EU Commission launches 'grand coalition' to tackle IT shortage

Neelie Kroes The European Commission is investing 1 million euros (£860,000) in digital initiatives

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The European Commission has launched a "grand coalition" to address the region's IT skills shortages.

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes told delegates at CeBIT that the EU's competitiveness is "under threat" if it cannot fill the expertise gap.

The shortages come at a time of high unemployment across Europe, she added, calling for greater awareness of IT career opportunities.

Companies like Google have also launched programmes to entice students.

Together with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Ms Kroes said that 1 million euros (£860,000) will be invested into the coalition.

"This coalition is not about reinventing the wheel. It should be about building on existing success," she said.

"I want people to be open in their commitments, join forces where they see the chance, and recognise we need to do things differently.

"Quite simply, facing hundreds of thousands of unfilled vacancies, we cannot continue as we were; and we must all do our bit."

Skills shortage

The commission's own figures suggested that there will be 900,000 vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015. There are currently about 26 million people unemployed across Europe.

The number of "digital jobs" - jobs based around IT - is growing by about 100,000 every year, yet the number of skilled IT graduates is failing to keep pace.

Jose Manuel Barroso launched the digital jobs coalition

Ms Kroes said she now wants to have companies move "from 'wouldn't-it-be-nice-if' to, 'here's-what-we-are-going-to-do'."

The commission highlighted several new initiatives already taking places, including Telefonica's investment in start-ups, and Cisco's pledge to train 100,000 people to install smart-meters into homes.

The commission's proposals include simplification of the certification system, making it easier to prove what skills a graduate has, regardless of the EU country in which they have worked or studied.

Technology skills shortages have been cited as a pressing problem for several companies which rely on highly-skilled engineers to further their development.

In January, Google chairman Eric Schmidt announced that his firm was to contribute to a scheme to give schools 15,000 free microcomputers.

The Raspberry Pi devices will be used to encourage young children into learning coding skills.

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