Building and transforming skills for a digital world

8 September 2017

Preparing for a new digital world

The ongoing digitisation of society and business enables new ways of living, producing and consuming. Some speak of a Fourth Industrial Revolution as new technologies disrupt current business models and offer opportunities.

To remain competitive in this global digital market and to maintain our overall welfare, European industry is shaping and converting to this new digital society. This publication shows how companies are adapting and makes suggestions for policies fit for boosting much required “digital skills”.

Key messages

1. Lifelong learning is a prerequisite to ensure the workforce’s continuous employability in a digital world.

Digitisation opens the door towards numerous opportunities, even if the net impact of digitisation on the number of jobs is unclear: some jobs will disappear, new ones will appear, while others will transform.

2. Employers and employees together should define a new framework for using agile modes of co-operation for their mutual interest.

Digitisation adds a new dimension to human resource management: for some functions, employees become service providers connected on digital platforms. Flexible working arrangements, regardless of location and to some extent time, become the standard.

3. Companies need digital skills and launch initiatives to develop these new skills amongst the current and future workforce.

New techniques are deployed: MOOCs, tools to assess digital skills’ levels, leadership programmes, incentives for acquiring digital skills (e.g. digital passport), reverse mentoring, etc.

4. The educational system needs to fully embrace digital technologies and update teaching methodologies to prepare students for their digital future.

“Digital skills” should not be confused with “ICT skills”. Digital skills will be increasingly required for each and every occupation. This calls for the development of new fields of education (e.g. privacy engineering or data analytics), and an update of existing ones, such as engineering or marketing. The right attitude to succeed in a digital economy is to be agile in adapting, and entrepreneurial in acquiring skills.

5. Industry, schools and governments need to work together to identify the challenges and to make sure that Europe reaps the full benefits of digitisation.

Teaching digital skills in schools and institutions can be boosted by introducing inter-disciplinary modes of learning, new experimental formats embracing usergenerated content, or by stimulating embedded learning formats based on interaction between education institutions and business or other areas of society.