Addressing the digital skills deficit

Addressing the digital skills deficit
Eva Maydell MEP © European People's Party

Government Europa Quarterly takes a focused look at the work of Eva Maydell MEP in equipping young people and addressing an emerging digital skills deficit at the education level.

As mentioned by the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, at the Masters of Digital event in Brussels, Belgium, in February, policy and decision makers have left behind a generation of users. As a result, there is a large digital skills deficit which must be addressed.

Campaigns are being launched across member states in order to build digital skills from education upwards, and the national Skills Campaign in Bulgaria – which is part of the Education Bulgaria 2030 programme – aims to encourage collaboration between businesses, schools and local authorities in Bulgaria. As a result, the project aims to directly enhance the skills of Bulgaria’s younger generation by facilitating educational placements with companies local to its citizens.

Also in attendance at Masters of Digital 2018 was Eva Maydell MEP, who co-founded the Education Bulgaria 2030 initiative as part of her agenda to stand up for technology, entrepreneurship and quality education. Moreover, her position as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the New Skills Agenda will allow her to ensure that policies are actively assisting in the development of young people and combating the digital skills deficit.

Pioneering the New Skills agenda

The divide between what students are being taught within schools and what the corporate world requires from them is increasingly evident. As a result, the New Skills Agenda for Europe seeks to narrow this gap and synergise the relationship between curriculum and the corporate. Under the agenda are ten actions to ensure that the correct measures for training, skills and support are available to EU citizens. These actions include:

  • Designing ‘upskilling pathways’, which create new opportunities for adults;
  • Creating a European Qualifications Framework;
  • Establishing the Digital Skills and Job Coalition;
  • Developing a blueprint for sectoral co-operation on skills;
  • Utilising the EU Skills Profile Tool Kit for third-country nationals;
  • Undertaking vocational education and training (VET);
  • Improving key competences;
  • Increasing access to Europass;
  • Tracking graduates; and
  • Analysing and sharing of best practice on brain flows.

As reported through Eva Maydell’s website, some areas of Bulgaria have functional illiteracy rates of over 40%. Meanwhile, the correlation between the socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds of children and their attainment levels in education is posing a cause for alarm.

Education Bulgaria 2030 was co-founded by Maydell in order to facilitate co-operation between private companies, non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations and key public figures. Working together, these key players are envisaged to improve education for young people.

Taking the lead on the digital skills deficit

Launched in 2016 in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, the Skills Campaign works to motivate young people in developing their knowledge and skills and to make themselves more employable, whilst incentivising businesses to offer more placements and apprenticeships to those under the age of 24.

Phase One

Operating on the foundation of an interactive in-class workshop for students aged between 15 and 18, this segment of the project focuses on developing the key skills which the market of the 21st century requires. These include:

  • Teamwork;
  • Public speaking; and
  • Presentation skills, amongst others.

By combining interactive learning with practical activities, sessions enable young people to reflect on the skills which they have acquired through an approach which is both engaging and enjoyable, encouraging further uptake across the country.

Phase Two

A joint working relationship between students and businesses ensures that both can build a productive environment, whilst putting newly learned skills into practice.

Utilising the interests and strengths of pupils, placements take the form of an internship, or a visit which takes place over several days, at an office of a local company. Providing the taster of professional life and adult responsibilities, young people can engage in a working environment with all the support they require.

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