European Skills Agenda & Meaningful work for the digital professional: what are the skills needed for successful green and digital transitions?

Global and EU experts discussed the skills needed for a successful dual green and digital transition during a joint ACCA-EY session of the European Vocational Skills Week

The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the importance of having the right skills for strategic sectors to perform and for individuals to navigate through life and their careers. It has accentuated the need of digital skills in many aspects of people's daily lives and for business continuity. As Europe and the world are navigating their path to a hopefully more sustainable and greener recovery, the need to improve and adapt skills has become more important than ever. 

This issue was at the heart of a lively expert discussion on European Skills Agenda & Meaningful work for the digital professional- what are the skills needed for successful green and digital transitions?  organised by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and EY as part of the European Vocational Skills week.

Experts from the OECD, the European Commission, the European Parliament, SMEunited, JA Europe and the accountancy profession confirmed that the need for Green & Digital skills are increasing and will be key for Europe to successfully benefit from the green & digital transition in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The European Skills Agenda is built around 12 flagship actions and over 50 actions, and all of them support this shift. Technical skills are in high demand but other skills (leadership, communication, soft skills, …) are becoming increasingly important as organisations are getting more mature in their digital and green transformation.

Alicia Homs Ginel, MEP, said: ‘We are today at a defining moment, with the economy and labour market addressing unprecedented challenges. As unemployment figures rise, we need to expand social protection and to reinforce investment in education, especially in high quality digital financial literacy education.'

It was stressed that the skills needed are not just specialist skills but ones  that help with social mobility, enabling people to progress in their lives and careers.The OECD Skills for Jobs database provides a picture of skills needs (skills in surplus v. skills needed) and allows tracking changes over time. The responses from over 160 participants at the online conference to a polling question revealed that policy and decision makers need to focus on the groups at high risk of being left behind, notably those with low skills, in jobs at high risk of automation and with limited opportunities for retraining.

‘According to the European Commission, around 30% EU jobs will disappear and be replaced by jobs that require advanced digital skills. However, levels of digital proficiency have different inequality aspects that need to be addressed, and anticipating skills for the labour market is key. The younger generations will not develop adequate skills without access to digital infrastructure and the  gender gap in digital qualifications needs to be addressed. We need to strengthen the role of Lifelong Learning and Vocational Training and highlight the responsibility of companies to upskill and reskill workers. Studies show that transversal  skills play a crucial role in the labour market – critical thinking or problem solving’, Alicia Homs Ginel, MEP added.

Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of Business Insights at ACCA and co-author of the joint ACCA-EY report Meaningful work for the digital professional, said: ‘Our report shows that new ways of working will accelerate a move towards digitisation and promote careers that are intellectually stretching and driven by a renewed sense of purpose. Businesses also need to rethink work and life balance. As labour force is decreasing in many parts of the world, human skills such as leadership and vision, commercial and business skills, emotional intelligence and team working abilities, are becoming increasingly important. The digital and green conversation goes way beyond finance professionals. It is important to think of engaging with the rest of society in order to develop an integrated view on skills in the broader society.'

Speakers also highlighted the need to reduce the skills mismatch and improve the measurement of skills shortages and surpluses. Speakers also recommended the need to accelerate training and education through online learning and find new forms of learning environments. These responsibilities should be shared across the whole eco-system from schools, universities, businesses, NGOs, etc.  and this has to be a common effort from all, policy and decision makers and stakeholders, to keep the future digital and green skills high on the agenda.

Jeanne Boillet, EY Global Account Committee – Assurance Lead, concluded: 'For Europe to succeed, fundamental changes are also needed. We must accelerate and succeed in the green and digital transitions, if we want to ensure a pathway to employment beyond this unprecedented crisis for every generation across Europe, particularly the youth. Europe as a base for talent and expertise is faced with increased competition from across the globe, as a result of the talent market becoming increasingly global and a radical change in perception of where the best skills are. The European Skills Agenda published in July is a positive step forward that sets ambitious, quantitative objectives for the next five years. It is now our common responsibility to turn it into reality.'

The recording of the event is available here.

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E: cecile.bonino-liti@accaglobal.com; M: +32 (0) 493 29 17 66 Twitter: @ACCAViews

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"Our report shows that new ways of working will accelerate a move towards digitisation and promote careers that are intellectually stretching and driven by a renewed sense of purpose. "

Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of Business Insights - ACCA

"We need to strengthen the role of Lifelong Learning and Vocational Training and highlight the responsibility of companies to upskill and reskill workers. Studies show that transversal skills play a crucial role in the labour market – critical thinking or problem solving."

Alicia Homs Ginel, MEP

"We must accelerate and succeed in the green and digital transitions, if we want to ensure a pathway to employment beyond this unprecedented crisis for every generation across Europe, particularly the youth. "

Jeanne Boillet, Global Account Committee - EY