In the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), the 2021 ‘Women in Digital’ scoreboard shows that there are still gender gaps in specialised digital skills. Only around 19 % of ICT specialists and one third of STEM graduates in Europe are women. Digital frontrunners through work-based training provide an opportunity to better understand the digital and technical fields of the profession.

Background and main activities

In the European Union, women are only one in three graduates of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Austria also shows significant differences between women and men in STEM subjects. The proportion of women in STEM subjects has increased very slowly over the past 20 years, still accounting for less than a quarter of all students.

Digital pioneers, in cooperation with its partner companies, offers women interested in STEM jobs the opportunity to complete the Digital Year. These are funded apprenticeships and paid traineeships that enable women to better understand the industrial professions of the future and to acquire valuable skills and experience.

As part of the eight-week basic training, young women acquire the skills needed to successfully take up a job with a high amount of digital content. They then work on projects in a partner company for at least eight months to be able to apply for what they have learned in practice, while at the same time discovering industrial digital jobs. Digital pioneers graduates receive a national diploma from the relevant partner company and educational institution (e.g.: Digital Campus Vorarlberg, BFI Upper Austria, BFI Tyrol) after having successfully presented their final project.

The offer is open to women aged 17 to 27, as well as to companies who would like to engage as partners and offer traineeships.

Why this is a good practice: comprehensive, practice-based and business support

Digital pioneers is a comprehensive training that includes theory and practice. Due to low entry barriers, every woman aged between 17 and 27 can apply for a traineeship regardless of previous education, skills and activities. Businesses also benefit from female trainees.

Through the eight-week basic training that participants are required to undertake, they will start a traineeship in relevant partner companies with defined basic knowledge. During the training, participants will get an in-depth overview of technical and digital professions in order to consider STEM as a future career. The programme thus combats skills shortages and contributes to closing the gender gap in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector.

⚠ disclaimer: The text has been automatically translated from the European platform Digital Skills and Jobs. If you have found errors in the text, please contact