières, France Arita Bērziņa, Latvia John Szabo, Romania Lisanne Spanbroek, The Netherlands



Klemen Jarc, Slovenia

A EUROPE RICH WITH OPPORTUNITY Martin Hidén, Sweden Tommi Pyykkö, Finland Madina Assaeva, Germany



Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions

Competitiveness, innovation and job creation in European industry are increasingly being driven by the use of new information and communication technologies. However, Europe’s success is dependent on a workforce that has the necessary knowledge and skills to use these new technologies efficiently. Despite the wide acknowledgement of the importance of e-Skills for Europe and the work that has already been done in this area, for example the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, the Web Entrepreneurs Leaders Club, the ICT for a better education support to Member States and the EU code Week, the Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2015 shows that there is still a lot of work to be done. In 2014, 32% of the EU labour force had an insufficient level of digital skills.13% had no digital skills at all. Entrepreneurial skills have also become increasingly important in Europe as they will help contribute to the employability of young people in particular, as well as supporting new business creation: something that is of great importance to Europe’s regions and cities. Young people need the right mind-set, skills and knowledge to generate creative ideas, and the entrepreneurial initiative to turn those ideas into action. Last but not least, from a potential investor perspective, the availability of digital and creative skills in a region is a key factor in deciding on the location of investment of any but the most basic industries.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Up to 20% of students who participate in a mini-company programme in secondary school will later start their own company. That is up to five times higher than in the general population. Cities and regions have a crucial role to play in the creation of a favourable environment for digital transformation in Europe. Leaders at city and regional levels are key facilitators for the transformation of their territories and are often responsible for education and training policies. They are also best placed to develop relationships built on trust, bring together local resources and facilitate collaborations between teachers and schools, academia, entrepreneurs, traditional industry, innovative start-ups, incubators, investors and policy makers.

Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions

In the near future, around 90% of jobs will require some level of digital skills. As currently almost half of EU citizens have low or no digital skills, it is of great importance to boost the digital literacy and skills for citizens, workers and jobseekers. Local and regional authorities are in many Member States competent and Local and regional responsible for schools and educational authorities are in many institutions. It is crucial to imbed digital Member States competent technologies in education as a tool and develop digital skills of the future generations and responsible for to face what is called the Digital Turn - how schools and educational the growing flood of digital media affects our institutions. lives and understanding of the world. This year we are looking forward to the Commission’s proposal for a “New Skills Agenda for Europe”. We should modernise European education and achieve excellence, as well as stimulate innovation. We strongly believe that all contributing factors should be addressed - learners, teachers and teaching methodologies, as well as teacher training and infrastructure – in


a common effort at EU, national, regional and local level. Cooperation, access to knowledge and opportunities to use open knowledge are crucial for this to happen. We also take the view that validation procedures for skills acquired outside the official education system, including digital skills are a vital part of fundamental changes to the European model for education and training.

Eva Paunova, Member of the European Parliament

With a view of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the European Union has already undertaken actions to develop policies to make cities more sustainable. The European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities is an instrument of gathering local authorities, industry leaders, and citizens to come up with ideas for creating new smart relationships between people, the environment and technology in Having digitally urban areas.But in order to make smart cities skilful people who work there must be smart citizens first. Having digitally skilful people who are comfortable are comfortable with with using smart gadgets is what will unleash using smart gadgets is the potential huge benefits of smart cities for what will unleash the its citizens, economy and environment. That is potential huge benefits why the European Union should equally focus its efforts on enhancing eSkills and innovative of smart cities for its thinking among people. And while adapting citizens, economy and the curriculum is within the competences of Member States, at EU level this means environment. ensuring better connectivity through public wifi spots and full broadband coverage, or easier information access through digital libraries and e-government services. In this regard, completing the Digital Single Market is of crucial importance for smartening up our cities and achieving sustainable economic growth in all EU regions.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

By 2015 Europe was expected to face a shortage of approximately 700,000 ICT practitioners. Lack of skilled workers, often referred as ICT skills gap, remains one of the reasons. Moreover, the majority of employers expect creativity and entrepreneurial skills (58%) and digital literacy (57%) to grow in importance in the next three years.

Introduction What are digital and entrepreneurial skills? For the Digital Agenda Scoreboard, digitally literate citizens are competent in the following domains: “information, communication, content-creation and problemsolving". For the purpose of comparison, the scores are classified as basic, above basic and below basic. Individuals not using internet are classified without digital skills. In line with labour demand, there is a need to continuously increase the quality and the relevance of e-skills. According to Eurostat, the entrepreneurial performance of a city, region or Member State can be calculated by the following criteria based on the conditions for enterprises, employment and wealth. See table http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/structural-business-statistics/entrepreneurship/indicators

Enterprises 1. 2. 3. 4.

Employer enterprise birth rates Employer enterprise death rates Employer enterprise churn Employer enterprise net growth

5. Survival rates of 3 year and 5 year old enterprises 6. Proportion of 3 year and 5 year old enterprises




7. High growth enterprise rates by employment 8. Gazelle rates by employment 9. Business ownership start-up rates 10. Business ownership rates 11. Employment in 3 year and 5 year old enterprises 12. Average size of 3 year and 5 year old enterprises

13. High growth enterprise rates by turnover 14. Gazelle rates by turnover 15. Value added by size class 16. Productivity contribution by size class 17. Innovation performance by size class 18. Export performance by size class

Looking at the data, it is clear that the increasing requirements of formal education make continuous professional education, life-long learning and executive education even more important today. There is an immense opportunity for new education approaches, new modes of delivery, better curricula and learning outcomes.

Who is responsible for these skills in Europe? EU countries are responsible for their own education and training systems, but the EU helps them set joint goals and share good practices. In many EU countries, the regional or local authorities are responsible for policy areas such as education and training, entrepreneurship or labour market policies. A number of European countries have put in place national skills development systems driven by Government departments – these include the UK, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. Ministries include Education, Employment, Science, Technology and Innovation and Economic and Business Affairs. Most of the frameworks at this level tend to be based on analysis of activities or functions rather than tasks. Not all are linked to national qualifications. For those countries operating a federal system of governance, we naturally see a state or regional approach to competency development and management. Germany, Italy and Belgium present examples of this approach.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Europe has also seen a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities and training. Such courses exist in ICT centres, libraries and through NGOs. Chambers of Commerce, civil society and parents also have a role to play.

EU Skills Initiative 2016

The EPP Group in the CoR hopes that the EU skills initiative takes on board the findings from the 2015 Study Visit and places digital and entrepreneurial skills in a central place within the European Commission proposals. According to a speech to the OECD Employment and Labour Ministerial Meeting in January, the forthcoming EU Skills initiative, led by Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, will focus on three axis:

1. Helping more people develop and upgrade their skills Currently, 68 million European adults possess only basic levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy and one in five 15 year-old students is low performing in basic skills. 40% of EU citizens have only low level or no digital skills.

2. Making better use of the available skills through enhanced mobility This requires more transparency, a smoother recognition of qualifications, and validation of skills acquired outside formal education.

3. Ensuring higher and more relevant skills for all Today, Europe faces a paradoxical situation where, in the context of high unemployment, four out of ten employers claim they cannot find people with the right skills to fill their vacancies. The top priority is therefore to develop more partnerships between education and businesses, to ensure workers acquire the skills employers are looking for and facilitate access high-end professions that add value to our economy.


Digital and Entrepreneurial Skills for All: Reaching Our Potential Together 21-22 September 2015

“Young people need the right digital skills to succeed in today’s labour market.” Mark Lange, Microsoft Director of EU Institutions

“If you want to be part of society, you have to be part of this digital revolution. We need a truly digital environment for school and universities to train the next generation.” Helma Kuhn-Theis, Rapporteur for the CoR opinion on the Digital Single Market

“Contact with regions will be crucial.” Rodrigo Ballester, Cabinet Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

“With possibilities in data, cloud computing and the app economy, it’s a superb time to be an entrepreneur.” Simon McDermott, New Media Cloud

“Technology is at the core of today’s economy. Digital careers are available across all sectors.” Jonathan Murray, Director at DIGITALEUROPE

“Especially for women, a digital job means less wage gap, more job options and greater flexibility. For everyone and especially Europe’s youth - digital skills, coupled with creative talent and an entrepreneurial attitude, is the new “lifetime employment” guarantee.” Cheryl D. Miller, Founder & Executive Director, Digital Leadership Institute

“In the digital world we need to train ourselves to be curious and open minded to learn every day… Getting a digital job is insurance for never being bored.” Gonçalo Carriço, Digital Policy Officer, European People’s Party


“We are entering the fourth industrial revolution, powered by the internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence, where traditional skills and attitudes will no longer cut it. Young people will be the ones most impacted by this change and so it’s even more important to focus on attaining and developing those very skills of digital entrepreneurship that will be key to unlocking your career prospects in this brave new era.” Kumardev Chatterjee, European Young Innovators Forum

“More needs to be done to improve young people’s digital competence and education is ‘the place to be’ to acquire these skills. For teachers across Europe to acquire the digital skills and pedagogical competence to pass on the knowledge to their students, schools and teachers still need more support.” Katja Engelhardt, European Schoolnet


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Twelve recommendations for a digital and entrepreneurial friendly Europe from young Europeans Europe needs digital champions 1. Schools and universities need to go digital – the system needs to be reformed 2. Digital education should be a compulsory part of the curricula – from the earliest age possible 3. Digital tools, such as tablets, apps and online material, should be used across faculties and subjects 4. Educating teachers should be seen as an investment 5. Business representatives should be involved in the education system and make visits to classrooms

Entrepreneurship should not just be for the brave few 6. A network of entrepreneurs and a mentoring system for start-ups should be created 7. An EU-led platform on how to get financial support should be created 8. EU wide competitions for new apps would encourage creative thinking 9. Mobility of workers, companies and entrepreneurs should be encouraged

Smarter cities mean smarter citizens 10. Free wifi should be available everywhere 11. EU funds should be targeted to ensure high-speed wifi is available in rural areas 12. The development of digital libraries should be encouraged


DIGITAL EDUCATION SYSTEMS While digital technologies gradually embrace wider parts of everyday life, 60% of students never use digital equipment in their classroom. The full potential for improving education through ICT in Europe remains yet to be discovered and this is why the European Commission is developing policy and supporting research to make learners fit for 21st century life and work.

Olalla Alonso PĂŠrez, Spain Our European children need to have good digital skills as professionals from the beginning of their education. It is very relevant to educate them as experts, not as consumers. Many people say that those who code, can think. However there is more about coding in the digital and entrepreneurial skills. It is true that we live in the era of the digitalization and nowadays everything is about data and its management, but, firstly, it is necessary to focus on the roots of the educational system. From my point of view, sharing out tablets, computers and smartphones among children does not improve anything. Moreover, not everything that comes from the Internet is good. Lifelong learning of European teachers is fundamental for education. They also need to be constantly adapted to the novelties. Courses and training should be mandatory in order to adapt to the new digital skills. On the other hand,


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

I think it is crucial to have more accountability about what the private enterprises are demanding. The private sector should increase traineeship programmes with an aim to educate the European youth in the digital skills that the market is demanding for the future workers, since also the enterprises could be better off with the formation of possible new workers. To sum up, we could improve the current situation with a well-established shared responsibilities. In this aim, teachers, pupils, families, enterprises, and politicians should be involved. The development should be quicker, it must have the same speed as the novelties, and it is very important that all the European regions have a harmonised development. There should be no difference among our citizens because digitalisation is absolutely everywhere.

Paula Campbell, Ireland Given the interconnectedness of this topic, it is only right that we start thinking globally while acting locally to meet the future challenges head on‌ By introducing such a class to primary schools, we are almost certainly cementing the next Angry Birds or Spotify being European and taking advantage of the single digital market. Europe is facing ever mounting challenges with regard to the labour force, unemployment and digital skills (or lack of) with regard to the aforementioned two. By 2020, the European Commission has estimated that there will be at least 825,000 open vacancies in the ICT sector due to a lack of skilled personnel. The labour forces of European nations are unprepared for the demands that the economy of tomorrow. These demands require a fluency in the digital language, an ability to reinvent and constantly go through Schumpeter’s process of creative destruction with technology. Sustainable growth, better functioning of the labour markets and skilled workforces in our region are going to be dependent on those abilities. Furthermore, we need to address our education systems to ensure they are providing the youth of Europe with the relevant skills and experiences so that when they are ready to enter the job market, the market has opportunities for them. I would suggest considering the youth as the foremost solution to these


problems as this is the area that we can make a lot of progress in. Improvements in the education system and moves towards a more vocational education in the secondary school or high school years is one such measure that needs more research and debate. Here are three proposals: Initial capital investment plus increased focus on the role of ICT in the classroom will greatly help to educate the children as well as give them proper exposure to the digital world. The employers of tomorrow are in a better position to evaluate what skills will be required of the workforce than the people who are teaching today so we should listen to them, invite them in and give them a voice in teaching. The third and final suggestion I have, and probably the one I feel most strongly about is introducing coding to primary schools. At that age, the mind is like a sponge and will take in far more than any 18 year old entering university. A vision that Europe should adopt is every primary school child leaving their school having created their own game or basic programme, be it as simple as snake. Such a lesson could foster a real innovative mind set and furthermore will “teach you how to think” (Steve Jobs). Introducing coding later on will not harvest the entrepreneurial spirit we’re looking for because of mentality. A small child is used to failure, be it falling off their bike, getting a sum wrong or falling in a sports day race. Yet they get up, brush themselves off and move on. For that reason, I think the introduction of coding to children is a good idea because they won’t be as easily put off as older people who are far more sensitive to failure. By introducing such a class to primary schools, we are almost certainly cementing the next Angry Birds or Spotify being European and taking advantage of the single digital market.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Victoria Voda, Romania There is already a considerable skills gap between the advances made by technologies and different generations‌ Children should learn from a young age how to use modern technological devices and shaped to become innovative. The EPP study visit at the Committee of Regions was an exciting experience. I really enjoyed meeting people from so many different countries. We discussed many topics concerning the digital future of Europe. One of the topics was education and how we can shape the future generation to cope with the technological advance. We sat down and discussed which problems we are facing and how they might evolve in the future. Afterwards we put our heads together and brainstormed solutions to solve these problems. Even though we have different cultures and practices, many of us agreed that we are facing similar difficulties. One in particular was that there is already a considerable skills gap between the advances made by technologies and different generations. We agreed that the education system is in need of reform. This needs to be achieved by thinking out of the box and focusing on hands on experience. Children should learn from a young age how to use modern technological devices and shaped to become innovative. Children should be encouraged to be curious and creative. Their teachers should be prepared to incorporate apps, online courses and games instead of using classical teaching methods. A more practical approach of teaching is needed. History, art and literature are of great importance. However,


there should also be time to teach children how the internet works, coding and how technological devices function. We agreed that universities should provide students with the possibility of learning a foreign language and coding as electives for all study programs. There should be several MOOC’s available to students and Internet platforms should be created as a forum where students can interact with peers from different countries. Another interesting topic that we discussed was how our societies have developed in accordance with the technological advance. I was enlightened to hear about the practices of other countries. We discussed how much we use credit cards, internet banking, cloud storing and how to ensure an adequate level of security. We all felt that the storage of our private information is very important.

Augustin Roncin, France The more a country progresses in terms of digital knowledge, the more people separate it from what they use. In order to bridge the gap between technology and the people, some education needs to be given very early age. Sadly enough, the Research and Development and the education sectors often face severe budget cuts when the economy stalls. However, those long term investments are the best to provide long term economic growth, and to reduce inequalities among people. The NTIC revolution that started ten years ago is about to generate a lot of money and to reinvent our way of living. This is why Europe needs to catch up while national governments are often timid to dedicate lots of effort in the sphere of digital technologies. Furthermore, investments will be successful only if Europe manages to pool its efforts to invest. Indeed, scale economies and specialisation will be reached if countries coordinate their efforts on the European scale. As Mr Rodrigo Ballester stressed, about 1/5Â of the European population still encounters difficulty to read or to write. This number is eloquent enough to steer investments toward the sector of education. As we have seen, the digital education should start as early as a child enters school. I believe that the digital education should take into account two sorts of education:


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

• how to use digital technologies. This will be as practical (how to use social medias, Microsoft Office, video editing…) and Ethical (how to properly use technologies, especially in social medias, in a manner of no disturbing the others and himself). This would take the form of a 1/2h class per week especially dedicated to this topic. The education should be based on a homogenous program for all but also on the help of external actors such as NGO’s or entrepreneurs. • digital education as an everyday tool. I would promote digital across different subjects such as History, Humanities, Mathematics in order to be understood as a tool in everyday life. Some classes of coding might also be given in order to understand how everything works.

Olivia Anderson, Sweden Digitalisation is developing rapidly and it is here to stay Technology is at the core of today’s economy and basic digital skills are necessary to function as citizens as well as in the job market. It is estimated that 90% of all jobs will require some level of digital skills in the very near future. For this we need to give people the best fundamental conditions and encourage the digital economy. As a first step, the European Union must break down digital barriers, harmonise legislation and complete the digital single market to create an environment where digital and entrepreneurial skills are valued. Perhaps more importantly will be to close the digital skills gap. Two fifths of the EU citizens have no or low digital skills. We must remove key differences between online and offline worlds and ensure that people are given proper tools in the digital era. The learning of digital skills begins with education. Member states and regional governments should work together to invest in a higher degree of integration of digital skills in all levels of education – from primary school to university. Vocational training should be encouraged and supported to better match skills with the labour market. Digital technologies should cover all sectors of the economy and the private sector.


Furthermore, entrepreneurship cannot only be for the brave few as entrepreneurship in the digital sector is a great opportunity for future jobs. Digital and entrepreneurial skills cannot only be for men either, but is equally important to women of all ages. A few proposals: • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Break down digital barriers and complete the digital single market Acknowledge the potential of accelerators and incubators in Europe Ensure that all schools and universities are digitalised Integrate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking in education Integrate teaching of e-skills in all levels of education from primary school to university Enable mixed degrees which combine technological competence with other disciplines Include use of digital tools such as apps and online resources in all levels of education Educate teachers to work with advanced technology Stimulate vocational training for digital skills and make use of the private sector Reform and digitalise all public institutions and invest in smart cities Increase mobility and encourage exchange between young entrepreneurs Encourage the development of digital libraries Acknowledge the need for female digital entrepreneurship and create a network for entrepreneurs Consider coding and problem solving as valuable skills in a broader sense

Alice Navrátilová, Czech Republic The use of tablets is very important for a good education of children, but most teachers don´t know how the tablets work I would like to give some examples of digital technologies, which I met in my student life in my country. The basic information is supplied on web pages of schools; information for parents, future students, students, news, contacts. Every school has its own web pages, it´s normal, but only few schools have the Facebook page or Twitter account.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

At primary school level, it is very popular to use tablets, but this is a pilot project in some selected schools. At the end of the pilot project, the Ministry of Education would like to use tablets in every school, in every class. For this to be successful, however, teachers should attend appropriate training. With tablets, teachers can use the teaching programmes in the form of apps. This development could be useful for subjects like mathematics, physics or chemistry, but also more broadly for geography or painting. Secondary school teachers teach the Bachelor. In this system, teachers write the marks and the missed classes of students and also students see the timetables and changes in it. Also in some secondary schools and in many universities, we use the interactive Moodle system, where teachers can record study papers, marks, comments and we (students) can record our homework, do exams, tests, communicate with teacher and other students (of this subject) on the forum. Other similar system is EDIS – Education Information System, which I use at my university. The teachers can also record the study materials, marks or comments to our homework, but we can´t communicate together. In my university we can also use system Courseware or LMS Unifor, but it isn´t so popular like Moodle or EDIS. The latest development is university Cloud. On that Cloud I can save, record files, documents etc. and it´s my decision who can see my contents from university. It´s very good for work on documents with other students in real time, but in different places around the world. Finally it´s necessary to mention the use of computers as aids for the children with special needs. This means that computers help these children to be included in mainstream classes, they can participate in lessons and to be with their friends.


CODE AS THE LANGUAGE OF THE FUTURE More than 90% of professional occupations nowadays require digital competences, including programming. Europe Code Week is a grassroots initiative which aims to bring coding and digital literacy to everybody in a fun and engaging way. This year, it takes place on 15-23 October 2016.

Karl Hammelberg, Estonia Teaching new generations the basics of coding is almost as important as teaching generations to read and write in the past. During the study visit “Digital skills for all: reaching our potential together“, many participants mentioned that teaching coding to students in the European Union would be very beneficial. At university level, it is already done to some extent in some countries but to have even a greater effect on future generations we should start teaching coding already in upper secondary school or even in primary school. „ProgeTiiger“ is a programme launched by the Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation in September 2012. Estonian students in grades 1 to 12 are introduced to computer programming and creating web and mobile applications. The main goals of the programme is to develop students’ logical thinking, creativity, mathematical skills et cetera. In the 21st century, our world is developing faster than it ever has in such a short period of time. In the distant past it was unthinkable that the entire population


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

could read and write; now we have arrived at an era where everyone in the EU is able to read and write. That’s already a great achievement but now we have to look towards the future. Teaching new generations the basics of coding is almost as important as teaching new generations to read and write in the past. If the European Union is the first region in the world to realise the importance of coding and teaching it to kids already in the first grade then we would gain a massive edge over the rest of the world in innovation which would also greatly influence our economy in a positive way. Teaching coding and digital skills already at a young age means that step by step countries in the EU could implement something similar to the e-government system used in Estonia and become a digital society like Estonia. The new generation already familiar with these concepts would have no difficulties with living in a digital society as they learned digital skills and coding from grade 1. If all countries in the EU decided to strive towards a digital society then government spending all over the EU would be reduced by billions of euros in the long run.



Vitor Ricardo dos Santos Mendes, Portugal We are walking on the way towards smarter cities, where wifi will be available everywhere, for everyone and for free. Those are the steps we need to take in order to develop our knowledge and ideas and to turn them into successful companies! During two days, we were able to discuss and come up with some proposals related with the need of Entrepreneurship and Digital skills. It is important to change the status quo and take the digital revolution into the schools and universities, having digital education as part of the curricula and including some digital tools and having successful business representatives involved in a non-formal learning. Entrepreneurship was discussed as well. Because failure is a “cultural issue� in Europe, is probably one of the biggest barriers when we talk about being entrepreneur. In order to measure that risk is important that a mentoring team, capable to help new start-up, will support on the market and viability analysis. We are walking on the way towards smarter cities, where wifi will be available everywhere for everyone for free. Those are the steps we need to take in order to develop our knowledge and developing our ideas, putting in practice those ideas and turn it into successful business companies!


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Michael Ward, Ireland Digital skills are crucial to ensure that the citizens of Europe can achieve their greatest potential in entrepreneurship and the modern economy. The European Union has a role to fulfil to ensure a level playing field, but Member States and regional governments also have a role in incentivising their own populations to take advantage of the digital revolution. I recently attended the 2015 Study Visit organised by the EPP group in the European Committee of the Regions on the topic of digital skills and entrepreneurship. It was a very interesting experience which really opened my eyes to the important role digital skills have to play in the modern economy. We are living in a world that is more digital than ever. The Internet and technology are revolutionising the way we do business and live our lives. This opens the potential for new careers and societal developments; however, it also risks creating a division between those who have the necessary skills and opportunities to take part in the digital revolution and those who get left behind. One challenge facing Europe is the issue of connectivity. Many rural areas of Europe do not have access to broadband as it is not profitable for private companies to provide coverage there. It is being left to governments to intervene and roll out national broadband strategies. However, progress has been limited due to delays and lack of funding, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis. In many rural areas, regular and cheap broadband connectivity is still a distant prospect. Increasingly, the digital revolution is occurring in cities, meaning that rural areas are not benefitting from the increased potential for economic growth. This is disappointing, and contrary to the potential of digital entrepreneurship. Ideally, the digital revolution should transform the traditional office environment. People can increasingly work from long distance and communicate with each other from far away. This should offer a boost to the rural economy as businesses should no longer be in need of the concentrated benefits offered by cities such as good transport links, person-to-person contact and access to a physical market. The digital revolution has the potential to reinvigorate the rural economy and rebalance the top-heavy relationship between cities and the countryside. However, unless the problems of poor broadband connectivity are


resolved, this relationship will continue to be lopsided. The European Union should be prepared to help Member States invest in this vital infrastructure. A second challenge facing Europe is the provision of digital skills to the elderly and the youngest generations. Many cities and countries across Europe are already providing a vision of how the future will look. Physical money has almost disappeared as a commodity for transaction in London in favour of electronic cards. Paris is continuously expanding the number of free Wi-Fi hotspots that exist within its city limits. Estonia is offering a pristine example of e-governance. However unless older generations become accustomed to the reality of the constantly developing, modern, digital environment they risk being seriously disenfranchised. Similarly if the upcoming generations are not provided with the digital skills necessary to take advantage of the modern economy, their potential to maximise their opportunities will be severely limited. Teaching IT skills in schools is one important aspect that must be considered by all Member States. Furthermore, the curriculum should be flexible and responsive to the constantly developing digital environment. However, it is also necessary to integrate digital technology into the life of a child as much as possible so that they may learn vital digital skills through practical engagement. Digital technology cannot be taught like Maths or History, it must be experienced and made relevant to everyday life. At present in Ireland, schools may apply for the title of School of Digital Excellence if they are judged to have integrated digital skills and technology into their environment in as broad a way as possible. This bottom-up approach to the provision of skills is very worthy as it allows schools to innovate and compete. It should be copied across Europe.

George Serban, Romania High-speed broadband and wireless connections must be ensured and we need to bridge the gap between urban and rural zones. In the beginning I would like to state that the biggest achievement of the EPP Study Visit is that it brought 50Â students from different EU Member States, from different spheres of civic engagement, of different ages and professional backgrounds, in the same room and made this debate possible. In my opinion being active in EDS for the last two years, I was accustomed with the debate, but getting in touch with so many different perspectives was like a breath of fresh air.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Among the top ideas mentioned, the ones that we, as the EPP, need to ensure of providing in the future are those who would fuel the engine of the digital century. Afterwards we need to seek to bridge the skills gap by making the digital education compulsory, investing in teacher’s education in order to bring them up to speed with the latest technologies. Ultimately we need to have high level of e-libraries spread throughout the Internet and involve private sector representatives into universities in Europe. We should never forget about youth entrepreneurship and we should create a network of them, but also a common platform that would make accessing finances an easier process. Finally I would conclude with the idea that we as students and youth of the union can make the change our Union needs in the future, if only we are supplied with the proper tools the digital century is so eager to provide us with.

Simona Sobotovicova, Slovakia If smart citizens should use different applications or e-tools to make their life easier, they must be able to count on free Wi-Fi connections. During the EPP study visit we mentioned many times the word ¨smart¨. The new digital and entrepreneurial skills are related to smart cities, smart technology etc. However, are the EU citizens ¨smart¨ and prepared to live in ¨smart¨ cities? And, why we are speaking only about ¨smart¨ cities and not about ¨smart¨ villages, regions? On one hand, the ¨smart¨ citizens living in ¨smart¨ cities should count with all necessary ¨e-tools¨ to be ¨smart¨ enough. We know that the EU population is facing new challenges and digital skills represent one of these main challenges. I would like to highlight that if we speak about the future smart cities firstly we have to be sure that the EU count with e-teachers and e-professionals that are able to live in these ¨smart¨ cities and teach how to be ¨smart¨ citizen. In my opinion, we really need to make a lot of reforms in the educational systems of the Member States to be sure that we are teaching future e-generation. In this process, it is very important to take all measures and try to mix together different generations. The smart citizens are not only the young and highly educated people, but also the older generations, who must count with a sense of belonging towards this EU ¨smart¨ generation.


During the study visit we mentioned a lot the measures to tackle the current lack in digital skills in our society, but I would like to point out the following one. If smart citizens should use different applications or e-tools to make their life easier, all citizens must be able to count on free Wi-Fi connection. Nowadays, we know that all of us, crossing the borders between EU Member States, the first thing we switch off the internet connection because of the high prices of internet connection in different countries. We realise, and some of us every day crossing borders, that it is not so important for us to know where in the city we can park, but the first thing is to know if this information is free of any charges. It is normal, that some of the applications are not useful for the general public, but if every citizen contributes to the development of "smart" cities paying taxes, etc., everyone must count with the possibility to become "smart" citizen. The EU is 28Â different Member States, with different legislation, different tax system, different educational system etc. In some Member States the people are growing up as e-citizens, but in others a 4G connection is not yet available. So, first, we have to tackle all these differences, trying to make all the EU citizens beneficiaries of the future e-tools. This means to establish a real free digital market. How can we deal with these challenges if we still do not guarantee the harmonised rights and rules properly to all EU citizens? In conclusion, the EU must take a lot of reforms to be sure that EU in general and the Member States in particular rely on "smart" citizens living in "smart" cities.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

THE POWER OF DIGITAL LIBRARIES AND SERVICES The EU’s digital libraries initiative sets out to make all Europe’s cultural resources and scientific records – books, journals, films, maps, photographs, music, etc. – accessible to all, and preserve them for future generations.

Florentina-Elena Zaharia, Romania The implementation of e-libraries would be a huge benefit for everyone who needs access to information, from students to regular people During our EPP Study Visit at the European Committee of the Regions, we debated the importance of digitalisation in our lives and on the labour market. We discussed about the digital skills that we need to have to fill the gap between the supply and demand of the labour market, about entrepreneurship and the implementation of E-libraries on a European level. Nowadays, even though we live in a modern society, many people do not have access to information. There are rare books, expensive books or people who live far away from a library and this impedes the access to information. The creation of free e-libraries, which would be available to everyone, would facilitate everyone’s access to knowledge: Medicine students would find their medicine atlases, which are very expensive and rare in libraries, online, high school students could access the books for their classes from home and random people, passionate about reading or just wanting to gain more knowledge, could find books online, without needing to go to the library and see if the books are available. The books on e-libraries would be available for everyone, at any time and they would not be in less number.


I am a university student. I love reading in my spare time and I need access to a lot of information for my homework. I use lots of applications for online reading. However, there are many books which are not available in a digital format. There are also many books which are not available at the library or which you are not allowed to take at home or take pictures of. I would rather avoid the traffic, the queues at the library and the deception of not finding what I imperiously need for my homework or for my exams at the library and access them from my home, sitting on my comfortable couch and enjoying a cup of coffee. I strongly believe that a European e-library, where the users could upload and download books on their phones, tablets or computers, is a necessary step towards the evolution of the community and of every human being. Using an e-library does not have to mean that people should be techies. The e-library would be easy to use for everyone, from children to older people, with a friendly interface and a search bar. This would easily give access to information for people who are not into technology, but who understand the need of technology and the modernisation of the society. As Jean-Claude Junker said: “You don’t have to be a techie, to believe in technology.�


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

SMART CITIES AND SMART CITIZENS In Smart Cities, digital technologies translate into better public services for citizens, better use of resources and less impact on the environment. Trust and privacy will be key to ensuring the support of citizens, both resident and visiting the city.

Jan Borunský, Czech Republic The Internet of Things may become a playground for hackers who could direct the wrong routes for cars and planes if security is not put first. By now, there are still lots of people who have probably not heard of or are not fully aware of the term Internet of Things (IoT). I strongly believe that in couple of years from today, this term will be as common as the word Internet is today. The IoT allows objects to be controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure. Connected devices become an intelligent system of systems. In short, we can say that things take care of themselves. The main purpose of IoT should be to make life easier and more efficient. IoT can also help us to save money by reducing consumption of energy in households up to half of price. Of course it is also a huge opportunity for companies dealing with technologies because it is estimated that IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020 which makes about 8 IoT devices per person. Experts expect that cities will invest about 41  billion dollars in the next 20 years to upgrade their infrastructure with IoT. Moreover, the IoT can influence all areas of our everyday life. As a known example, I can mention a smart fridge.


The principle is based on system which alerts us to the fact, that there is not enough food in our fridge. Another application in the kitchen area could be for cooking. We set a recipe which we want to prepare and the smart fridge will tell us if we have all needed ingredients. The example with the fridge is one of many possibilities. IoT is so far mostly used in households and in cities, where IoT can take care about the quality of air or fluency of traffic. Those examples show us how important an IoT could become in the future. Many people imagine flying cars etc., when the term smart city is mentioned. In fact, the main concept of smart cities is in smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities, and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. The importance of smart cities can be shown by the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities organised by European Commission which was launched in 2011. One of the main questions remains the safety of this system. IoT may become a playground for hackers who could direct the wrong routes for cars and planes. It implies that it`s not just a matter of technology but also matter of one of the most problematic questions in today`s world, which security certainly is. As long as security is not at a level which gives us assurance in this system, I wouldn`t introduce IoT into important areas as a public transportation. The risk that it could cause a huge destruction if terrorists or other groups hacked to the system remains too high.

István Csáka, Hungary Programming shouldn’t be considered merely as a tool or platform of software creation, but rather a way of self-expression in a different language… I am confident that as an ambassador of e-skills in my home, I will be able to broadcast the concepts to a wider audience, especially schools, city council members and entrepreneurs. Since a young age, I shared a great enthusiasm for the EU. I just loved the idea that Member States though having different cultural backgrounds and values may still help one another by sharing good case practices with each other. This observation proved to be true on an individual level.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Secondly, this visit literally helped me widen my gaze concerning the digital era. Although I’ve been familiar with terms such as ICT, cloud computing, the Internet of things and big data, the speakers of the study visit helped me to have a deeper understanding of the relevance of these. I also have a clearer view of how these concepts may be integrated in the everyday life of the people from my community. For example as a graduate of IT and mathematics in high school, I’ve already been aware of the importance of rudimentary understanding of programming. However with the concept of ICT I realise that the channels of communication, the wireless technology and the popular apps are just as important as the coding itself. Programming shouldn’t be considered merely as a tool or platform of software creation, but rather a way of self-expression in a different language. One other important buzz word of the conference has been the Internet of Things. Whereas Big data may be considered like a large basket, where all data that has any tangency with the Internet is stored, the Internet of things can be best described as a system that helps drafting patterns based on this data. Since my interest has been immediately aroused by this fascinating possibility that the Internet of things means, I dived into researching on the subject right away after getting home. I found that this tool may be used for much more than for what it has been initially conceived. For instance, in a recent article published by business insider, I found out that in the very near future the platform for Internet of things may be used as tool to decrease insurance premiums, since companies are able to keep better track of the behaviour of the insured people. Companies would even use incentives to encourage consumers for the usage of the program. The number of insurance frauds is also very likely to decrease with the help of constant monitoring. However this also raises some concerns regarding security. Would the IOT be used purely for informative purposes and not the most convenient way to breach security systems? From my point of view governments and companies alike have to come up with some concrete steps to gain the trust of their citizens and of their customers. This means the toughest part is yet to come. I am still confident that as an ambassador of e-skills in my home, I will be able to broadcast the concepts to a wider audience, especially schools, city council members and entrepreneurs.


Tina Debeljak, Slovenia In my opinion the field of digital skills and entrepreneurship are inseparably a part of the next step towards entering the new era. An era where information is power and this power is no longer distributed with money. Merely by internet access Today, not many people are aware that one in five people cannot read and write properly, whilst we go about debating whether or not introduce coding into our educational system. I am a firm believer in primary education where the basics are built and so we should include computers as soon in the process as possible but still keep space for a child to have a childhood where he himself can still have a chance to develop its desired direction. But not by measures like restricting access to a computer, because games are supposed to be bad for you. Computer literacy is as important as knowing the alphabet and considered as such it is of great importance to implement it in the educational system as soon as possible. Not only the youngest generations, we also need to put more emphases on how to include the elderly or the generation in their third educational cycle. Especially for them, basic level of computer associated skill can mean the difference between what can be considered another dull day of doing nothing or still being able not to feel left behind and forgotten. Skype could be taught in retirement homes or in older citizen’s communities by students, as a part of their curriculum. Using conference video calls neither of the parties do not need to even leave their preferred seat. With all the talk about digitisation, promotion of computer skills and entrepreneurship, we should start drawing a red line in the name of our privacy, which is, since the introduction of GPS almost completely gone. Unborn children and stuffed animals already have their alter-egos created in virtual reality and they even have friends or fans. The data collected each and every second, by transmission of electrons is starting to impact us in a questionable way. On one hand, we need to promote the option of entering the digital era but we should not forget the most important thing in this equation which is the cost that we pay on the account of our privacy. The market of big data and marketing research is booming, while we are left to think that we actually have some privacy. Establishing portals where we can actually trade with personal information, if an individual wishes to do so, or establishing a portal where we can have a real time insight into the data that has been collected. One can never be too cautious when we talk about


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

the definition of an individual and that is easily done by personal data collection. If we create a right there ought to be an obligation as well. The digital agenda is one of the seven pillars of the Europe 2020 Strategy. It presents a challenge in this period of time when we transfer our practices and our personal lives onto the platform called the world wide web. Digital skills and entrepreneurship are the way to go but we should establish some much needed checks and balances when the process is still in progress and changes can be made without long term damages. The legal framework is limited by our imagination and when an issue arises we can only handle it with whatever we have at hand. So in this case all in with digitisation but with a notion and awareness what are we giving up or restraining in order to get on board.

Botyo Botev, Bulgaria We are part of an e-revolution

Today, we have e-learning, e-trade; e-voting; e-government – a new e-generation is coming. A strong digital economy is vital for innovation, growth, jobs and European competitiveness. The spread of digital is having a massive impact on the labour market and the type of skills needed in the economy and in society. In the globalising world, the European economy faces a challenge while competing with other regions. E-technologies change our cities. Now we talk about smart cities with freer network areas, cities where by the use of new digital technologies we have smart traffic systems, video control, e-public services, etc. It’s a challenge for us to meet the needs of education in ICT. There is a necessity of a strength and strive for reform in the educational system. We need inspiration for reforms and the common actions of all interested groups. There is a need to put together IT companies, universities, public authority and NGOs supporting e-skills. Digital technologies develop faster than the social system, institutions and legal framework. It’s also a challenge for security and data protection. In the digital world we should also focus on the problems connected with the abuse of rights and e-crimes.


Stronger international cooperation is necessary for control and investigation in the e-space. While digital technologies gradually embrace wider parts of everyday life. The full potential for improving education through ICT in Europe has yet to be discovered and this is why we need the common European, national and regional authorities with the IT companies, universities, NGOs and all active people to do it together.

Silvia Sassano, Italy To be an entrepreneur does not mean only to be able to sell something to someone but it means much more, for example to be capable to communicate, to know how to improve good ideas, how to build a network, etc. The EPP/CoR’s and EDS study visit dealing with digital and entrepreneurial skills gave us the opportunity to discuss this subject with students from all over Europe and with representatives of European institutions, experts in the field of ICT and members of organisations and associations. This exchange of information and of ideas allowed a lot of interesting reflections and suggestions to emerge. As we all know, nowadays digital innovation is no longer something, which concerns just experts and coders, but rather it concerns everyone in everyday life. Our lives are becoming increasingly influenced by the use of digital tools, which, in the most cases, has a positive impact and improves our lives in several aspects (work, health, social life, etc.). Concerning entrepreneurial skills, I really liked a sentence coming from a student who said the “everyone has to be an entrepreneur of himself”. I totally agree with this reflection because entrepreneurial skills as well as digital ones are needed by everyone and not just by “powerful businessmen”. These elements are important for each field of work, especially in this historical period characterised by the economic crisis, which demands a strong capability to “invent” a job as an added value in order to enter the job market. In daily life, we see that there is a huge gap between the need for IT and entrepreneurial knowledge in the job market and in the everyday life and the number


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

of people who really have it. Especially in ITC field, the request of competences and the offer are still very distant and this has big consequences on the high rate of unemployment in Europe, especially among young people. Furthermore I think that a great importance has to be devoted to the role of education in these fields. It means that teaching IT and entrepreneurial skills or using IT tools to teach other subjects has become very important nowadays. We cannot be active citizens in our societies if we don’t know how to use these instruments that enable us to be informed, to participate in public debates, to get in contact with people, to find a job, to work, to study, etc. Education programmes on IT and entrepreneurial skills have to involve children and young people, giving them also the instruments to use this asset in a critical and creative way, but they have also to involve adults and people from rural areas, which are among the most affected by this lack of knowledge. The topic of the “digital education� has been one of the thoughts shared by all the participants during the study visit and I think it should be shared by all European citizens and especially by policy makers who have the power to influence education polices. In addition, I think that European governments also have to provide structural conditions to give the citizens the opportunity to develop digital skills, such as the development of broadband, especially in peripheral regions.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A STATE OF MIND Promoting youth entrepreneurship in Europe also demands a shift in mind-set. It is crucial that we integrate entrepreneurship into education, growing Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit in every classroom. The Flash Eurobarometer FL354 “Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond� from 2012 showed that only 37% of Europeans would like to be self-employed, while a majority (58%) would prefer to be an employee.

Vesela Iliyanova, Bulgaria Entrepreneurship has to be understood as a state of mind; as a business approach There is no question of the crucial role of digital and entrepreneurial skills for the success of young people. But here really important is the understanding of both definitions. What do digital skills mean? What do entrepreneurial skills mean? In my opinion, a digitally competent person is not only one who is creating digital products, but also this one who is using them. The needs of each person in that relation are important for the final result. Our main goal is to have a digital society and that could happen when each person implement it in his own life. We have to start thinking how to bring together older people and those with different needs in that new era. The second problematic aspect for me is the numerous forgotten IT applications and programmes created by students for different school projects


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

and competitions. In these examples, someone has done the necessary preparation in the digital field, some have even have created a prototype or working product. They may even have won an award for their work, but it has not been put to market. We have to give a chance to these projects to learn and share examples of the importance of digital skills. Entrepreneurship has to be understood as a state of the mind; as a business approach. Only in that way, can the biggest enemy of entrepreneurship; the fear of failure be neutralised. And each one could try new things and enrich his and others life. It is clichĂŠ but the future is rushing so fast that the only chance to be adequate is to predict it. In that way could assume that you will be prepared for it.

Veronika LĂĄzĂĄr, Hungary The importance of digital skills is unquestionable, but to truly benefit from it, we have to combine them with an entrepreneurial mind-set which is open to taking up risks, even in the face of failure. The two days of panel discussions and talks with other students were centred on the change that we are experiencing in the digital age. For me, the notion of coding being something that could be taught to children of young age and that it is never too late to start, meant a lot. I always thought about coding as something as a privilege that people with amazing analytical skills are born with. Seeing the enthusiasm of our panellists, many of whom were from different disciplines than I would associate with digital and coding skills, was infectious for me as well: I have always been interested in learning more about the computerised world around me, as it is engulfing every part of our lives. I have always been fascinated by it, but I never thought that I could be anything else than a consumer of digital products. The study visit and the panel discussions opened my eyes to a world of new opportunities, where I can start to understand coding and expand my digital knowledge (it is never too late!) by enrolling in a MOOC course or just starting by learning an Hour of Code. The European Union and the new job opportunities of its future will be highly dominated by the digital skills of its citizens. If there is a lack of knowledge in this area, we can hardly speak about economic growth and development on the


continent. Digital skills could also be the solution to the revitalisation of rural areas, as with Internet access business could be done even in remote locations. Geographic location is becoming less of a constraint, in some cases it is even considered an asset as innovators are making use of the resources they have, and by tinkering they come up with solutions to problems they have to face. Place-based innovation is about the networks and community of people working together. Digitalisation makes it possible that every single person of a community can become an innovator and an entrepreneur.

Etienne Kassnel, Germany Changing the mindset from “something for the few brave” to something for everybody with great ideas… Generations will get lost, if we don’t implement changes to our institutional systems This essay deals with the importance of digital skills and entrepreneurship as abilities for the young generation in order to find work and be a successful and benefitting part of the EU’s society. “Digital Skills” are the newly emerging “must have” skills in order for people to find work in modern days globalised and highly digitalised economies, especially in the EU. It is paramount to spread these skills purposeful to the young and upcoming generations. The EU has to work with the Member States, together with the regional and local authorities, to implement subjects conveying digital skills and also entrepreneurship into the educational system, not only in universities but starting with it in the primary schools, in order to get the youngest students used to it, to let them grow up with a second foreign language “coding”. As of today, there are hundreds of thousands free jobs in the IT sector all over the EU, displaying a huge potential for the young generations, in order to work in very innovative, well-paid and important jobs, shaping the future. Furthermore it is of major importance that educational and training institutions have easy access to the demand of jobs and future trends, investigated by institutes of that field in order to see these coming early enough to implement changes fast enough in the educational system.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

The great possibilities the EU and many companies provide online, for example via free learning courses and tools to learn coding and other important digital skills have to receive greater advertising, so people become aware of the possibilities they have, in case they are interested in this field. Life Long Learning is the area of interest here, necessary for every citizen of the EU in any age. However, it proves to be very problematic, that most people are not aware of the possibilities they have. Furthermore, entrepreneurship has to be conveyed by the educational institutions via competitions but also in subjects. Delivering that it is not expensive, dangerous and impossible but needed a huge possibility and an area where there is a lot of support. Despite building the entrepreneurial mind-set in schools, this can be done by removing hurdles and increasing help for start-ups and by setting incentives for banks in order to encourage them to lend money to young and promising businesses, which became problematic especially after the financial crisis. Tax incentives for young businesses are another opportunity in order to increase the attractiveness of opening up an own business. Overall it is essential to equip our generations with these skills and by now there is not enough done in this area, by far. If we want to stay in the front of the developed World and stay competitive and successful, we have to act now. Some Member States like Estonia and Finland understood these trends, while many other are completely behind in this regard. In the end success of nations will be a matter of their digitalisation and innovativeness and since we see this trend approaching we can and have to act now in order to secure our position in the top of the World.

Elise Lignières, France Promoting the motto ‘Build your own path’ will lead to a burst of creativity and innovation in the European economy. Minimise the Fear of Failure

Themes: Entrepreneurial skills, the Cultural image of failure, Risk-taking Risk-taking is an essential skill for entrepreneurs. However, the fear of failure often gets into the way. The extremely negative image of ‘failure’ embedded in our mentalities has to change in order to broaden the number of entrepreneurs. As Simon McDermott (New Media Could) shrewdly stated: ‘Failure is a racing stripe’.


This fear of failure does not only concern the potential creation of start-ups. This issue touches every student or young professional starting to create his/her career path. If we take the example of France, it is clear that a few ‘golden paths’ exists. Those who do not take those classical paths towards excellence will not be part of the ‘elite’, according to the dominant mentality. It is crucial that students and young professional start ‘building their own path’. They should put aside the fear of failure and take risks in order to create new, innovative paths. Online Teaching Platform in all Universities

Themes: Digital skills, Moodle Moodle is an online teaching platform used by many universities in order to create a link between the teachers and students. It enables the teachers to post useful material (articles, videos…) for their classes. It is also a platform where students can contact either their teachers or other students through forums. Such an online platform is extremely useful to develop digital skills. Few students are interested in attending computer science courses; and most of those who did attend such courses admit having forgotten very rapidly what they have learned. The solution to this lack of digital skills among young people is thus not the multiplication of compulsory computer science courses, but rather the digitalisation of the teaching methods of all the other academic subject areas.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Unfortunately, many European universities (even some of the top European Business schools) do not have Moodle or any similar online platform. The installation of such an online teaching platform in all European universities would considerably develop the students’ digital skills, making them more at ease with the use of technology in an academic and professional context.

Arita Bērziņa, Latvia Nowadays it is no surprise that almost everyone is using technology on a daily basis. Whether it is used in a way, where older generations are trying to integrate with this century and learning how to properly use a computer, or more commonly – using smartphones and tablets as a way of presenting oneself in this already digitalised world. One of the most remarkable concepts, in my opinion, was addressed by Rodrigo Ballester, from the office of the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport – the e-skills gap at the moment is the root of a tragic paradox that has occurred. Although, there are many job opportunities for unemployed people, only 1/3 of these services will be taken, because of the lack of digital skills. This means we need to be able to provide basic IT skills for everyone, especially younger generations, that would include basic knowledge not only about the use of technology, but as well as entrepreneurial skills and languages (especially coding language). To be able to do so, the corresponding institutions and policies in the EU need to make substantial changes in the current education system. This way we can raise awareness of what the IT field holds and why it is necessary, while also teaching the next generation how to code, use technology and overall be digital. Nonetheless, we need to be critical and remember that not everything, that comes from the Internet and digitalisation, is good and is always going to be essential in the future. In my opinion, all of this has to remain around some kind of balance, and making coding as a compulsory part of education, should not be so radical in a way, where it takes away the creativity and imagination, that other courses often hold and are so important for young people.


Another very fundamental issue, that comes with changing the education system, is that we need to comprehend that technology does not hold artificial intelligence that society tends to assume. Especially in schools – teachers need to integrate with students and instead of taking their phones away from them; we should find a way where the use of their smartphones is a convenient form of learning. By means of this, there needs to be more school and teaching appropriate apps. I am a very strong believer that there is a new, innovative and digitised future upon us and that is definitely not a bad thing! If society creates the environment around itself appropriate for the time we live in, all of this is only going to benefit us. That is why I on this study visit gravitated particularly towards the importance of teaching young people e-skills, because they are going to be the ones that shape the next smart cities the most, while we keep our eyes open on the future trends.

John Szabo, Romania The rigidity of academia in its current state will not be feasible in the long run It was quite fascinating to spend the past few days, amongst like-minded students from all over Europe. The platform brought to life by the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions was greatly beneficial – from my point of view – in understanding the arising problems the labour force must adjust to, alongside enabling a first-hand perception of the functioning of various political mechanisms in the EU. The panels, programs and workshops were all highly beneficial in their ownsense, albeit surprisingly the largest revelation came to me, during an informal conversation with Mr. Kumardev Chatterjee. I inquired of his opinion regarding a shift towards making IT and natural science related disciplines more popular in not only higher-education, but as early as primary school. My concern was and remains that forcing students, or to some extent manipulating them, into choosing a profession beneficial for them in many ways, but primarily resulting in a job, which society and the labour market would label necessary, is unethical. I witnessed first-hand as the Hungarian ruling government decreased the number of scholarships for students wishing to engage in studies in the fields of humanities


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

or social sciences. The former group, already facing difficulties in finding jobs, had to face the additional burden of student debts to study topics, which they are devoted to. I fully comprehend that due to the structure of our globe’s economy there are certain professions that are more sought after; it seems likely that the returns on a business or engineer degree are quite high, whereas on a humanities degree are fairly low, making the latter a potential area of necessary subsidisation. However, the Hungarian government’s example goes in the opposite direction, as do some other discussions where the lopsided promotion of the sciences has been on agenda. The conclusions of our discussion ultimately led to accepting that the rigidity of academia in its current state will not be feasible in the long run. Changes must be implemented; this should not be limited to the introduction of tablets, apps or ICT courses from a young age – as discussed in numerous panels. I would like to believe that the entire education has been out-dated for decades. To reinvent academia, I believe that increasing freedom to choose from courses – similarly to that of various higher education programs – and touching upon contemporary topics, whilst maintaining formerly accepted values should be in the spotlight. Rethinking and redeveloping our education system is a huge task, which is not only limited to Europe as the same problems have been perceived throughout the world. However, the Members of the European Union may be able to regain global leverage by being the leader in a transition of such, ultimately creating a labour force much more equipped to face the trials of the 21st century, through which economic prosperity can return to Europe in an age of low economic growth.

Lisanne Spanbroek, The Netherlands Entrepreneurship should be a viable option for all. It breaks barriers between the private and public sector, surpasses borders, links education with the working field and doesn’t discriminate. Create a mentoring program. Gather willing companies and entrepreneurs and link them to entrepreneurs (starting and advanced), students (schools – universities), the unemployed (make entrepreneurship an option combined with benefits) and anyone considering starting their own business.


Quick overview for grants / scholarships / events. Easy access to compiled up to date possibilities for students, the unemployed and entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge, skills, network and/or raise funding. Focus on family business. A critical look at succession taxes and funding. Taking over has been getting more difficult, especially in the agricultural sector. Everyone’s an entrepreneur. Citizens are lifelong learners, have to make choices and are more mobile than before. With an increase in entrepreneurship, flex contracts, mobility, digital tools and possibilities they have the right and responsibility to strive for a custom made lifestyle. It’s essential to have a safety net and safe environment to make full use these freedoms. Other suggestions for digitalisation Free and secure wifi in every village / city Transform libraries into Hubs. Use the decreased space needed for books / CDs / games and add 3D printers, flex workspaces, meeting spaces, a coffee corner / lunchroom Invest in translating tools. All available information in the world in your own language. Makes translators abundant, frees up time in the school curriculum, focus on skills rather than on hands-on knowledge. Combining MOOCs and offline meet-ups. Digitally learnt knowledge and skills implemented with practical examples / tasks and help / cooperation from offline study mates and teachers. Level playing field, cutting school costs and enhancement of chances to succeed Awareness campaign Digital Citizenship. Focus on the social aspect; online safety, cyber bullying, access for the visually impairment / blind / illiterate. Framed guidelines for a general code of conduct with direct hotlines and fitting up to date legislation. Making the unwritten rules of the internet written. Raising awareness: Entrepreneurship should be a viable option for all. It breaks barriers between the private and public sector, surpasses borders, links education with the working field and doesn’t discriminate.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

LEARNING FROM ROLE MODELS The Startup Europe Roadshow lets young aspiring entrepreneurs interact, learn and be mentored by “role-models” – fellow young ICT entrepreneurs who will share their success stories in a bid to make Europe’s start-up environment more dynamic and less risk averse.

Klemen Jarc, Slovenia It’s not enough to just provide children with modern devices On Monday 21 of September in early afternoon hours we, 50 students from all over the Europe gathered at the European Committee of the Regions to participate in a great event, organised by the EPP Group and EDS with the name Digital and Entrepreneurial skills for all: Reaching our potential together. I didn’t know anybody when I arrived, but from the start noticed that wouldn’t be a problem, all participants were very open minded and friendly. Personally, I very much appreciated the opinions of Rodrigo Ballester, from the office of the European Commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport. It was seen that he has experience and practice in that working field. Rodrigo explained that education systems need to change and which changes are being promoted in order to encourage a more entrepreneurial spirit in the early ages of children. He is for teaching digital skills soon but with a careful plan, it’s not enough or right to just buy children modern devices, this can make things worse rather than better. I liked very much his proposal for encouraging entrepreneurship with real life entrepreneurs coming to schools and give talks to children, about the lives they are living and inspiring children and making them know


that there are lots of options what to do in life. I can say from my own experiences that this is one of the best methods to popularise entrepreneurship. I liked very much the talk and insights from Simon McDermott serial entrepreneur and VC from New Media Cloud, who again was speaking from practice and his own experiences. In the second part of the programme was one of the most interesting talks given by Kumardev Chatterjee from European Young Innovators Forum who encouraged us to take a look at an entrepreneurial career. EYIF is doing a lot of good things for boosting entrepreneurship in Europe and helping entrepreneurs on their way with innovation centres all over Europe. Jonathan Murray from DigitalEurope gave us insights from his work then told us for some finance methods and European institutions help in starting a business. On the next day, we started with a speech from Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions, where he shared his, and the Group’s, views on digitalisation, new technologies and entrepreneurship. We participated in a debate with some European Committee of the Regions members so we could get the real picture of how the Committee works and to hear that we could count on their support. At the end of the visit, we visited the European Parliament, where we reported to Siegfried Muresan about our work in previous two days and had a debate with him.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

A EUROPE RICH WITH OPPORTUNITY It is hoped that the Digital Single Market will generate up to EUR 250Â billion of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of this Commission, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, notably for younger jobseekers, and a vibrant knowledge-based society.

Martin HidĂŠn, Sweden If we play our cards right, this might be the greatest opportunity that Europe and the world has seen for decades. The initial picture when the subject of eskills is brought up is normally bleak. The European Commission says that the EU will need at least one million new programmers and IT specialists in order to keep up with the growing demand. We fear that fewer will educate themselves in these fields and that there will be a growing gender inequality within the profession. We are seeing new start-ups popping up like mushrooms in America and in the developing world, while we fear that Europe is standing still in a world in motion and despair is creeping closer into our politics. Well it turns out that this might not be the future we are heading into after all. In fact, if we play our cards right, this might be the greatest opportunity that Europe and the world have seen for decades.


We mainly concentrated on education and how we could assist people to not only acquire digital skills, but also to cultivate their entrepreneurial opportunities. To make this possible one must focus on both the short term as well as the long term education. What this means is that not only should all EU Member States and regions focus on raising the competence of future job seekers (primary to postsecondary education) but also those whom already exist on the job market. This is often referred to as lifelong learning and can be achieved by using conventional education methods, such as schools and evening courses, but can now also be taught with internet resources that help teachers learn programming regardless if they are young or old and regardless of place. The problem here is that while many of these resources are easy to learn, it is hard for teachers and job seekers to find them in the first place. This brings us to our first suggestion which is that the European Commission should facilitate finding these opportunities by either recommending them to institutions such as CoR and national governments or to simply list them on a website for all to find. This should simultaneously be achieved with a general campaign from industry, education and politics which highlights the need for teaching more jobseekers in vital ICT skills (information and communication technology). Initiatives such as these has already started with e-skills for jobs campaign from DigitalEurope and the Grand coalition for digital jobs that was started by the European Commission, but we need far more movement particularly from already successful entrepreneurs that could motivate as well as inspire people to take the first step. This is especially important for youngsters that could and should be able to interact with these people at school talks and job days organised by local regions across Europe. Not only would this teach the public about the need for IT-skills and tackling risks but also accepting failures as a part of their careers. On a final and relating note, we believe it is curtail for local communities and schools to open business accelerators, as this would not only help future entrepreneurs to fund and sustain their ideas to become fully fleshed business. What Europe needs to do is to identify resources that could help people to learn about programming, promote lifelong learning in civil society, provide guidance on how to start and finance start-up businesses. All of this also has to work within the pre-existing initiatives to create a single digital market and matching skills across borders within the single market. Not only do we believe that this can happen on a pan European and local scale, we believe that it is already happening. The only thing we need to do is to protect it, nurture it, promote it accelerate it and make it universal.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Tommi Pyykkö, Finland As in every crisis there are always possibilities for something new and good The situation in Europe has been very dramatic since 2008 and while many Member States have achieved to get their economies back on track, Finland has struggled very greatly and it is seen by many as the current sick man of Europe. As a Finn this worries me obviously and the never ending flow of bad news has paralysed many of our citizens. In this perspective the topic of this study visit: “Digital and Entrepreneurial Skills for All: Reaching Our Potential Together” was really inspiring. Like it was said several times during the visit, the ICT-sector has unbelievable potential, not only in the future, but in today’s Europe as well. There are already a huge number of open vacancies, while the problem is the lack of people with sufficient digital skills. This could be a part of the solution for Finland’s economic problems also. We shouldn’t be thinking about how to get back those jobs that we have lost, instead we should be focusing on how to get the most out of the potential that the digital revolution, if you will, has to offer. As Michael Schneider, the President of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions, told us during the visit: “forecasts predict that 90% of all jobs will require some level of digital skills in the near future”. So basically almost no matter what is your profession, having some level of digital skills will be vital for you and even though you would be, for some reason, out of the labour market, these skills are and will become even more vital in the everyday life as well. In order to get the most out of the digital potential we need a vast amount of actions in many different levels. For example on the European level, the Digital Single Market has to be finalised at last. I have been reading about its importance for more than a decade and very little has happened during that time, considering about what we could have achieved. On the national and on the regional levels, more has to be done in order to improve the role of teaching digital skills in schools and in local adult education centres. We can’t reach our potential doing nothing.


Madina Assaeva, Germany The journey of founding a company is an enormous learning process which contributes to society and economy in so many ways Europe is facing a skills crisis. According to Jonathan Murrey, there is a lack of awareness of the “IT-World”. The IT sector has huge a job potential across all sectors. Since a lot of people don’t have the right IT skills, they need to be re-educated. As for entrepreneurship, the majority of start-ups are not successful. At the same time, it doesn’t mean, one should found less companies. On the contrary, establishing a business is always linked with a risk of failure. Nevertheless, knowing the importance of digital education, it is crucial to integrate the digital awareness in our local communities. People of all age groups as well as educational levels must to be sensitised to the necessity and needs of digitalisation. But where should we start? The answer is quite simple: Everywhere! Schools: School children need to be taught in coding in order to be prepared for the upcoming challenges of the modern world. At the same time, underaged children are sensible for influence and therefore require protection. Cyber-Attacks, CyberBullying especially among teenagers need a careful treatment. Which is why, I strongly support classes for underaged children which deal with chances and risks of digitalisation. In order to achieve these goals, we need well-educated teachers. As for entrepreneurship, businesses should be involved in the education system and business founders should visit classrooms in order to introduce their point of view to school children. Universities: Universities as institutions need to be reformed. The usage of such systems as MOOCs is indispensable. Educational institutions should be obligated to use the modern tools and inventions in order to enable the best access to education. Moreover, students should be able to use these tools and inventions and have at least a basic understanding of coding. Therefore, I would recommend mandatory coding classes at the universities.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Young professionals - qualified employees: National and European institutions should offer coding classes and/or classes of basic digital understanding for young professionals and qualified employees in general. Digital infrastructure: First of all, many regions all over Europe need a proper infrastructure. It is more than unfortunate that broadband technology is developing with “baby steps�. In order to compete with Silicon Valley, we need to create the best conditions for digital and entrepreneurial environment. Entrepreneurship: Without a doubt, in order to establish a successful business, companies and therefore business founders need to present their businesses in the World Wide Web. This simple truth applies to newly founded Start-Ups as well as to wellestablished companies. All in all, in order to achieve our goal of digital and entrepreneurial skills for all, we need to promote the topic of digitalisation and business founding in our local communities. Starting small and going big.


Bringing Solutions to the Skills Gap in Europe Resolution adopted by the EPP Political Assembly, 3rd March 2015 We, the European People’s Party (EPP), call on the European Commission and Member States to: • Place education as a fundamental and priority area of development; • Develop a strategy for educational cooperation at an EU level and encourage cross-border cooperation; • Establish uniform criteria for the validation of skills of students and graduates from different levels of education; • Increase the share of vocational education, and support enterprises willing to provide vocational education and training since it is important to raise the level of excellence in these programmes and to secure the supply of good trainee or apprenticeship places; • Support the idea of lifelong learning and increase permeability between vocational training and university education; • Attach particular importance to economic education and political participation of young people; • Support programmes that aim to provide digital skills to young people; • Create incentives to promote excellence in higher education; • Develop initiatives to boost enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects; and • Encourage cross-border mobility among young people and a lively exchange of knowledge within Europe. The Erasmus+ programme is an invaluable asset in this respect, offering mobility not just to students but also to young people in apprenticeships, and to young entrepreneurs.


Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all

Secretary General: Heinz-Peter Knapp Editor in chief: Kathryn Owens kathryn.owens@cor.europa.eu +32 2 282 2400 www.epp.cor.europa.eu


Committee of the Regions

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Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all  

A collection of essays from participants at the 2015 EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions and the EDS Study Visit on digital a...

Closing the gap: digital and entrepreneurial skills for all  

A collection of essays from participants at the 2015 EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions and the EDS Study Visit on digital a...

Profile for eppcor