With 149 million new jobs expected in ICT, do we have the digital skills to fill them?

“Microsoft forecasts that in the next four years, there will be 149 million new jobs created in ICT, mostly in various areas of software development. The great question is how can we fill these jobs,” asks Maria Christofide, Corporate Social Responsibility manager at Amdocs.

“Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the EU in ICT that are not filled. And at the same time, there is high unemployment in other areas. So it’s about reskilling and upskilling the workforce to meet this demand. The highest growth jobs of the future are in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud, Internet of Things, and cyber security. We know that these sectors have high growth and high potential for people who are graduating or who want to keep up with the technology trends,” she said in an interview with Careers Express.

The pandemic, with its demand for remote work, has accelerated this digital divide, according to Christofide.

“The digital divide has three components: internet connectivity, devices, and digital skills. In order to access the internet in a meaningful way, and take advantage of all the good things that it has to offer, you need a fast and reliable internet connection, you need a device that will suit your needs, whether that’s performing online transactions, or e-learning or remote work, and of course, you need the right digital skill set from basic to advanced skills.

Each of these components has its own complexity and has to do with infrastructure with affordability, public policy, and the cooperation of the private sector. It’s a multifaced and complex challenge.”

Christofide is most concerned about the skills gap.

“That’s the one that needs the biggest and most long-term investment when it comes to human resources. And it is the most difficult issue to solve, because it means upskilling and reskilling the current workforce or the students of today who will become the workers of tomorrow. That’s where the future lies. And that’s where we need to act.

In Cyprus, for example, we know that 92 per cent of our households have access to broadband, but a relatively small percentage of residents have basic digital skills. And we’re not even talking about jobs in the information and communication technology, where only 2.2 per cent of our workforce works in the sector. The challenge is very big, for the government for the society as a whole for the private sector.”

Cyprus is among the best performers in the EU when it comes to voice or video calls. But what about when it comes to education, or when it comes to work, or when it comes to healthcare? We are the worst performers in the EU for selling goods or services online, only two per cent. And using health services online is near-zero per cent. Here is the biggest potential for digitization, job creation and of course, economic growth.”

Getting the right devices has been a challenge for some Cypriots, she notes.

“During the pandemic, one or two computers at home for an average family were not enough, with suddenly having the children at home studying and seeking entertainment. That put a strain on finances, I think, of a great many households.” Amdocs for many years has been donating refurbished computers back to the community, to schools and nongovernmental organizations. And last year, there was a big demand for those devices that we tried to satisfy as much as possible.”

It is important that those joining the workforce be prepared to learn new skills, and this means having the drive and the curiosity to learn them, Christofide says.

Training is also a way forward for older workers who no longer have the skills needed for the workplace today, Christofide insists.

“I think that their biggest fear is that they feel that it’s too late, which is really not the case. We just need to devote a bit more time to upskilling older workers, because they are not accustomed to technology the way that we are. So it’s about teaching them some of the basic digital skills of turning on computers and emails going on social media finding information online, and then from then on it becomes much easier for them to move forward.”

The individual has an increasing role to play in upskilling and reskilling, Christofide notes.

Today you must own your learning and your career, always stay informed and stay curious about the world and what technology has to offer. It’s not like going to school where you have a curriculum and somebody else is deciding for you what you’re learning. We have to take ownership of how our careers will be shaped, because jobs don’t last for 30 or 40 years anymore.”