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Perception and Reality: Measuring Digital Skills in Europe

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How do you measure digital skills? How do you work out whether a candidate for a job has the skills and competences that they will need to do the work? Letting people self-assess their skills can seem like a simple solution, but it brings a big risk that they will misjudge their abilities.

A new position paper from ECDL Foundation shows the danger of relying on self-assessment to demonstrate digital skills.

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ECDL National Operators in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland have carried out research into digital literacy levels in their countries. A common finding across all the studies, which asked participants to rate their own skills, then used practical tests to find out their real skill levels, was that people routinely overestimate their abilities. In the study conducted by OCG, 94% of participants described their skills as “average” to “very good”, but only 39% of them achieved a corresponding test result.

So how do we measure digital skills accurately? One interesting finding of the study in Switzerland was that holders of a computer skills certificate (ECDL) did significantly better than average. Clearly, structured training that leads to recognised certification is a key way to close these digital skills gaps. We need efforts at all political levels, from the EU’s new skills strategy, that is expected shortly, to national and local plans for education and training. The danger of an unskilled workforce is that we will be quickly overtaken by the rest of the world. Is that a risk worth taking?


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Media enquiries should be directed to Tom Redford:
Tel.: +32 (0)2 772 8251