30 Mar 2023
The European Year of Skills has started, and with it, the European Union aims to encourage life-long learning and equip the European workforce with the skills needed for the modern labour market.
As the latest Digital Economy and Society Index
shows, 1 out of every 3 European workers lack basic digital skills, making the promotion of upskilling and reskilling opportunities key for the future of the continent. Currently, more than 75% of companies in the EU say they have difficulties finding workers with the necessary skills, holding back investments in digital infrastructure. As digital technologies transform the economy, it is crucial to provide young people entering the workforce with the skills needed to meet the challenges of the next decades.
In recent years, coding and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills have become increasingly important, both for individuals and for the advancement of the European economy. The EU has recognised that coding and STEM skills are essential for the workforce to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital and technological revolutions, but also for the EU economy to be competitive in the global market. With the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other automation technologies, coding is a crucial skill needed to create innovative solutions in response to the challenges of the future and ensure European citizens are not left behind developments in the global economy. By learning to code, young people develop an understanding of the digital world, which will allow them to fully participate in the digital transformation.
While coding is becoming increasingly important, there are still significant gender disparities in the coding skills of European citizens. Back in 2014, ThinkYoung’s research Skills Mismatch
identified that in no other STEM subject is the gender gap larger than in the ICT sector, with women being less likely to pursue coding-related careers than men
. Despite the positive steps taken, in 2023 there is still a significant gender gap when it comes to coding and STEM education, with only 17% of young males and 8% of young females having basic coding skills, according to the European Commission. Furthermore, recent studies
show that stereotypes still play a huge role in women dropping out of STEM careers, with females being more likely to consider themselves as having a low level of self-efficacy, despite being equally prepared.
If 2022 was key to empowering young people to have a say in Europe’s recovery, 2023 must be the year where the European Union puts youth at the centre of the economy. To this end, investing in coding education will not only help Europe to unlock its digital potential, but will also help to boost its competitiveness in the global digital economy. In addition, the gender gap in coding could lead to a lack of innovation and progress in the European Union. Education policies must therefore focus on encouraging women to pursue STEM careers to achieve a diverse and more resilient STEM ecosystem in the EU, to empower talent, and to create an equal and resilient labour market.