Pressure from two European commissioners is being placed on education ministers across Europe to take action to address the continent-wide ICT skills gap by ensuring children are taught basic coding skills.
European commissioner Androulla Vassiliou wrote a letter to education ministers across Europe stating that teaching children coding skills form part of the answer to growing youth unemployment and a lack of ICT skills.
Vassiliou received the support of the vice president for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, who co-signed the letter calling for coding to be taught in schools across Europe to help boost the region’s economy and job prospects.
“Youth unemployment is one of Europe’s biggest challenges. At the same time Europe is experiencing a growing skills gap in the ICT sector, which is expected to see a shortage of 900,000 ICT practitioners in the European labour market by the end of 2020,” they wrote.
“Promoting coding skills in Europe is part of the solution.”
The two European commissioners urged ministers to encourage children to get involved in October’s EU Code Week, a grassroots initiative to get people involved in coding.
They stated that coding needs to stand alone from studies such as maths, science and engineering, and must be used to develop transferable skills such as analytical thinking and problem solving. These skills will eventually help students secure jobs in the IT industry.
“Each child should have the opportunity to develop basic coding skills in order to become an informed and empowered digital citizen,” the commissioners wrote.
The letter went on to acknowledge that some nations, including the UK and Estonia, are already incorporating or have plans to include coding and programming into their curriculums.
Yet, the commissioners also encouraged education ministers to step up their efforts in supporting IT skills in education.
“We invite you, in full respect of your competences and the principle of subsidiarity, to step-up efforts in Opening up Education in your country and to support digital training of teachers, children and parents by providing students with opportunities to learn coding in school.”
Vassiliou and Kroes jointly launched the Opening up Education initiative last year, aimed to increase digital skills and innovation in both schools and universities.
The initiative was propelled by the fact that 60 percent of nine-year-olds across the EU are learning in schools without the facilities and equipment to teach children digital skills effectively.
In reference to the initiative Kroes declared that education needs to be connected to real life and as such he wants every classroom to be equipped to teach digital skills by 2020.
“Young people want to use digital technology in every aspect of life. They need digital skills to get jobs,” said Kroes. “All of our schools and universities, not just some of them, must reflect that reality.”
Coding and digital skills are becoming a prominent concern for education ministers and organisations across Europe, as technology companies may end up struggling to find people with the right skillsets to fill future jobs.
Last week, V3 reported that Wales is trying to plug the nation’s ICT skills gaps by creating software universities to tech coding remotely, highlighting how these education concerns are now prompting action.