The skills mismatch: The digital skills employers are looking for

21 Mar 2018 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

Ms Susana Puerto, senior youth employment specialist with the International Labour Organization (ILO), stated the agenda of the session: the role of the private sector in promoting digital skills for youth and understanding what skills the private sector is demanding today. When employers talk about the level of unemployment among young specialists they often mean skills mismatch and lack of technical skills. Also it is important to discuss how ‘digital skills will transform into sustainable opportunities and meaningful exposure for the young specialists’.

Mr Yushi Torigoe, deputy director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecommunication Development Bureau, gave the opening remarks. He asked how we can support young people in the great challenge today – the youth unemployment crisis?  There are 66 million of them currently unemployed, however there will be hundreds of jobs for people with advanced digital skills in several years. Digital skills are not only in demand, they are a link to higher payment. Torigoe stressed that while young people are often considered digital natives, most of them do not possess necessary digital skills. He went on to mention the ‘Digital Skills for Decent Jobs for Youth’ initiative launched by the ITU and the ILO last year. The aim was to bring training to 5 million people worldwide by 2030. Torigoe welcomed all stakeholders who came up and got involved in the project. Finally he announced that the ITU will soon be launching the Digital Skills Toolkit. It will provide updated guidance for both ITU members and the community on how to ensure young people are able to develop job-ready digital skills.

The moderator asked Ms Miho Naganuma, manager at the Regulatory Research Office, NEC Corporation, about the demand for cybersecurity experts and their skills. Naganuma started by explaining the phases of the cybersecurity process that assume specific technical skills: ‘we need a specialist as a consultant, a coordinator, an architect, an incident handler, or a security analyst who can understand the situations in each phase and provide a solution’. She also encouraged the practice of promoting exchanges among organisations to know each other’s experiences.  This includes internships for universities and private companies so that young students can seek the rewards at a very early stage, and also for the skilled specialists to extend their knowledge. Finally, Naganuma highlighted the importance of top management understanding cybersecurity: ‘Once an incident happens, all eyes will be focused on the top management actions to recover from the incident and also minimise the business impacts’, so there is a strong demand for skilled people who can coordinate IT and the top management side together.

The floor was passed to Mr Pierre Mirlesse, vice president of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He shared the statistic that the world literacy rate was estimated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at 80% in 2015. This means basic skills like reading, writing, and counting. Digital skills could accelerate their acquisition with e-learning, but it should not mean new curriculums to accelerate basic skills, it should be more about digital. Despite the fourth industrial revolution that is changing the job markets, we really have to think about digital skills that apply in the context of a country.  Countries are now developing curriculums that address the newly emerged technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), edge computers; in other words, they should look at megatrends in technology and in employment too. Jobs are changing from life-time to short time, demanding new skills from employees to be competitive: ‘we need to learn how to learn, constantly update our knowledge’. Mirlesse stressed it is our responsibility to start self-learning and not wait for the public sector to provide new curriculums.

Puerto asked Mr Joakim Slorstad, senior vice president, Learning & Development, Telenor Group, to share Telenor’s experience in identifying competency gaps and what steps the company takes to fill them. Slorstad said they made a thorough mapping of what skills the company will need in the future; they are investing heavily in different ways to develop them. Telenor identified 60 roles that are changing dramatically. The main areas are customer-facing roles, use of analytics for providing services, digital tools for marketing, and creation of products based on real customer needs. The remedy is to search for talents – either recruit new people or ‘upscale the current workforce by creating the culture for learning new careers’. Slorstad mentioned the internal 12 month ‘expert journeys’ for this purpose. Finally, he talked about collaboration with academia. Telenor works closely with top universities in the countries it operates in to develop competencies, establish labs for the IoT and AI. Also, the company supports basic digital education for children on Internet safety.

The last speaker, Ms Elizabeth Thomas-Raynaud, senior policy executive, Digital Economy, and BASIS project director at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), talked about skills that are not related to information and communication technology (ICT) but which will contribute to the digital economy.  Firstly, she raised the issue of digital literacy – a sort of holistic set of knowledge and skills that allow users and organisations to fully capture the potential of digital technology. The ICC believes that national governments can enhance digital literacy by implementing special programmes and the ICC is willing to support such initiatives. Further she reiterated that life-long learning is essential for all people, not just for the young.  ‘It’s increasingly important not to gridlock people into predefined jobs but to create work environments that help them to excel.  It’s important for people to have a driver for constant life-learning.’ Thomas-Raynaud emphasised that digital skills should not be confused with ICT skills.  The fundamentals of non-ICT skills include critical thinking, teamwork, interpersonal skills, intercultural skills, and willingness to acquire new skills. These will help to deal with the interplay between the digital sphere and traditional areas of knowledge. Ultimately, she advised not to ‘freeze from fear of technology’ and called for proactive action to help people gain the skills and the confidence to navigate the changes; to help them to become ‘a part of the solution, part of what will make our societies more inclusive and more sustainable’.


By Ilona Stadnik