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High-Tech and Leadership Skills for Europe

Conference on "High-Tech and Leadership Skills for Europe" was held on 26 January 2017 in Brussels. Experts, business leaders and policymakers were invited to discuss about the importance of a shared vision on high-tech and leadership skills towards 2020 and beyond. There is a job to do to increase Europe's talent pool and reduce skills gaps, mismatches and shortages!

New digital and key enabling technologies will generate new market opportunities and will foster new and sometimes disruptive business models. Enterprises of all sizes and in all sectors require the availability of new skills – also at the leadership team level – to fully exploit these technologies. These skills are in high demand globally and the demand is not likely to be met by the current supply from education and training institutions.

The promotion of leadership skills and the provision of a large talent pool of highly-skilled entrepreneurs, managers and professionals require long term coherent and consistent efforts in many policy areas. It also requires the mobilization of stakeholders and public/private partnerships. A better understanding of the characteristics and of the magnitude of the challenge and of the corresponding solutions is needed.  While high-tech specialists' jobs are - to a large extent - reflected in existing occupations and statistics, this is not the case for the professionals, managers and entrepreneurs that require high-tech related leadership skills.

Leadership skills that exploit new digital technologies for companies and industry to excel in their business operation are crucial factors for the high-tech economy. An estimated 600,000 such leaders were in post in 2015, and a conservative growth scenario suggests a need for 694,000 innovation leaders in Europe in 2020 and 805,000 in 2025. Previous research has shown that around 60% can be found in business units other than the IT department. This scenario would require Europe to generate around 40,000 - 50,000 additional innovation leaders per year in the years up to 2025, or almost 400,000 until 2025, providing them with relevant education and exposing them to the necessary work and leadership experience. If Europe does not supply these additional innovation leaders, positions will remain vacant, or be filled by ill-equipped managers.

Two specific directions of action include measures related to the educational processes before entering the job market, and measures related to advancing of the workforce 'on the job'. Redesigned curricula need to stimulate multidisciplinary orientation and entrepreneurial agility. On-the-job training, in turn, needs to maximise the exposure of the workforce to the relevant job experiences. Specific measures here include mobility along the value chain, mobility to application areas, multi-disciplinary teams etc. Multiple good practices already exist that build on the abovementioned principles and need to be adopted on a broader scale.