Meeting the Digital Skills Challenges for the Future

Publication Date: Jul 09, 2018
Meeting the Digital Skills Challenges for the Future
Article by Carm Cachia, published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 8th July 2018

Currently, Malta is ranked 12th in the 2018 European Digital Economy and Social Skills Index (DESI).  This is a measurement carried out annually by the EU on all member states to track the evolution of digital competitiveness.  Malta has improved in most aspects in the index except in the number of STEM graduates. Although we are better than 17 other countries we should always keep asking ourselves whether we are doing enough. The eSkills Malta Foundation keeps striving to bring together and collaborate with all stakeholders to raise a bar in initiatives to improve Digital Skills in Malta.  The following are international some best practices that the Foundation encourages stakeholders to work on, whether these are NGOs, businesses, organisations, or indeed government entities. In some of them Malta is doing well, but in others we are weak.

  1. Demystify digital technology and inspire the younger generation. Through the early stages, we must engage children in digital skills that can teach them how to use technology in the course of their lives.  At the same time improve their understanding of the digital careers.

  2. Make technology fun to use in the classroom, connecting STEM and arts, connecting technology to all subjects.  Keeping in mind the gender imbalance and bias in technology indicates that we need to step up on this issue. Digital Skills must also be harnessed to empower children with special needs.

  3. Inspire girls to follow digital subjects and careers. Currently, the EU has stepped up its support on the gender issue because, in the end, it will solve most of the problems in improving the digital sector in both quantity and quality. We must seek more Women role models for the digital sector, collaborate with businesses for women in digital at all levels and not just graduates. Understanding better why girls do not pursue STEM subjects is key.

  4. Increase the awareness of the digital skills needs in all sectors.  The world economy has arrived at another cycle of major change which will transform many jobs. Workers must be aware that digital skills are not just for geeks. Those workers that do not tune themselves to use technology will lose their jobs. Industry must encourage more training, and start from schools to use digital skills in all non-STEM subject will stir a change for the future, and then create a culture of lifelong, self-run learning, making use of the vast and already existing free online learning resources.

  5. Schools should be well equipped to teach and use digital technology, supporting non-ICT teachers with training on basic digital skills, upskilling ICT teachers for in computer science and ICT subjects, encourage the subjects of computational thinking and coding for all, and create Industry shadowing programmes for teachers.

  6. Encourage the use and recognition of apprenticeships in the digital sector and set a national target, making it easier for organisations to support apprenticeships, and if possible award them with fiscal incentives to boost apprenticeships.

  7. Create new routes to enter for careers in ICT. We will not have enough people to cater to the needs of the digital sector and this makes it an essential element in our country. 

  8. Campaigning Malta internationally as the ideal place to seek a career in ICT will also help in coming up with more numbers.

  9. Through creative programmes, encourage and award volunteers who work hard to increase digital skills for the society and industry.  These are usually small NGOs working on shoe-string budgets, carrying out their work without giving importance in making money.

All countries in the world know well that to succeed in industrial competition and the well-being of society they must become a digital nation. All countries in the EU are gearing up to give the best possible digital skills or computer science education to the students, teachers, employers and their workforces, and the citizen. This creates a need for all stakeholders to work harder to have a digital society for the future.