With 52 per cent of workers in Europe in need of reskilling, DIGITALEUROPE and an alliance of 26 software partners has launched the European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA), bringing together key industry and education stakeholders to help bridge the skills gap.

ICS (Irish Computer Society) is proud to be a founding partner of ESSA, collaborating on an initiative to design and implement the new Software Skills Strategy and vocational curriculum for Europe.

On 2 December, ESSA partners organised a virtual kick-off meeting to officially start a collaboration on the development of a highly innovative, effective and sustainable Software Skills Strategy and corresponding Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes for Europe. Funded by the European Commission under Erasmus+ programme – Sector Skills Alliances, the four-year project aims to ensure the skills needs of the fast-paced software sector in Europe can be met in the short, medium and long term, enabling continuous development, innovation and competitiveness within the industry.

A data-driven Software Skills Strategy based on market needs

The shift from hardware to software is enabling a broader range of new services, accompanied by emerging technologies such as Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT), Blockchain and Cybersecurity. These are driving the high demand for software in Europe and globally, and consequently the growing demand for more professionals in software services.

Led by DIGITALEUROPE, the ESSA unites leading Information and communications technology (ICT) representative bodies, software services employers, education and training providers from VET and higher education, qualifications regulatory bodies including national accreditation agencies, and a broad selection of stakeholders and social partners from across the industry. All partners will work together to ensure that the new Software Skills Strategy is driven by employers’ demand for software skills and combines VET education provision and work-based learning initiatives to implement fast-track upskilling and reskilling. The new strategy and VET solution are directly linked with recognised European instruments, tools and standards enabling skills and career development in general. In addition, new mechanisms will be included to ensure the continuous implementation across programme countries throughout four years of the project and beyond its completion.

New EU-wide VET solution to tackle software skills shortage

The growing demand for skilled specialists in software services cannot be fulfilled by the current education and training programmes. With a focus on advanced digital and ICT professional skills in the area of software services, the ESSA aims to develop innovative and comprehensive VET curriculum customised for various role and job profiles and underlying competences, knowledge and skills needed in the sector. An analysis of market and business needs will be conducted at the beginning of the project in order to prepare a concrete data-based foundation for the development and implementation of both the Software Skills Strategy and the VET programmes. In addition, recognised certifications that are transferable across the EU will be provided.

For a sustainable development beyond the end of the ESSA project, a long-term strategy will be developed for the ongoing expansion of the Alliance as well as the continuous improvements of the Software Skills Strategy and VET programmes. Additionally, a European Software Skills Community will be created to provide an online platform for expert reviews and exchange of ideas and best practices among the wide software sector and VET community, ensuring the EU-wide adoption and exploitation of the project’s outcomes.