back to article Steely Neelie: EU is crippled by its clueless tech-ignorant workforce

Half of Europe's workforce is too tech-challenged to fill all the extra ICT jobs that will be knocking around in the next few years, the European Commission has said. Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2012 The EC's Digital Agenda crew released its scoreboard of how well the continent is doing on figuring out the interwebs today and …

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"It said it was chuffed"

They should have gone further!

Though to give them their due, people slate the EU, but they have their useful moments.

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Meh

Software Crisis, restated?

Isn't this simply another restatement of what we understand to be the "Software Crisis"? It's been getting on for fifty years since it was first realised there will never be enough skilled people to work in all aspects of IT. Nothing new under the sun...

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Cut your coat according to your cloth

if there's a mismatch between the technical skills of an entire continent and the IT goals of a bunch of policymakers, my money would be on the goals being wrong.

If there really will be 700,000 ICT vacancies (a subtle but important distinction from IT vacancies, I'd guess the ICT element includes telesales agents - and I have to say I'm glad there's a shortage of them) the simple laws of supply and demand would require that the gap can be filled by raising the pay offered, until enough people retrain to fill them. What the report probably means is there will be a shortage of ICT staff who are willing to work for the pittance on offer.

Maybe the solution is to get rid of the bean counters who couldn't foresee such a massive shortfall when making their dreams plans and replace them with a bunch who base their strategy for the future on solid reality. There should be no difficulty in performing this substitution as sadly, there is never a shortage of administrators.

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Is it just me, or is the chart in this article distinctly baffling?

The left-hand is a set of targets, but the on right-hand side there is a time-series. Each bar seems to be intended to look like some kind of network patch cable. Some, but not all, have a percentage on the connector, and most, but not all, have a coloured L-shaped stripe coming out of the right-hand end, followed by another percentage on a black rectangle.

The legend seems to imply that the connector shows a percentage for 2009, and the L-shape shows a 2011 figure. If so, is it really claiming that 50% of households had Broadband better than 30Mb/s by 2011?

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It's not baffling

It's just that no one here has the ICT skills to understand it.

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I'd assume that 50% figure would better translate as number of broadband subscribers who have access to 30Mbps or higher (after all, just because there's FTTC in your street, it doesn't necessarily mean you're automatically going to pay the huge price premium for the faster service).

Even when those speeds are generally available (including the laughable one about people having access to 100Mbps - not even the current generation of FTTC can achieve half that speed...), chances are you probably won't be able to achieve them due to a myriad of factors such as contention ratios, caps, thresholds, limits, traffic shaping...

They're what really irk me - ISPs who deliberately throttle your connection and only allow you to exploit anywhere near the capacity of your line if you pay them an extra £10+ a month: PlusNet gives you a mere 10GB/month allowance, you have to pay extra to upgrade it to 60GB/month, then extra again if you want to achieve upload speeds greater than 0.5Mbps (which mean uploading a 2 minute YouTube video takes the best part of 2 hours - and viewers wonder why some people still upload stuff at 240p...)

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Facepalm

"Half of Europe's workforce is too tech-challenged"

Seems to be quite good going compared to the EU where all the workforce is too tech-challenged. See cookie law.

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"...43 per cent of the population have medium or high internet skills – meaning they can make a phone call online or create a web page..."

Trouble is, even that figure is vastly inflated by those who think they can create a web page because they can use some brain-dead hosting company tool which lets them choose from a few templates and set their own colours.

The trouble is, we still live in a society where it's seen as more 'cool' to be able to kick a ball or mime to an auto-tuned song than to understand the technology that makes our world function. A damn sight better paid, too.

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"...43 per cent of the population have medium or high internet skills – meaning they can make a phone call online or create a web page..."

This is a weird statistic because the range is ridiculously wide. A bit like saying "43 per cent of the population have medium or high navigation skills – meaning they can find their way to the shops or sail across the Atlantic".

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Anonymous Coward

that's 30yrs down the drain then

Fook me, I can't create a web page. One more to add to the endless list of apparently essential skills that I don't have. I now has a sad.

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Anonymous Coward

Last time I looked

It was the other way around. There were hundreds of skilled IT works for every job out there. Otherwise why were all the people that I knew that were out of work having trouble?

The closest to the truth might be the comment above about there not being enough people out there to work for a pittance.

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Devil

Re: Last time I looked

On the flipside if you do have real skills on your CV don't bother applying for an ICT vacancy even if you need the money. Employers in general will not touch you with a bargepole, not for being 'over qualified' but rather the fact you may pose a real risk to network security.

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Re: Last time I looked

Yes, the jobs normally go

Step 1. Advertise for role

Java developer required (add long list of java stuff that most of the time wont ever be used) willing to pay about 50% of the going rate and you will need to leave your existing secure job to come and work for my company. They also like to have junior developers with at least 25 years experience (so that I can use your experience and pay you even less than what you actually expect. Please dont apply for this role unless you are a 100% match.

Stage 2. Outsource.

The ICT needs of a company need to be planned for the long term not just the current project.

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Devil

Re: Last time I looked

That scenario is also applicable to industry generally above the level of general labourer:-ie WANTED

skilled pipe fitter must have twenty years experience,but if anyone with that level of experience were to apply they would be told that they were over qualified.

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Mushroom

Heard it before.

We want <blah> but aren't prepared to pay for it.

We will however overpay for pointless unskilled layer upon layer of management though - such as me.

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WTF?

Whatever

These reports are a complete waste of time.

700k jobs? What kind? IT covers a LOT of ground. Are we talking programmers, db admins or simply people that know how to move a mouse?

"feelings" about whether the people think they are skilled enough is immaterial. What jobs do the companies in question think they need to fill?

In short, someone spent a lot of money saying that a bunch of "tech" jobs need to be filled but failed to state what those jobs actually are. Which begs the question: what is this report supposed to do?

As an owner of a tech company I can say over the next 12 months I'm going to hire 10% programming staff, 70% sales and 20% "support". Where support means that I need someone that knows how to operate a browser and talk to people. All of those could be considered tech jobs: due to needing a basic understanding of computers, but 90% of those positions can be filled with simple on the job training.

Basically what I need are people who are of average intelligence and willing to learn something new. I suspect most "tech" jobs in the next decade will be similar. Heck take a company like Facebook. Most of their hires can also be considered techish. However I guaranty there isn't a college course that would prepare a graduate for the job they need to perform.

So, if I had one commandment to schools it would simply be: teach kids how to think through complex problems. Don't bother filling their heads with useless crap about how to save a document in word. Quite frankly a two year stint ought to cover that.

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Re: Whatever

"Quite frankly a two year stint ought to cover that"? Or would "Quite frankly a three or four year old ought to cover that" be better?

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Coat

Sigh...

All the things I can do and I just don't know how to create a web page yet - I guess that makes me a fail?

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Facepalm

I can haz web page?

I'm forced to wonder how many of those who apparently can create a web page actually mean that they used to have a Geocities account and once made some coloured text blink?

Next question. These 700,000 European vacancies. How many of 'em will actually be in Europe rather than India, The Ukraine, The Philippines.............? Ah! Thought so.

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Boffin

At one end we have and EU-wide shortage of people suitable for ICT jobs and at the other people with good IT qualifications and experience unable to get a job.

Explanations - however good the trained IT staff are, they're going to be undercut by firms in India. I understand the DM (and the union) is blaming the RBS foul-up on outsourcing to India.

A firm belief that IT staff should be seen in the same bracket as electricians and plumbers - only not as essential. They should not be paid as professionals, nor given the pensions or status which might go to accountants.

My pet drum:

I think that - as far as the UK is concerned - the problem is both simpler and much worse.

Study in 2010 found, "Around a fifth of pupils leave school functionally illiterate and functionally innumerate ... [T]his means people have “very basic competence in maths, mainly limited to arithmetical computations and some ability to comprehend and use other forms of mathematical information.

Levels of functional innumeracy are higher still among older age groups."

When big companies bemoan the lack of ICT staff, what they really mean is they want people who can read a computer screen and can see that £.5.34 + 20%VAT = £64,080 must be wrong - even if that IS what it says on the computer screen.

Something like 20-25% of the UK workforce don't understand what a percentage sign means and are thrown by a decimal point. The don't count as IT-illiterate because they can use an X-Box and program a DVD-recorder using the EPG, but from a business point of view they are not just "functionally illiterate", but "useless".

So, the solutions applied might work, if the problem were the one everyone talks about. But since it isn't, they won't.

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