Digitalisation has already started and will inevitably affect all sectors. Automation, robotisation… are terms that have integrated our vocabulary and have become part of our daily lives, but that we still have trouble understanding the extent of and that few are not fully prepared for. Indeed, “there is a change in the nature of the race between man and the machine, and the machine is running faster,” said keynote speaker Ryan Avent. In spite of this reality, human beings aren’t up-skilling fast enough to compete, be it with the machine or among themselves. The EU Commission event on 1 November in Brussels was the launch of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, one of the ten initiatives of the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
Already in the introduction, the manifold dimensions of this new digital era were revealed: there is a skills gap between what companies need and the digital competences learners have; the additional digital skills required mean low skilled jobs are being replaced by medium to high skilled jobs; qualifications delivered by educational institutions do not correspond to the qualifications sought after in the labour market… “It is urgent that Europe invests in training people up to these new standards. We need immediate actions,” said Lowri Evans, Director of DG Growth. This also means investing in the “training of people who are already at work, working directly with companies, especially small and medium entreprises,” said IndustriAll representative. “Lifelong learning is the way to help people’s transitions through life,” added Michel Servoz, Director of DG Employment.
The LLLPlatform appreciates the long term and overarching vision of education that was at the heart of the debate. First, as means to tackle the skills gap to include all individuals in the labour market. Second, participants underlined that getting acquainted with new technologies often happens in more flexible environments, thus opening the door to non-formal learning methods. Finally, if education should embrace the digital environment, it should not either become all digital oriented. “We should not be prescriptive and unilateral in designing educational curricula,” advised Ryan Avent, and not make STEM the only valid education. “We must encourage arts, languages, history… We must focus on capacity, creativity, inspire learners and make them aware of the many learning pathways.” If we must learn to live in a digital world, we must learn to adapt and control it to remain independent from it; we must diversify it and ensure pluralism to avoid concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We must make sure that this digital economy is going to work for everyone everywhere.