Within the framework of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), the scoreboard “Women in Digital” 2021 shows that there is still a gender gap in specialised digital skills. Only about 19 % of ICT specialists and one third of graduates in STEM professions in Europe are women. With its practice-oriented training, Digital pioneers provides the opportunity to get to know digital and technical occupational fields more closely.

Background and main activities

Within the European Union only one out of three graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are women. So does Austria also show significant gender differences in the focus range of STEM. The share of women in the focus range of STEM has increased very slowly over the past 20 years and still amounts to less than a quarter of all students.

Digital Pioneers, in cooperation with its partner companies, offers women interested in STEM professions the opportunity to complete a digital year. This is a funded apprenticeship and paid internship so that women can earn a better understanding of professions of the future within industry and gain valuable skills and experience.

In an 8-week basic training, young women acquire skills needed for a successful start in jobs with a high amount of digital content. Afterwards, they work on projects in a partner company for at least eight months so that they can apply in practice what they have learned and at the same time get to know industrial digital jobs. Graduates from the Digital Pioneers Programme receive a national diploma from the respective partner company and the educational institution (e.g. Digital Campus Vorarlberg, BFI Upper Austria, BFI Tyrol) after successfully presenting their final project.

The offer is aimed at women aged 17 to 27 as well as companies that would like to participate as a partner and offer internships.

Why is this a good practice: comprehensive, practice-oriented and business-promoting

The Digital Pioneers Programme is a comprehensive training that includes theory and practice. Due to low entry barriers, every woman between 17 and 27 years of age can apply for a traineeship irrespective of prior education, skills and activities. Companies also benefit from the female trainees.

Through the eight-week basic training that the participants have to complete, they start their internship in the respective partner companies with a defined basic knowledge. During the training, the participants gain a deep insight into technical and digital professions with the aim of considering STEM professions as a future career path. Thus, the programme counteracts the shortage of skilled workers and contributes to closing the gender gap in the STEM sector.