On 18 May 2022, at DIGITALEUROPE’s #DigitalDeepDives event, ‘Can Europe cater for the skills needs of digitalising industries?’, Women4IT partners delivered its first of twelve webinars promoting the project outcomes and tools, and encouraging European stakeholders to help in scaling up the initiative across the continent. Alongside industry experts, policy professionals and other digital skills projects, Women4IT joined discussions on Europe’s digital skills environment, untapped opportunities and undertakings which aim to respond to the digital skills demand.
The event kicked off with a keynote from Helena Lovegrove, Director of Projects and Operations at DIGITALEUROPE, in which she highlighted the importance of digital skills as the demand for ICT specialists is no longer coming only from the ICT sector, but from all digitalising sectors across industry. She also mentioned that according to the European Commission’s estimates by 2030, Europe will need 20 million ICT specialists covering a large variety of thematic areas. Finally, addressing the gender gap, Ms Lovegrove noted that only 1 in 6 ICT specialists are women, even though 1 in 3 STEM graduates is female. This is where Women4IT finds itself, supporting young women through digital skills training and launching their ICT careers.
The panel discussion, moderated by Vincenzo Renda from DIGITALEUROPE, featured comments from Mário Lelovsky of ITAS, Marta Przywała of SAP, and Jakub Kajtman of DG CNECT, European Commission. Throughout the discussion, the panellists highlighted the most important elements in order to meet the EU’s Digital Decade targets: cooperation, funding, and enabling skills training. The speakers introduced several upskilling initiatives, such as the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform, Meet and Coach and Reskilling for Employment.
Following the panel discussions, participants joined theme-related breakout rooms with discussions and showcases on artificial intelligence skills, blockchain skills, software skills and women in digital. The Women in Digital short session was dedicated to presenting the Women4IT project and explaining how other organisations can replicate the initiative’s success. Katarzyna Udała and Vita Vītola-Lapiņa led the session on behalf of the Women4IT consortium.
Ms Udała introduced the Women4IT project and passed over to Ms Vītola-Lapiņa who gave greater insights on the project’s implementation, deliverables, and the next phase – scaling up the project in other countries. Ms Vītola-Lapiņa also spoke of exceeding the expectations in terms of the project performance: starting with a goal of reaching 10.000 young women, to date the project has reached almost 37.000 of them across the piloting countries and beyond. Almost 700 trainees have graduated from Women4IT training programme pilots so far, over 70% of whom have found employment or started their own business. Additionally, 315 different employers have supported the initiative. Ms Vītola-Lapiņa highlighted:
“Behind each story, behind each training, there is a young woman wanting to change her life.”
Both Ms Vītola-Lapiņa and Ms Udała spoke of how the next phase of the Women4IT project is aiming to support other organisations in replicating the project around Europe based on individual countries’ needs and enabling gender equality in digital together. Answering questions from the audience, the speakers also mentioned the importance of having an individualised approach to the student and focusing on each trainee’s particular needs, and supporting the young women with training style and mentorship to help her get to the finish line and kick off her career in digital. At the same time, they argued that in the dynamically evolving ICT sector still lacking the talent, short-term, specialised digital skills training may be a more inclusive way forward compared to a long university degree for many people looking to find a job or change their career. Finally, they called upon the participants to keep up the lifelong-learning approach for both professional and personal development and offered support to everyone interested in the project.