FinancialGuy Writes!

Your author was in Brussels on Monday for the launch of the 2012 e-Skills week by the European Commission.

The event was split into three sessions and for me, session number three lit up the day. This is possibly problematic since the session only had one genuine policy person in it, the rest were people doing real things in the real economy.

I thought I would start by listing some of the facts that I see before me in my notes. They will hopefully provide some food for thought for all of us thinking about the workings of the economy.

– There is no compelling evidence that ICT trained staff earn significantly more than others – despite company bosses complaining about skill deficiencies in staff.

– Research suggests that managerial capabilities to utilise a skilled workforce is very important to actual output.

– According to Google / Boston Consulting Group, the EU average of GDP on the internet is 3.8%. In the UK, for comparison, it is 7.5%.

– Not all countries have made an agricultural and industrial revolution. Not all will make an internet revolution (Belgium seems to be on this list – for example, 60% of the total of Google’s revenue in Belgium comes from foreign companies marketing into the country).

– In the EU27, the number of computer science graduates has peaked in 2005.

– Employers need to be very flexible with the next generation of staff – they have short attention spans, want to work hard in bursts and then take a long break and need to be given interesting projects every 6-9 months if they are to develop as they want and need to.

If I were to try and boil down my thoughts from the day, it seems to me that the experts in attendance are very worried about the future of the EU economy, while the rest of us are terrified by the present.

Speakers highlighted concerns about the subject material being taught (for example, many school children are taught to use word processing tools under the guise of “ICT” meaning that they emerge from education without the skills they need), the importance of the role of careers guidance and whether it is appropriate, which is highlighted by falling numbers studying technical subjects. This is despite the fact that companies such as Google, IBM and Apple view tech whizzes as “rock stars”.

This is clearly a very important topic and if the EU is to reinvent itself into a knowledge based skills economy – as many of us hope – then the ability to use ICT skills as a career are vital for many tens of millions of people. e-Skills are therefore at the centre of the future of the European economic model.

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