Skills+ - NEEDS ANALYSIS (O1&2)
Erasmus
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This Report present the analysis of the learning needs of ICT micro-companies in the area of soft skills, based on the desk research and field work accomplished in partner countries. It sets the basis for development of SKILLS+ Development Programme, learning resources and e-learning platform.



1. INTRODUCTION

The SKILLS+ project consortium is attempting to increase competitiveness of micro enterprises in ICT sector, through the development of soft skills. The primary target group of the project is micro companies in ICT sector.

The need for development of soft skills in micro-companies in ICT sector has been confirmed by various studies and documents, and further researched using a common approach in all partner countries, so that the findings are comparable, and learning methodology and resources developed in the project meet the most expressed needs of the target group.
This document includes both the methodological approach and the results of the needs analysis.

Methodology refers to a set of procedures and working methods, which can be used to guide processes to achieve a particular goal; it serves as a basis of the needs analysis phase of the project. The Methodological Approach includes the guidelines for research and analysis of the soft skills development needs in micro companies of ICT sector.
The data that was collected and analysed is presented in Section 5 of the Report. The report will help the project team adapt the curriculum and training materials on soft skills, by reviewing the materials from projects implemented in the past and other sources, as well as adding any new relevant materials. The training materials and related tools can then be presented and disseminated in a way that meets the needs of the target audience, in a useful and effective manner.

2. UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

Soft skills are sometimes referred to as "people skills"; they accompany the hard skills and help an organization use its technical expertise to full advantage. Soft skills can also be
defined as the wide variety of business skills that fall into one of the following three categories: interactions with co-workers, professionalism and/ or work ethics; critical thinking or problem solving.

SOFT SKILLS are increasingly becoming the HARD SKILLS of today's work force.
The ICT sector plays an important role in the economy in its own right and as a vital supplier to the private, public and third sectors. The majority of those that work in the ICT sector have well developed hard skills and technical knowledge acquired by doing; general up-skilling in the ICT sector has been observed in the last few years. However, soft skills are still among the key skills gaps; according to both European and national evidence, a range of soft skills will become increasingly important for both ICT specialists and the rest of the sector’s workforce.

The SKILLS+ project reflects the need to train employers and employees of micro enterprises in ICT sector to compete effectively through increased and new soft skills. The project’s main target group is the first few employees of micro-sized ICT enterprises, and the (former) sole trader becoming a small employer.

Over 99% of ICT firms in ICT sector are SMEs, of which about 90% are micro-sized companies (< 10 employees). Within micro-sized ICT firms across Europe there had been little focus on soft skills development. Of all enterprises, micro-sized firms spend the least resources on lifelong learning. The lack for specially tailored material combined with notso- easy access and high cost causes low usage.

The (former) sole trader becoming an employer needs new skills to deal with employees and manage their talent for the benefit of the company; the employees need to become more entrepreneurial, creative, innovative and customer oriented in order to create higher value for their company. The need to develop these soft skills is transnational, and the demand for training will continue to grow especially if it can be delivered in a cost & timeeffective manner.

The SKILLS+ Development Programme will combine e-learning with other innovative methods and tools, which will be selected based on the needs analysis and best practices, and may include face-to-face workshops/ interactions with role play, simulation, mentoring, coaching, etc.

The SKILLS+ e-learning platform will include different types of learning resources and tools - the more "traditional" reading resources will be supported by real-world, decisionmaking scenarios exercises, which based on recent research keep learners engaged and motivated and allows them to explore and practice new skills.

Another innovative concept to be employed is the so-called single-concept learning or “thin slicing”. Considering the short attention spans so common today, single concept or bite-size learning focuses on one behavior change, one narrow concept and one slim goal at a time. Thin slicing is about isolating a single learning concept and, with very limited information, delivering a powerful impact.

The SKILLS+ learning programme will thus be made of small e-learning "snacks" that demonstrate how specific skill works in different situations. Then the learning experience will be integrated into a blended learning intervention (e.g. a mix of managerial coaching and instructor-led training), which will provide multiple paths for participants to get the message.

3 DEFINING THE SCOPE
Defining the scope ensures that the project team has a clear understanding of what the project aims to do and who it is targeting. The scope of the project has primarily been defined in project application (Annex of the Grant Agreement), and discussed in the kickoff meeting. The scope of the SKILLS+ project is as follows:

Table 1: Scope of the SKILLS+ project 
Category Description
Project Aims
  • To improve the competitiveness of micro-enterprises in ICT sector by introducing a soft skills development programme, and to encourage sustainable development of these companies.
Project Objectives
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the issues faced and the soft skills most needed by micro-sized ICT firms in Europe, primarily in the partner countries,
  • Identify and exchange the best practices and innovative methodologies for the development of soft skills in microenterprises,
  • Adapt existing development programmes and materials from the project partners and complement them with new materials to create a new, tailored, multilingual programme specifically and directly aimed at "people skills" development in micro-sized ICT firms,
  • Develop an e-learning platform and present the developed learning resources to the target group in an attractive, accessible and userfriendly way,
  • Guarantee the programme's quality and adequacy by carrying out a thorough pilot testing with target group in all partner countries,
  • Ensure the widespread uptake and use of the SKILLS+ Development Programme following its launch by implementing comprehensive dissemination and exploitation plans,
  • Foster stronger links between the micro-sized ICT firms, ICT associations and VET training providers and institutions to achieve expected results and ensure the desired impact and sustainability of the initiative.
Aims of needs analysis
  • To establish the list of soft skills that are considered the most important by the micro-companies in the ICT sector,
  • To identify, classify and compare the soft skills that ICT microcompanies in different partner regions possess and/ or would like to develop,
  • To identify the difficulties in the development of soft skills,
  • To determine how the SKILLS+ Development Programme should be delivered.
Target group
  • Managers and employees of micro-companies in ICT sector.
Other potential beneficiaries
  • Associations that represent ICT companies,
  • VET organisations providing training to the professionals of ICT,
  • Students - future managers and employees of ICT companies.
Enterprise size
  • Enterprises employing no more than 9 employees.
Sector
  • ITC
Approach
  • Analysis of European level documents on skills needs,
  • Desk research in partner countries,
  • 2 expert interviews per partner country.

4 METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH

The aim of the needs analysis is:
  • To establish the list of soft skills that are considered the most important by the micro-companies in the ICT sector,
  • To identify, classify and compare the soft skills that ICT micro-companies in different partner regions possess and/ or would like to develop,
  • To identify the difficulties in the development of soft skills,
  • To determine how the SKILLS+ Development Programme should be delivered.

The Needs analysis will be carried out in three stages:
1. Analysis of the EU-level documents related to soft skills needs in the ICT sector
2. Desk Research in partner countries
3. Field work - expert interviews in partner countries
The need for development of soft skills in micro-companies in ICT sector has been confirmed by various studies and documents presented in Section 5.1.

Further desk research using a common approach in all partner countries has been proposed, so that the findings are comparable, and learning methodology and resources developed in the project meet the most expressed needs of the target group.

Project partners have already established contacts with ICT companies, education and training organisations, ICT associations, networks or clusters, business support organisations, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders in their regions/ countries. This allows to select the experts for the interview part (Step 3) of the needs analysis.

The experts may come from any of the stakeholders listed above, however in the case that the expert comes from the academic or policy making organisation, they should demonstrate their knowledge of the ICT business world as well.

2 expert interviews per partner country are to be performed in order to support and/ or refine the findings of the desk research.

Three tools are developed as part of the Methodological Approach. These are the Desk Research Template, SKILLS+ Interview Guidelines and the Regional Report Template.

4.1 SKILLS+ Desk Research Template
The aim of the desk research to be performed in the partner countries is to supplement the findings of Needs Analysis Step 1 (presented in section 5.1).

The partners will consult the national/ regional reports and other sources related to the ICT sector and soft skills development needs in their countries/ regions and will answer the following questions:

 
1. What national sources have you consulted to determine the soft skills development
needs in ICT micro-companies in your country/ region?


2. Do national sources confirm the findings presented in the section 5.1 of the current
report? What are the soft skills most needed by micro-companies in ICT sector in your
region?



3. Based on the national sources and your experience, what are the preferred learning
methods/ media/ tools of the target group in your region?


4. Do you know any existing soft skills development/ training programmes/ tools for
micro-companies in ICT sector in your country/ region, that are (at least partly) available
online/ accessible for free?


Comment:



5. Please share any further findings from your desk research that could be useful in the
elaboration of the SKILLS+ Development Programme:



4.2 SKILLS+ Interview Guidelines
The interviewer shall introduce the SKILLS+ project and the objectives of the interview.
The interview is planned as a face-to-face interaction and is expected to last around 20 minutes. Several questions are suggested below, however other questions may be added to clarify the findings of the desk research.

1. What are the trends of the ICT sector in your region? How would you describe the role/ situation/ issues of the micro-companies of the sector?
2. Do micro-companies in the ICT sector in your region have any difficulties filling in job positions? If so, why?

3. In your opinion, what are the 5 soft skills most needed by the micro-companies in the ICT sector of your region?
Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Risk management
  • Problem solving
  • Negotiation
  • Change management
  • Learning mindset
  • Customer service
  • Networking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Other please specify: ________________________________________

4. How would you evaluate the current level of soft skills in the ICT sector of your region?

5. What soft skills development forms and methods would work best, taking into account that the target group is micro-companies?
  • E-learning resources
  • Workshops
  • Blended learning
  • Individual consultations
  • Other please specify:

6. What requirements should an e-learning space for soft skills development (dedicated to micro ICT companies) fulfil?

7. Do you have any other comments or suggestions for the SKILLS+ Development Programme and online learning space?

4.3 Regional Report Template
1. Profile of the region
  • Introduction
  • Region/country and its main characteristics
  • Overall situation and trends in the ICT sector
max 2 pages

2. Desk research
  • The soft skills most needed by micro-companies in ICT sector in the region
  • Preferred learning methods/ media/ tools
  • Existing soft skills development programmes for micro-companies in ICT
max 3 pages

3. Field work
  • Experts profile
  • Analysis of responses

max 2 pages

4. Conclusions

 5 SOFT SKILLS DEVELOPMENT NEEDS IN THE ICT SECTOR
5.1 ICT sector and soft skills - European perspective

The latest European company survey in spring 2013 (ECS-2013), found that four out of 10 (39%) firms in the EU had difficulties finding staff with the right skills. These skill shortages vary across the Member States; over 60% of establishments in Austria and the Baltic states have difficulties finding suitably skilled employees, this is substantially more than in Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Spain (less than 25% each). Hiring difficulties, particularly when related to shortages of staff in high-skill jobs, are a constraint on firm productivity and the adoption of innovative technologies and forms of work. (CEDEFOP, Skills
Shortages and Gaps in European Enterprises, 2015)

Employers often claim that they encounter difficulties in finding not only individuals from particular professions (such as skilled trades workers, engineers, health and ICT professionals, etc.) but also for ‘job ready’ graduates and/or candidates who possess the right mix of technical and soft skills (Manpower 2014 Tallent Shortage Survey). Cedefop (2015) has shown that a significant part of such difficulties is not genuinely related to an absence of skills on behalf of job applicants but reflects numerous other influences, such as the offer of jobs with undesirable job conditions, inefficient talent management and
recruitment practices and geographic unsuitability.

According to the flash Eurobarometer survey 304 (European Commission, 2010), about 89% of European employers who recruited higher education graduates in the past five years were satisfied with the skills of their new recruits: they agreed that these graduates had the skills required to work in their company. These employers were mostly dissatisfied with the foreign language skills as well as the soft skills (problem solving, planning/ organisation skills, interpersonal skills, team working) of the graduates hired. Concerns are often expressed in employer surveys about the inability of businesses to find workers with the right set of soft skills. (CEDEFOP, Skills Shortages and Gaps in European Enterprises, 2015).

Skill gaps at work vary across generations, highlighting the challenges of tailoring CVET provision to the needs of different groups of learners. Compared to their older colleagues, younger employees are more likely to have higher skill gaps in technical skills and soft skills (communication, teamwork, customer-handling and problem solving). Older workers are more likely to have skill gaps in foreign languages, abilities to learn and apply new methods and techniques (including new technology) and in digital skills. (CEDEFOP, Skills, Qualifications and Jobs in the EU: the Making of a Perfect Match? 2015)

In 2015, ManpowerGroup surveyed more than 41,700 hiring managers in 42 countries to identify the proportion of employers having difficulty filling positions, which jobs are difficult to fill, and why. More than one in five hiring managers (22%) say that lack of experience is behind talent shortages and 17% report a lack of workplace competencies. The most frequent soft skills deficits are lack of professionalism (6%) and lack of enthusiasm, motivation and a learning mindset (6%). (ManPower 2015 Talent Shortage Survey).

Keeping up with high skill requirements to carry out one’s job tasks is dependent on learning (non-formal and informal) taking place in enterprises. While part of workers’ learning depends on individual attitudes, much is embedded in job design and in the wider organisational context supportive of the learning process (such as intercollegiate learning and supervisory support). (CEDEFOP, Skills Shortages and Gaps in European Enterprises, 2015).

The main non-IT skills demanded in the ICT sector include:
  • business skills (creativity, innovation, customer service, sales),
  • project management,
  • communication and
  • foreign language skills. (CEDEFOP, EU Skills Panorama Analytical Highlight, 2012).

5.2 Desk research in partner countries

The desk research in partner countries was performed in February-March 2016, aiming to supplement the initial analysis of European level documents and studies.

5.2.1 Partner regions and ICT sector
The project consortium is composed of 6 partners from 5 European countries: Romania, Cyprus, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands. In the case of some partner countries, the analysis focused on smaller regions: Harghita county in Romania, Madrid region in Spain, Oslo region in Norway and Friesland province in the Netherlands. Cyprus being a small
country is considered as one region in EU clasiffication, as well as in this report.

The partner regions are quite different - urban capital regions of Madrid and Oslo that have a major socio-economic influence in their countries and Europe, remote and rural Harghita county, the island of Cyprus with traditional strong service sectors now affected by crisis, and Friesland with R&D developed less than Dutch average but strength in
water technologies, health and welfare.

Romania is one of the fastest growing IT markets in Central and Eastern Europe, the leader in Europe, and sixth in the world, in terms of the number of certified IT specialists. The IT market is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Romanian economy. However, 4 out of 10 IT companies are located in the capital city. Although ICT sector is much less developed in rural areas including Harghita county, recent studies show a good growth potential; if properly supported the local IT micro-companies can become a leading force in turning the local, rural society into in a more mobile, more open to technical innovations and more dynamic.

Major multinational firms in the ICT industry, including ICT consulting firms, operate regional headquarters in Cyprus using the country as a regional base and gateway (into and out of the EU) for corporate services, such as sales and marketing, project management, systems integration, testing services, training and development, etc. Although ICTs is not among the major sectors of Cyprus economy, the country has a very high number of ICT professionals; some national studies estimate that the supply of ICT professionals in the next 2-3 years will exceed the demand. More than 6500 companies in the ICT sector are located in the region of Madrid and 65% of them are considered as micro companies. 99,5% of the companies use computers, whilst the 98,4 of them have access to the Internet. 76,6% of the companies have a website. Madrid region has invested 3312K€ in R&D (25,8 of Spain investment) being the first region in Spain (1,68% of GDP). 17,11 out of 1000 employees are working in the R&D sector.

The IT and software industry in Norway is heavily concentrated in the Oslo region. It is a relatively small business area in Norway, but it has great significance for value creation in other industries and in the public sector. Despite the Norwegian IT sector being double as profitable as the rest of the inland industry, the IT and digital industries have experienced a lack of support from the Norwegian state. A positive trend is the increased popularity of higher education programs within the IT field. The University of Oslo is also observing an increased interest in the students in starting their own companies. On the other hand, there is a lack of people with Master degree level in computer sciences and the Norwegian IT sector is facing a challenge because of the lack of technical competences.

The ICT sector is becoming very important in the Netherlands; most new companies are founded in the ICT service sector, which has a low threshold for start-ups. The number of job openings in ICT sector is increasing in the Netherlands. Rapid developments in the ICT industry cause major changes in job requirements, job positions and required competences - an ICT professional is expected to act as a ‘