On 6 December 2016, the European Commission will launch the ‘European IT Professionalism Framework’ during a special conference in Brussels; an approach which Europe’s governing body believes will support the advancement of digital and ICT skills of the continent’s’ workforce. Over the past 15 months the European Commission has been working together with partners Capgemini Consulting, EY and IDC to lay the foundation for the approach, as well as prepare for the implementation phase. Consultancy.uk spoke with Niels van der Linden, the lead consultant from Capgemini Consulting, to understand more about what makes the initiative so important and what ordinary citizens can expect from its roll out.
The European Commission warns that Europe is facing a serious gap and mismatch of digital skills, which is negatively impacting the growth, competitiveness and drive for innovation on the continent. However, wherever we look, digital is at the forefront of agendas. Is the issue really as pressing as the EC says it is?
The issue is pressing; many stakeholders in industry, education and government around the globe are aware of this. Our 2013 report (‘The Digital Talent Gap by Capgemini Consulting’) revealed that over 80% of enterprises realise that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity, but over 90% lack digital skills.
Europe, and countries around the world, are facing severe shortages of IT professionals. And as technology is pervasive in every area of work and life, the demand will not cease. On the contrary. Digital is the new norm, and so professionals are needed to design and apply technology. In a broader sense digital affects every job; it is radically changing labour markets.
With the greater opportunities technology offers, also comes a larger responsibility. Continuous development of knowledge, skills and competences is vitally important to reach these goals. Professionalism is absolutely fundamental to the effective practice of IT. The technology profession is relatively young and maturing the profession will undoubtedly take time, but the time for engagement and action is now. For Europe to remain competitive, it is paramount to increase the digital talent pool, and to ensure the IT profession can further mature.
To support fixing the problem the EC developed the so-called ‘European IT Professionalism Framework’ initiative. Could you tell us a bit more about the programme itself and the ambitions?
The project was initiated by the EC under their Skills Agenda. The Framework is a major milestone towards growing the maturity of the IT profession. It helps employers in providing a common language for describing competences, skills, knowledge and thus for professional development of IT professionals across Europe (and potentially beyond), while stimulating the mobility of employees and offering them tools to develop their careers. The benefits to organisations and society include practitioners having an adequate level of knowledge, providing a higher level of products and services, and abiding by professional standards and codes of ethics.
Our ambition was to not only focus on the development of the Framework itself, but also to engage countries and organisations to start using it. We are very pleased with the support and collaboration of many stakeholders across Europe contributing to deliver this ambition. We started implementation in three countries (and more are interested) and initiated some pan-EU activities, for instance the development of Ethical Guidelines.
At the heart of the initiative stands the development of a framework for IT Professionals. What are the main building blocks and competencies of the methodology?
Standardising is a means to further mature a profession. This is also the direction that the European Commission and stakeholders are following: the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) has become a standard recently and the ambition is to do more. A standard that includes not only competences, but also other essentials for any IT professional: knowledge, ethics, and education and certification.
The European Framework for the IT Profession is designed to be more than the sum of its parts. The Framework is based on four building blocks that are essential to mature the IT profession: Bodies of Knowledge, Competences (e-CF), Education, Training & Certification, and Professional Ethics. The main strength of the proposed framework is the combination of stable components with a high degree of flexibility allowing to adapt to rapid IT changes and emerging market requirements. In our research endeavours with the EC we showcase examples of how these building blocks establish synergies for both the IT practitioners as well as for the many users in Education, Government, Professional Associations, Certification providers and Employers.
There are various building blocks available for stakeholders to benefit from.
The initiative kicked off in September 2015 with Capgemini Consulting, EY and IDC as the programme’s main partners. What is exactly the role of Capgemini Consulting?
We are the lead contractor for this European Commission project. With our partners we aim to deliver on the high expectations set at the beginning. This project matters, also for ourselves: as a company we also recruit, deploy, train and develop IT professionals. Our key challenge was to engage a large community of stakeholders and to involve them in the process of developing this Framework, and eventually in the implementation. We are very pleased with the huge commitment demonstrated by many across Europe and also in other parts of the world (through knowledge exchanges with parties in, among others, Japan, the US, Canada).
Looking ahead, the Framework aims at helping IT professionals progress their skills during their career. How are they going to find out about the methodology? And building on the insights from the framework, what tools and support can they expects to facilitate the advancement of their skills?
The European IT Professionalism Framework is user-centric and intended as a guide to orient and support IT practitioners in each stage of their career path. Use cases are elaborated for: ‘preparing to enter the IT profession’, ‘starting a career in IT’, ‘changing a career’, and ‘developing a career’. Each use case describes the challenges encountered in these stages of a career and how the Framework instruments could help.
There are evident values for IT professionals that this framework contributes to:
- International recognition of IT Competences and Knowledge, which enhances both credibility as well as mobility of professionals. The e-CF is recognised as a standard for e-Competences and increasingly used across (and even outside of) Europe. The Foundational IT Body of Knowledge has not yet obtained that status. However, both contribute to providing a common, universal ‘language’ when talking about IT professionals. It presents references for certifications and thus allows professionals to ‘prove’ their professionalism. Job matching tools based on this reference framework will also make it easier for professionals to match on vacancies in other countries.
- Improved clarity over IT career paths and competence requirements. The framework offers the opportunity to professionals to shape a path in various stages of a career; either through advancing to a next proficiency level within an area of expertise or by switching to another closely related area of expertise.
- Improved public perception of IT professionals. Suitable standards of competences and knowledge and behaviour, as defined by professional bodies, will lead to higher levels of professionalism, and consequently to improved perception about the profession in general.
- Improved understanding of IT for IT-using professionals. Besides mere digital user skills, the e-Competences and knowledge areas also apply in jobs that are not core-IT, but do involve a significant IT element. It can serve as reference to identify sectorial-specific IT-competences and skills.
And finally, all these values strengthen the pride IT professionals take in their jobs and the work they do.
And lastly, implementation is stated to kick off in Spain, Ireland and Italy next year. How does the remainder of the plan look like?
We are organising a major European conference on 6 December 2016 (the ‘IT Professionalism Conference in Brussels’). The conference will share results and discuss the most relevant developments in order to support national policy makers, business leaders and academics to initiate appropriate policy. Various leading speakers, including experts from across the globe, will share their thoughts on the most important developments related to the IT profession. The full programme with details about the speakers is available on the website as well.
Of course, after the conference, the promotion to increase the adoption of the framework will continue. Countries that have started implementation will further work on their roadmaps. Other countries and organisations will hopefully join to further scale up activities. In the long-term, the European Commission aims for recognition of the Framework as a standard that is used by all European countries and their institutions, education providers and industry.