• » The skills shortage threatening to derail Europe’s hopes of recover

    Economic competitiveness and prosperity could be undermined unless gap in qualifications is addressed 


    Despite record youth unemployment levels throughout much of the continent, several major firms operating in Europe still claim they are facing a massive skills shortage that threatens to undermine its competitiveness and stymie economic recovery.

    The ICT sector is where the most pain is being felt with a Europe-wide shortfall of 700,000 professionals by 2015 predicted.

    In April, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, heralded a “Grand Coalition for ICT skills” that will invest €4.5 million in its first 12 months, with further funding promised. 

    The initiative will focus on raising awareness of the opportunities in the ICT field, including sub-sectors such as cyber security where the deficits are especially acute.

    The EU Commission also aims to tackle the problem by collecting commitments from companies, social partners and education players to provide new jobs, internships, training places, start-up funding and free online university courses. Companies such as Nokia, Telefónica, SAP, Cisco, HP, Alcatel-Lucent, Randstad, ENI and Telenor Group have pledged support.

    A report earlier this year from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) observed that the skills mismatch is actually worsening as a consequence of continued high levels of unemployment. 

    The new jobs becoming available often require competencies that the unemployed do not have, and these skills mismatches make the labour market react more slowly to any acceleration in economic activity. 

    Ed Boswell, US leader for people and change at PwC, who was in Dublin recently, says the global skills shortage presents an opportunity for Ireland if it can quickly rise to the challenge.

    He says that increasingly human resources directors will play a major part in strategic FDI decisions, adding that the HR profession needs to develop an enabling role rather than the supporting role that it traditionally played.

    “HR directors can play a huge role if they can articulate and use research to substantiate that Ireland has a highly educated workforce with the appropriate skills base and work ethic.”

    Boswell notes that in a local survey his own firm found that 33 per cent of Irish businesses say that talent constraints significantly impacted company performance and 55 per cent of Ireland’s HR leaders are experiencing skills shortages. These figures are broadly in line with the international experience, he says.

    Note: this is an edited version of a longer article, it focuses on the parts of the article dealing with ICT.  The full article is available on: