The FINANCIAL - Digital Skills “fueling” the transformation of digital economy in EaP countries

Digital Skills “fueling” the transformation of digital economy in EaP countries

The FINANCIAL -- The digitization of the economy is one of the most important drivers behind the profound transformation of the labor market and the way people work, which is thought likely to become even more significant in the years to come. This new paradigm represents a major challenge for employers, workers and public authorities, and the challenges needs to be fully understood in order to identify the most appropriate policy options to transform them into opportunities for all.

Digitization transforms the economy and the workforce: job profiles are changing, some jobs are becoming obsolete, and skills mismatch becomes more visible.Relative to earlier industrial revolutions, the digital revolution is unfolding over a shorter time period and the adjustment process needs to be faster.

As digitization speeds up, the demand for digital skills is growing in Eastern Partnership countries. Citizens need adequate and appropriate digital skills to be empowered in a digital economy and society.

Digital skills is a key framework condition for the development of the digital economy and society in the Eastern Partnership. A digital talent pool is crucial for European competitiveness and for Europe's digital society to remain inclusive. Harmonized digital skills strategies in the EaP should bring together national authorities, companies, social partners, non-profit organizations and education providers in joint action to address the growing need for digital skills.

There are lack as many as 756 000 ICT professionals by 2020 in EU. Yet youth unemployment is at almost 20%. More than a third of the labor force and, more broadly, around 45% of EU citizens are in effect digitally illiterate.

Markets offer may new opportunities for employment and growth. However to reap these rewards it is necessary to also address it changes.

The Digital Skills for Digital citizens on building a digitally inclusive society. What does this mean? This means that each of us should reflect on how we use and interact with technology and this may make us more digitally literate. This is our response to the rapid digitalization of services in public and private sector – libraries, finance and banking, e-services – hazardous online activities and online propaganda (fake news).

The principal objective which policy makers and employers should now address are to deliver and communicate current and future requirements to digitalization and digital skills, practices, and policies; equip employees with necessary skills which are compatible with those adopted in Western economies.

These tasks for policy-makers is to identify technology trends that affect the strategic role of leadership in the digital economy and turn it into a digital leadership strategy. This could be done to share the latest results adopted by the European commission on the demand and supply of digital skills; support research at universities and design sectorial and regional policies for entrepreneurs and businesses to facilitate training in digital skills.

Employers require first to join Digital skills and digital jobs coalition to be able to exchange the needs of it and what can they offer to their partners overseas, in particular through the developing of knowledge networks.

Second, engage in knowledge transfer with local and international businesses through, for example: training, coaching, co-design and consultancy where these skills could be imitated, learned and further adopted as a results of learning from each other and open innovation.

Third, design and provide educational offerings in the field of digital leadership to employees both in-house and via massive online open courses such as Coursera, Canvas, Futurelern.

Taken together, this set of policies and actions may impact on academia, business, society and the economy.

What are the new opportunities for business in EAP which could be further applied at the workplace?

In Europe around 37% of labor force participants do not have even basic digital skills and companies lack the more advanced specialized skills need for successful adoption of digital technologies. The situation in EaP is even worse, and the problem about it that no one has ever measured those lack of skills.

To follow, in Europe 99% of all businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises, accounting for 67% of employment and 57% of value added. In fact most, 93%, are micro enterprises, employing less than 10 people. These firms rely a lot on skills. IN the EaP large firms still employ massive number of people, but digitalization does not become different or not needed if EaP has different economy structure - quite opposite.

The rapid technological improvements in the last decades have helped develop web technologies, brought various new online services and unlocked many new job possibilities. More than ever digital skills are essential for young people in order to take advantage of these opportunities and play a key role in the evolution of the digital economy. Like reading and writing, digital skills are becoming a necessity in everyday life.

Furthermore, there is a need for working on improved anticipation of skills needs and on the impact of digitization on jobs. The solutions to our digital skills challenges cannot be implemented by any single Country, or by any single group of actors in isolation, – these require strong cross-European and national partnerships, adequate policies and appropriate funding. They also require strong and sustained commitment to reverse trends and ensure our citizens and workers are prepared for the digital revolution. In particular, we need national digital skills strategies for all EaP – also addressing the modernization of education – and implementing them with the support of national coalitions. We need to join forces in a cross-European coalition to spread the best solutions to the common challenges we face, to achieve scale and in doing so have a real impact. These coalitions should connect and improve dialogue among all relevant stakeholders – industry, education and training, government, social partners, making use of the best practices to support adequate training programmes.

The following recommendations could be followed:

Raise awareness on digital technologies and what digital technologies are capable of doing, how they can support each business operation and what IT infrastructure is required to sustain this operations. Special attention to be given to type of digital technology and to understand whether the technology adopted is likely to fit the business and IT strategy of the enterprise.

Campaigns, should be implemented to raise awareness both of the importance of the use of digital technologies to support and improve business performance, productivity and internal organization. Most importantly the major focus is on strategic alignment of operations and IT infrastructure as well as IT and business priorities of the firm , which should be strategically linked.

Expand the availability of digital skills through the education and training system, but also prepare experts who can and willing to teach it. Many of those experts are country expats which want to give back to their communities and will be able to engage with IT and educational communities to visit places and teach digital skills.

- The education and training sector should be supported to develop and adapt its offer to meet the changing needs of the digital economy. Training aimed at fostering digital competence and digital skills is commonly believed to be the most appropriate tool to tackle the digital challenge.

a) Educate and train more young people for digital professions so that we can create a large pool of talented young digital professionals, with increased female participation, who are work ready and can take up the growing number of unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals in EaP.

B) Up-skill and re-skill the EaP countries labor force with the digital skills they need to remain productive in the jobs they have and to become employable for new ones.

c) Modernize our education and training systems for the digital age, bringing digital skills and competences to all levels of education and training.

d) Improve the digital skills of all citizens so that they can play an active role in modern society, strengthening social inclusion.

Build multi-stakeholder partnerships based also on effective social dialogue to increase the availability of digital skills- Policymakers should support digital skills development within multi-stakeholder partnerships. Partnerships are proven to generate a more inclusive and targeted approach to skills development and training provision that is more responsive to labor market needs, in line with vocational programmes and qualifications. A digital skills strategy should therefore be the result of a discussion based on effective social dialogue.

Include digital skills in a wider skills strategy-Although it remains crucial to develop a range of specific digital skills which respond to the needs of the digital economy, wider digital skills for the whole population should be embedded in a broader and comprehensive skills strategy in which other transversal skills relevant to employers such as soft skills and communication skills are also included. Evidence shows that the most effective means of improving employability and closing skills gaps are more generic measures aimed at improving the capacity of workers to acquire new skills and learn in an evolving economy.Consider diversity and avoid the ‘one-size fits all’ approach-Employers require different types and levels of digital skills according to the sector in which they operate, their size, their market, and the country in which they are based. In designing a digital skills strategy or any other type of initiative to help employers to access the required digital skills, diversity needs to be clearly addressed through a tailored approach.

Note: OP-ED is published with NO editorial change or correction

Mr. David Tsiskaridze(PhD Student) is a chairman of International Business and Economic Development Center(IBEDC), one of the emerging BSO in Georgia, with eight years managing experience. He is professional Auditor and tax expert with 20 years of diversified experience.