How to plug the e-skills gap?

Article By Marisa Fernández Esteban

How good cooperation between ICT and publishing can plug the e-skills gap? Marisa Fernandez Esteban, EU Policy Officer presented the European Commission point of view regarding e-skills during the TISP seminar ‘Publishing and the ICT sector: how skills are changing in these different sectors to be able to work more closely together’, held on April 8th at the London Book Fair.

Starting point was the shortage of of e-skills: forecasts show that 85 % of future jobs require a level of digital literacy while today 25% of adults lack these skills. Digital competence is one of the core 21st century skills for employability that citizens should acquire through education and training. Employees and citizens need to be able to make use of new technologies in a critical, creative and collaborative way. In this frame, digital competences are therefore more than just using technologies or e-skills. As the demand for ICT workers has increased steadily year-on-year, the number of computer science graduates has decreased. For the ‘Digital Agenda’ it was estimated Europe could soon face a shortage of 900,000 ICT workers. The European Commission launched the Grand Coalition for digital jobs, a multi-stakeholder partnership seeking to reduce the gap between supply and demand for ICT practitioners in Europe. The target is to reverse the decline and start to increase the supply of ICT practitioners by 2015, so as to ensure a sufficient number of ICT practitioners in Europe by 2020.

Good cooperation between publishers and ICT and publishing can plug the e-skills gap and contribute to the prosperity of the EU as a whole. There is indeed a huge need for cooperation between the two sectors but the contacts and matchmaking mechanisms between the two sectors should be improved and focused in order to have more successful cooperation cases and projects. Cultural and creative industries need to cluster and assume the leadership and responsibility in defining their needs and launch innovative ICT-CCI projects.

How does the European Commission support this trend? One of the answers is Horizon 2020, a programme that represents an excellent opportunity for the two sectors to start new cooperative projects, a value beyond funding opportunities. The new instruments enable smaller and more innovation focused projects to be funded and seem to be of great interest for projects set up by SMEs belonging to publishing and ICT sectors, with particular emphasis, in this last, to start-ups. Some calls and priorities have already been identified where the two sectors shall work together and submit proposals. The SME instrument shall be also considered as a great opportunity for both sectors.

As for Creative Europe, in February 2014 the UK government published its review of the balance of competences between the UK and the EU in the field of culture. After extensive consultations and analysis the review concluded  that the EU’s culture competence is seen by contributors as an important source of funding for the cultural sector, as a driver for new creative partnerships and as a vehicle for promoting the UK’s ‘soft power’. Creative Europe will offer increased support to literary translation: the total budget for this part of the programme in 2014 is 3.6 million euros. European publishers can apply for support for the translation, publication and promotion of European literary works (in the form of ‘packages’ of 3-10 works) for which they hold the necessary rights. Literary works in paper and digital formats (e-books) are equally eligible and the maximum support for a ‘package’ is 100,000 Euros.

During the coming programme period (2014-2020) it is expected that grants will help translate up to 4,500 books. Translations from lesser used European languages into English, German, French and Spanish are encouraged as these may contribute to a wider circulation of the works. Under the previous EU Culture Programme (2007-2013), the EU had invested on average 2.5 million Euros annually on literary translation. The programme contributed 17.5 million EUR towards the costs of translating about 3,200 literary works, involving more than 30 languages.

Another programme devoted to these themes is Erasmus+ which is supporting partnerships among different types of stakeholders.