Europe’s tech talent shortage threatens EU digital and green transition, warn industry leaders

Tech leaders warn Europe is facing a looming tech skills crisis. Estimates suggest only 12 million skilled professionals may be available, falling far short of the EU’s ambition to employ 20 million ICT specialists by 2030.

Industry figures say urgent collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors are essential to tackle the skills gap; otherwise, Europe’s digital and green transformation may be severely hampered.

The World Economic Forum predicts that 70% of the next decade’s economic value will be driven by digitalisation. Failure to address Europe’s talent shortage could hinder the EU’s competitiveness in the global tech race while undermining sustainable growth.

Europe boasts numerous strengths. Its high-quality education systems produce top-tier STEM talent, with 43% of the world’s leading life sciences universities located on the continent – surpassing even the United States.

Collaborations between universities and industry have led to groundbreaking advancements, with cities like Berlin, Paris, Dublin, Stockholm, and Barcelona blossoming into vibrant tech hubs. Eastern Europe is also strategically positioning itself as a global hub for software engineering and tech talent.

Recent studies suggest Europe could emerge as a frontrunner in AI talent. Over the past decade, the continent has seen a tenfold increase in AI professionals, outpacing even the United States in resident, highly skilled AI experts.

However, Europe lags behind other advanced economies in AI specialisation, with China leading in the sheer number of AI specialists. Despite this, Europe boasts a higher proportion of research institutions actively engaged in AI development compared to both China and the US.

Building a robust talent ecosystem

“Digitalisation will play a vital role in global economic development. Sufficient ICT talent is crucial, if no special measures are taken, the target of 20 million will be unattainable,” said Jim Lu, President of the European Region and Senior Vice President of Huawei, in his opening speech at the European edition of the 2023-2024 Huawei ICT competition, in collaboration with UNESCO.

Huawei is working to facilitate the transition towards ‘Europe 4.0’ – a digitised European Union of the future where connections will be seamless. “Our aim is to help Europe achieve smart growth and build a better-connected Europe,” the company told Euractiv. Huawei continues to invest in access to quality education, digital infrastructure, improved digital skills, and a greater focus on STEM education.

Investing in young talent

Huawei collaborates with universities to transfer ICT knowledge and skills to young people. “We will continue to work with European partners to build a more digital Europe through talent cultivation, and we will continue to support young talent,” Lu told the audience.

Huawei aspires to bring digital solutions to every home and company in Europe with the long-term goal of realising a fully connected, intelligent world. The company has operated in Europe for 24 years and, according to Copenhagen Economics, it has injected €12.3 billion into the European economy and supported more than 140,000 jobs across the region.

Public-private sector collaboration

Huawei believes effective collaboration with governments and NGOs is vital to tackle the ICT talent gap successfully.

Its strategic partnership with UNESCO exemplifies this. “The collaboration with Huawei exemplifies the role of the private sector,” said Soledad Patiño, Coordinator of the Global Skills Academy (GSA) at UNESCO. Huawei is committed to achieving SDG 4, transforming education, and promoting new education pathways.

Patiño stressed the importance of initiatives like the Huawei ICT Competition which help bridge the digital divide and empower individuals and communities in an increasingly digital landscape.

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