Speech by Executive Vice-President Vestager at the press conference on digital education and skills

Today we adopt two proposals for Council recommendations. A first recommendation which sets out our ambition and roadmap to improve the provision of digital skills across Europe. And a second recommendation on the key enablers for effective education and training systems, which will help turn this ambition into reality. Along with these recommendations, we also launch the very first pilot of a European digital skills certificate. 

Over the past years this Commission has adopted several proposals to regulate the digital world. Together they look at all aspects of technology. From the materials needed in the manufacturing of technologies, to the quality and safety of users' online shopping, messaging, or social networking.

But none of this will work without skills.

This said, Europe has some work to do when it comes to digital skills.

Overall, only half of Europeans have basic digital skills. Almost three in four businesses say they don't find employees with enough digital skills. Which means these businesses cannot invest and grow. We do not have enough digital specialists, and only one in six of them is a woman. We also need digital skills to achieve important societal goals – from the green transition to improving our health-care systems.

In the Digital Compass, we have set ourselves the target that, by 2030, at least 80% of all adults should have basic digital skills. And we should have 20 million new ICT specialists, including a lot more women.

We have made digital skills a priority under a number of legislations. And under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Member States plan to invest 26 billion euros in digital skills.

We have the targets, we have the political will, we have the funding: now we need to turn our ambition into practical results.

Both recommendations provide guidance for Member States and the Commission to drastically expand people's ability to learn new - or deepen existing - digital skills.

Overall, we need to break down the barriers which today limit the acquisition of digital skills. This concerns three barriers in particular: barriers between sectors, barriers between stages of life and barriers between Member States.

Let's start with sectors.

Today there is a mismatch between what people are able to do in terms of digital skills, and what they are required to do. Be it on their current job or in a future job. To address this mismatch, we need people to be able to use digital technologies across all sectors of the economy.

 Member States are recommended to open-up their approach to digital skills:

  • By making digital skills a whole-of-government effort, instead of individual ministries' competence;
  • By promoting cross-curricular approaches across all levels of education. That means we should have digital skills integrated in all subjects, as well as separate subject of its own;
  • And by putting together everyone who can play a role to help people acquire digital skills. Teachers and businesses, parents and families.

Second – we need to break down barriers between different stages of life.

When it comes to digital skills, education should start early, and it should carry-on throughout life. Digital education should be structured from early childhood education, all the way through primary, secondary and vocational training, up until higher education and adult learning.

With different stages of life, we're also looking at different levels of digital skills. Both basic and advanced. Member States should enable regular internet users to safely navigate online, as well as train top-notch specialists in deep tech or Artificial Intelligence. Each country should run detailed analysis of its current workforce to identify the main digital skills gaps, and deliver specific training opportunities that match these gaps.

Third – we need to break down barriers between Member States.          

There are huge disparities across Europe when it comes to digital skills. This means that we have a lot to learn from each other.

It will be the Commission's role to facilitate peer-to-peer exchange and disseminate good practices among Member States. We have one place for this: the High Level Group on Education and Training. This group was instrumental to lay the groundwork of these two recommendations. It is important to see its future role secured in our proposals today.

Breaking barriers between Member States is also the purpose of the first European Digital Skills Certificate, which we will pilot in cooperation with Member States. This certificate should enable every European citizen to indicate their level of digital skills to employers, in a reliable and transparent way, anywhere across Europe.

To wrap-up, we want to make Europe a place where people can realise their lifelong learning opportunities. A place where talents stay and continuously develop.  A place where we are all able to keep up with technology and to make sure it is used to enrich our society.