The arrival of European funds in Spain is surrounded by numerous media uncertainties, such as their allocation, management and their indestructible link with structural reforms that have been stuck in our country for years. However, less is said about what may become the biggest bottleneck for this millionaire opportunity: the deficit of workforce trained in digital skills that Spain has been dragging for years and that has now been exacerbated after the pandemic.
Despite the difficulty of determining a figure, the consensus of the experts consulted values this gap between those known as ‘digital bricklayers’ in the environment of some 100,000 workers before the arrival of the
Covid, an amount that could be increased – and even exceed – up to 400,000 with the receipt of community funds for digitization. It all depends, in the words of Eduardo Azanza, CEO of Veridas, a leading Spanish company in biometric technology, “on whether or not we take on the challenge of turning Spain into a true technological powerhouse.” It would not be the first time that our country has achieved a challenge of these characteristics, we just have to go back to the explosion of renewable energies. But it takes manpower.
Just as buildings are not built only with architects, but require bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, surveyors … “you cannot expect to build the digital transformation solely with engineers or computer scientists to whom we deliver thousands of tons of ‘bricks’ and ‘cement’ ”, summarizes Azanza graphically. Indeed, in the creation of new technologies, of the valuable ‘software’, a broad profile of employees with different academic qualifications is required: basic technicians, with professional training, engineers … which we do not have.
The ‘gap’ between supply and demand does not stop growing marked by the dizzying pace that the pandemic has imposed throughout the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF for its acronym in English) has already pointed to this deficit of digital talent as a problem that not only affects our country, but also extends globally. This organization points to the increase in the number of jobs that require digital skills compared to a much more limited capacity of people who have said digital talent and their ability to develop it. As has already happened in other areas, the Covid has stepped on the accelerator of this process, which makes it increasingly urgent to implement measures to generalize this knowledge in all layers of the educational system, as well as to favor the recycling of professionals.
According to a report prepared by PwC together with the WEF, if this lack of digital talent is solved, the impact on the global economy would be 6.5 trillion dollars and 5.3 million net and quality jobs would be generated. Countries such as Germany or Japan are expected to benefit less, as they already have high productivity and their professionals are well digitally trained. However, Spain, a country that persistently leads the youth unemployment statistics of Europe (with 33% of young people unemployed in August, according to Eurostat, and rates that reached over 40% in the midst of the pandemic) and suffers from a pressing problem of precariousness, brushing with the fingertips the opportunity to take off .
Our country can be one of the most benefited if it manages to close this digital labor gap. Because although Spain has not recovered the level of GDP prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of unfilled jobs in companies is already higher than before the Covid, according to data from the INE (see graph). This explains the estimates of the World Economic Forum report, which suggest that our economy can grow by almost 7% and generate a minimum of 220,000 jobs, increasing our country’s productivity by up to 9.5% in 2030, if we manage to ‘surf ‘this digital wave.
The opportunity is huge. “The demand for digital ‘skills’ is immense and extends not only to technical or technological positions, but also affects all positions and any area of a company or organization: commercial, marketing, finance, human resources, logistics, etc. . The World Economic Forum speaks of a real revolution for the recycling of professionals and said body already announced in Davos last year the launch of a platform called ‘Reskilling Revolution’ with the aim of offering education and training in digital skills to one billion people in the next 10 years, through a collaborative ecosystem in which companies, educational centers and public administrations collaborate with specific programs to develop the digital talent of children, young people and professionals ”, he says Cristina Hebrero, Partner responsible for ‘People & Change’ at KPMG in Spain.
The case of the logistics sector is especially representative. Its growing prominence in the sector due to the rise of online commerce, the need to improve efficiency and competitiveness, the automation of supply chains and the ‘Big Data’ revolution have transformed and increasing the number of job offers. Although, 62% of the positions demanded by the logistics world need knowledge in new technologies to carry out their work: from supply chain technicians or inventory management, to systems analysts, through operations managers, technicians in ‘Big Data’ or in ‘e-commerce’. That is, positions related to a VET that is still very scarce in Spain.
As explained Francisco Aranda, president of UNO, the sector’s employer’s association in Spain, “digital concepts are having an increasingly intensive use in logistics and are going to end up becoming generalized, therefore, professionals who know how to use them are urgently needed and these profiles have to proceed of VET because what is required is technical user knowledge ». «For example, today it is unthinkable to manage a warehouse without ‘software’. And the need to create more efficient ‘software’ has grown rapidly thanks to the increase in online commerce. Therefore, only those who are capable of making use of these types of tools will be able to access these new jobs, ”acknowledges Aranda.
Against this background, the arrival of European funds will be decisive in the future of the process. Not surprisingly, one of the objectives of the ‘Next Generation’ is to promote digital transformation. For Azanza, it is key to understand that this “does not consist in buying computers, or in building buildings or observatories for it, but in providing the country with the ability to massively create quality ‘software’ that can be sold, implemented , deploy and maintain easily globally.
The “Spain Can” plan presented to Brussels refers to education in digital skills in three of its components, 19, 20 and 21. Putting these purposes on paper will also mean overcoming the barrier of the initial lack of trainers. Hebrero is confident that this process will inevitably go hand in hand: “The digitization of the industrial fabric will also implicitly lead to the development of digital skills for professionals. European funds should be a decisive boost. ‘
The challenge of training the elderly crew of digital professionals history is already underway.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism