This week is European Vocational Skills Week, highlighting the importance of vocational education and training in our lives. All week long, we’re highlighting examples of how ECDL is being used to help people build up their essential workplace digital skills.
It’s a sad fact that workplace skills are an issue across Europe. Despite an EU unemployment rate of 9.4% in 2015, employers often struggle to find candidates with sufficient skills. One survey of employers in the UK found that almost half thought their businesses were missing essential digital skills in their workforce.
As a core essential set of workplace skills, this skills gap is particularly evident with digital competences. People are lacking the knowledge and abilities to keep up with the modern workplace, and increasingly, with society, whether that be filing taxes online or using a self-scan checkout at the supermarket.
A recent study carried out in Austria by OCG, the ECDL National Operator there, found that, even though the country ranks highly in international indexes of ICT indicators, and ownership of devices like smartphones and laptops is high, just 7% of survey participants managed to score ‘very well’ in a practical test based on ECDL Computer Essentials. Other studies, conducted in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Finland, have shown similar low levels of digital skills.
Poor digital skills can harm your chances on the labour market, and can cost businesses and economies a surprising amount in wasted time. A Dutch study found that the cost of lost time due to employees lack of computer literacy could be as much as €19.3 billion a year in the Netherlands alone! A recent study in Singapore estimated that ECDL certification can lead to employees saving almost half an hour a week that would otherwise have been wasted solving computer related problems.
Vocational Education and Training
Although Vocational Education and Training (VET) used to mainly refer to education for technical careers, it is fair to say that today, all jobs need some core technical competences for using computers. A recent study, commissioned by the European Commission analysed 12 non-office based jobs, and found that all of them require digital skills. From working with shared or collaborative documents to spreadsheet formulas and formats in word processing, working with computers means working with complex and powerful tools.
VET is training in the skills and knowledge that people need to be able to succeed on the labour market and to be able to excel in the workforce.
ECDL provides the global standard in essential vocational digital skills. ECDL modules, which include Online Collaboration, Digital Marketing, Image Editing, Spreadsheets, and IT Security, are designed to help candidates to build the skills that they will need in the workplace. As a vocational certification, ECDL serves both those who are just starting out, and those with a little more experience.
Around the world, ECDL is being used to prepare students for work, improve the skills of existing employees, and build the skills of trainees in vocational education courses. OCG, in Austria, recently conducted a project in the Province of Vorarlberg, where future VET teachers had the opportunity to enhance their digital skills using the ECDL Base profile, consisting of the Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Online Essentials, and Computer Essentials modules. Not only does this help the teachers, giving them the confidence to use technology in the classroom, but it also helps the students who will be taught, giving them an opportunity to benefit from effective use of classroom technology.
ECDL Skills Are Mobile Skills
Projects in the UK, Romania, Germany, and beyond have also shown the value of ECDL as a vocational certification. Indeed, the international nature of ECDL means that, in addition to building and certifying the digital skills of students and workers, it enhances the mobility of successful candidates on the job market, both in the EU, and beyond. ECDL is mapped to qualifications frameworks in a number of countries, including the UK, Malta, Ireland, Australia, Iran, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. This makes it easy to compare ECDL and ICDL to other qualifications, so a candidate from one country can confidently and easily prove their skills in another.
Vocational education and training has a core role in preparing people for today’s workplace and digital skills are ever more an essential part of working life. With its focus on the skills that people need, ECDL can play a key role in helping bridge the skills gaps that exist.
For more information about ECDL and VET, visit our page on European Vocational Skills Week.