Dublin summit for EU Employment Ministers focuses on addressing ICT skills gap
Addressing the ICT skills gap will be a crucial part of the EU’s employment strategy, given projections that there could be up to 700,000 unfilled vacancies in the EU by 2015, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD told a special meeting of Employment Ministers in Dublin.
Minister Richard Bruton was speaking during the 2-day Informal Employment and Social Policy Council which he co-chaired with Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD.
Job creation in Europe is a top priority of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. Jobs growth in the ICT sector is forecast to run at 7.6% over the next decade, more than double the overall rate of job-creation forecast.
In Dublin over the past two days Employment Ministers agreed that ensuring adequate skills supply to fill vacancies in the ICT sector will be a crucial part of growing jobs in the EU. They also discussed lessons from national initiatives taken in the ICT skills area, as well as specific case studies including measures taken in Ireland under the ICT Action Plan jointly launched by Minister Bruton with Minister Quinn in January 2012 as part of the Action Plan for Jobs.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Richard Bruton said:
“Reflecting our domestic priorities, the Irish Government has identified job-creation as a top priority during our Presidency of the Council of the EU. In recent years through the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work initiatives we have made significant changes to the Irish economy to support job-creation. Many of the challenges we have faced in Ireland are common across the EU, such as for example the ICT skills gap. Skills mismatches in the EU have increased markedly during the crisis. We need to strengthen cooperation on existing Community policies, instruments and processes so as to enable Member States to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their national skills systems, benchmark them internationally and develop policies to transform better skills into better jobs.
Minister Bruton: Reflecting our domestic priorities, the Irish Government has identified job-creation as a top priority during our Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Continuing, the Minister said, “Ireland's experience in addressing the skills gap under the ICT Action Plan, which saw collaboration between Government, State agencies, the education sector and enterprise, provides a valuable model for other member states. Governments need to adopt the right skills strategies in order to bridge the gap between employers' needs and the education system and to make ICT qualifications and careers more attractive to first-time students and those re-skilling and also to improve on the low percentage of women working in the ICT sector."
Minister Bruton intends to take forward the deliberations from this workshop to the launch of a Grand Coalition for digital jobs in Brussels on 4th March next at which he has been invited to deliver a key note address. The Grand Coalition will involve the four Commissioners responsible for Employment, the Digital Agenda, Education, and Enterprise in a multi-stakeholder partnership seeking to reduce the gap between supply and demand for ICT practitioners in Europe. This ensures that the conclusions of this workshop have an immediate audience and path forward for action.
During the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU, Minister Bruton is responsible for chairing or co-chairing meetings of the Trade, Competitiveness and EPSCO (Employment and Social Policy) Councils.
The Minister is involved in hosting three Informal Ministerial Council meetings in Dublin during the Presidency. The EPSCO Informal was the first of these and will be followed by a Trade Council Informal in Dublin on 17-18 April and a Competitiveness Council Informal on 1-3 May.
In his role as co-Chair of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council of the EU (EPSCO), Minister Richard Bruton held a special informal meeting of EPSCO in Dublin for Employment Ministers from the other EU Member States to discuss and develop a number of key job creation measures.
On the first day of the meeting, Ministers heard a summary of the Social Troika discussions conducted by Minister Richard Bruton with the representatives of European employer and trade union bodies as well as Minister Joan Burton's meeting with the Social Platform representatives of European-wide social NGOs. Subsequently, three parallel workshops enabled Ministers to explore issues relating to active inclusion for jobless households, the employment and skills opportunities in the ICT area and the labour market engagement of older women.
During the event, Minister Richard Bruton held a workshop for EU Employment Ministers focussing on ICT jobs and skills. The event discussed priorities for action focussed on reducing the ICT skills gap and enhancing the competitiveness of the sector at national and European level. While vacancies in the ICT sector continue to increase, the number of graduates from computing sciences and from maths, science and engineering programmes is actually declining. Ministers heard scene-setting presentations from Mr Detlef Eckert, Director, Employment Policy, Directorate-General for Employment Social Affairs & Inclusion, European Commission, and from Peter O’Neill, County General Manager, IBM Ireland, as well as software entrepreneur Jarlath Dooley, Director, Version 1.
Ministers were also presented with short case-studies on German and Irish skills strategies, highlighting lessons learnt and priorities for action focused on reducing the ICT skills gap and enhancing the competitiveness of the sector at national level. Minister Bruton also chaired a meeting of representatives of European employer and trade union bodies focussing on the theme of “Getting people back to work: the contribution of skills development to finding and remaining in employment”. The meeting discussed how best to combine vocational education with practical work experience, the difficulties that small businesses face in developing their human resources and the contribution that training networks such as Skillnets can make in that regard, and the contribution that proposed new tools of reinforced economic governance can make to advancing a reform agenda in areas such as the development of quality traineeships and better skills policies.