Ideathon: Skills Lab Network

The digital revolution: Building a digitally-skilled workforce

On 9 October 2023, the European Training Foundation (ETF) hosted its third Year of Skills ideathon, as part of an ETF’s Skills Lab Network event. Researchers, strategists and other key stakeholders working in the field of education and training came together in this interactive brainstorming session to share their vision of the future of digital skills education.

Set in the context of the European Year of Skills, this event provided a unique opportunity to capture participants’ ideas on how digital education should evolve if it is to equip individuals with the skills needed in an increasingly digital world. In an introductory video, Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, highlighted how a complete change of mindset regarding skills and training was needed.

“It is urgent that we work together to come up with inspiring ideas about how to learn the skills we need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.” 

The ETF’s Daria Santucci opened the ideathon by asking participants to discuss and identify effective and inclusive digital educational initiatives needed to build digitally-skilled workforces. She also asked about the current developments and future priorities. Coming from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Ukraine, the ideathon participants formed a regionally diverse and gender-balanced group who engaged in a dynamic exchange of experiences and ideas. 

All participants acknowledged that while progress in digital skills education had been made in their countries, absolute priority needed to be given to ensuring access to essential digital resources, equipment and infrastructure for all learners. Thinking more strategically and identifying the learning objectives of different learner groups was considered critical if future national strategies were to address the current gaps in digital skills delivery. Introducing various approaches to digitalising learning content, such as gamification and coding, was considered an effective way to target different learner groups.

Developing curricula with a greater emphasis on teamwork, problem-solving and soft skills was considered vital to equip younger learners with the skills needed to face the unprecedented environmental and technological challenges that lay ahead. Using online tools, such as the EU’s Very Verified, was judged helpful for teaching critical thinking skills to digital and social media users of all ages. The group agreed that collaboration between educational stakeholders, including employers, should be more formalised to support the development of high-quality and relevant curricula and learning programmes. To maximise the impact of such updated curricula, the regular implementation of professional teacher development programmes was seen as an area of equal priority. Producing targeted publications explaining what digital skills are and how they can be taught was also suggested as an important go-to resource for teachers and trainers.

Addressing the issue of equality and inclusiveness of digital skills training, the group dedicated particular attention to the current underrepresentation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Given that STEM careers are often considered to be the jobs of the future, supporting innovation, social wellbeing and sustainable development, the group suggested a strategy of targeted financial support could help address this gender imbalance in their countries.

In closing the ideathon, Santucci said:

“Listening to your experiences reinforces the idea that digital literacy is key in supporting the transition to greener and more inclusive societies. The ETF will continue working with institutions to ensure innovations in the design and implementation of lifelong learning programmes support the digital revolution.”

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.