The EU is to launch a common certification scheme for IT professionals across the Union.

Friday 8 March 2013

IT contractors will soon find it easier to do business overseas, as the European Union has announced a pan-EU certification scheme to recognise IT skills.

Although none of the details have been set out yet, the scheme will ensure that IT professionals will be recognised for their skills across all 27 member states, simplifying recruitment and ensuring consistently high standards.

Announced as part of the ‘grand coalition’ intended to fight a massive shortage of computer skills on the continent, certification is one of a range of measures being employed by European authorities.

Running from this year until 2015 in the first instance the coalition will also provide advice and investment enabling IT workers to move to areas of high demand.

Major technical and digital employers have already committed to expand their training programmes to increase access to IT education, while governments will be running awareness campaigns introducing students and early-career professionals to the numerous digital careers open to them.

Web entrepreneurs will also benefit from Startup Europe, a new online one-stop shop containing a wide range of support tools for those developing their own internet businesses.

Since youth unemployment is currently one of the most severe concerns across almost every member state, skill-matching practices and additional training options will also feature, as the coalition tries to siphon many younger jobless people into an industry which is a long way from full capacity.

Data published in the past few months has indicated that up to 900,000 IT vacancies will be unfilled around the EU by 2015. Almost all member states are in the same predicament. A report from E-skills in February forecast that 129,000 new recruits would be needed each year in the UK alone until 2020, as digital technology both in the workplace and the home lead to unprecedented levels of demand.

Neelie Kroes, digital agenda commissioner at the European Commission, announced that €1 million (£860,000) had gone into the coalition, since the obvious skills gap in technological industries continued to damage Europe’s ability to compete with other markets.

Currently the presidency of the EU council is held by the Republic of Ireland. Richard Bruton, Irish minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation and current chair of the council of employment ministers, said that his nation had already been looking closely at many of the plans laid out by the grand coalition.

Under its action plan to boost employment, Ireland intends to become a hotspot for technological industry, with a higher percentage of its graduates in computer-based subjects than any other European nation.

Mr Bruton said that major technology employers such as Google, Microsoft, HP, SAP and Cisco Systems were among those who would drive the scheme alongside the Commission, demonstrating the work-focused approach being taken by EU officials.

Although many IT careers would require university degrees, he claimed, some skills could be acquired by retraining and further education, which would in turn allow unemployed, younger or unskilled workers to seek opportunities in the same sector.

Increased flexibility to use their expertise wherever demand arises across Europe will mean that contractors have a much wider range of opportunities to exploit.

By Victoria McDonnell

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