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.
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
4 METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enterprises employing no more than 9 employees.
- Analysis of European level documents on skills needs,
- Desk research in partner countries,
- 2 expert interviews per partner country.
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:
4.2 SKILLS+ Interview Guidelines
|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
|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?
|5. Please share any further findings from your desk research that could be useful in the
elaboration of the SKILLS+ Development Programme:
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?
- Risk management
- Problem solving
- Change management
- Learning mindset
- Customer service
- 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
- 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
- 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 SECTOR5.1 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:
5.2 Desk research in partner countries
- business skills (creativity, innovation, customer service, sales),
- project management,
- communication and
- foreign language skills. (CEDEFOP, EU Skills Panorama Analytical Highlight, 2012).
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 ‘mediator’ between the user of ICT applications, the customer and the possibilities ICT offers.
A wider description of partner regions and ICT trends is available in the Annex (regional
reports).5.2.2 Soft skills development needs and tools - findings of the desk research
The partners consulted a number of national/ regional reports, articles and other sources related to the ICT sector and soft skills development needs in their regions (listed in the Annex - regional reports).
Although there is not much research related to the soft skills needs in this specific sector and company size, the available information still confirms the trends that were found in the analysis of European level documents (section 5.1).
All Romanian sources confirm the importance of lifelong learning and development of human resources in SMEs; there is “an inefficient investment in professional training of employers or qualified personnel” and “a mismatch between labour skills and market requirements.”
The Cypriot national sources/ reports do not have a clear distinction among the skills needs in small and large ICT companies but they confirm the growing need to develop soft skills. The skills that are underdeveloped, especially in recent gradutes joining the IC companies, are: effective communication, teamwork, presentation skills, problem solving, learning mindset, organisation and self-discipline, innovation, risk and crisis management, project management, quality management, leadership, foreign languages.
The growth of the entrepreneurship movements, the high level of communication between entrepreneurs and companies, the development of the ICT sector in Madrid as well as the co-working and collaborative activities, highlighted the real need of soft skills. Entrepreneurs and company owners are day by day more aware of getting into these skills to get more competitive in business terms but also feeling better in personal aspects.
Norwegian companies report that they have trouble finding people with the right set of qualifications (mainly computer science and other technical qualifications), but in particular also finding people with sufficient quality and ambitions. Local training companies are increasingly focusing on business and communication; sales, project management, business analyses, and team and management development are some of their main priorities within soft skills training.
Besides the technical and professional knowledge and skills, employers of micro enterprises in the Northern part of the Netherlands highly value soft skills like entrepreneurship and social & communication skills. Schools and companies in Friesland however agree that students and young ICT professionals often lack these soft skills.
Based on the desk research, the soft skills that are considered as most necessary in the ICT micro-companies in partner regions are:
- Communication (in all 5 partner regions)
- Teamwork (mentioned by 3 partner regions - RO, CY, NL)
- Leadership (RO, ES, CY)
- Problem solving (RO, ES, CY)
The following skills were found as very important by 2 partner regions each:
- Strategic thinking (RO and ES)
- Creativity (RO and ES)
- Customer service (RO and ES)
- Learning mindset (RO and CY)
- Organisation and self-discipline (CY)/ structured and orderly (NO)
- Motivation (NO)/ work attitude (NL)
It seems that blended learning (online learning combined with some kind of direct interaction - workshops, mentoring and/ or coaching) is preferred in most regions. In Friesland, small companies prefer online materials in order to learn in their own time, at their own pace; in Oslo region classes/ courses/ workshops are more popular but elearning is also becoming more widespread.
Any online tools to be developed should be:
- mobile device compatible,
- in different formats (video, text, etc.),
- short, clear, accessible, responsive, subtitled,
- easy to understand contents,
- focussed on the achievement of performance goals and
- tailored to learning and studying at the students own time and pace.
The partners have also attempted to detect any existing soft skills development programmes for micro-companies in ICT sector, and the research shows that such training opportunities are very limited.
In Romania, no online courses specifically dedicated for IT micro-companies were found but there are a few other training opportunities that can be accessed by IT microcompanies. Some of them are funded from the ESF and have limited accessibility, only for specific target group or specific geographic area, or only for the project period, depending on the project.
In Cyprus, there was one recent (classroom-based) pilot free of charge 100-hour programme for improvement of skills of unemployed ICT graduates that included 25-hour programme on development of employability skills. No free online training programmes addressed to micro-companies in ICT sector were detected.
There where many MOOCs online aimed to entrepreneurs but according to the partners' knowledge at the moment there is no free platform oriented to soft skills development in the sector in Spain.
In Oslo region, there is a range of training courses and skills development programs for IT professionals that are relevant for the target group; however, most of these are not for free. The CaMEO platform www.eplatform.c-ameo.eu was created in another EU project and is an open source platform with e-Learning materials in skills development and skills benchmarking in the IT sector. The e-learning platform can be used to benchmark ICT skills against the European Qualifications Framework, while it also offers an elearning course to improve skills and employability. One of the modules focuses on soft skills in particular.
In the past years, BDF (Friesland) developed several training materials that develop soft skill competences of entrepreneurs, employees and workers:
5.3 Expert interviews in partner countries
- www.supreme-mentoring.eu - includes a manual on how to run the Supreme Mentor Programme
- http://www.byob-project.eu/ - materials are under construction; similar to the Entteach mateirals, they will include several teaching / learning activities for soft skills development.
The SKILLS+ fieldwork consisted of interviews with selected experts of the ICT sector in partner regions. The experts could come from any of the stakeholders (ICT companies, education and training organisations, ICT associations, networks or clusters, business support organisations, policy makers, etc.). Two experts were expected to be interviewed in each region.
In total, 18 experts were interviewed in partner regions in March-April 2016. The expert profiles are available in the Annex (regional reports); most of them are owners/ CEOs/ experts of small ICT companies, two come from business support organisations and one - from a VET organisation. The analysis of responses is presented below.5.3.1 Trends of the ICT sector and the role of micro-companies
According to the Romanian experts, the ICT sector in the region is growing but at a slower pace than the national statistics show. The micro-companies play a very important role in the sector, providing reliable IT solutions, educating the market, supporting e-government, e-leaning, etc. These small companies face a number of challenges, including lack of funding and qualified workforce, keeping up with the technology and difficulties related to internationalisation.
In Cyprus, the large companies dominate the ICT imports, while the small ones mostly focus on programming and customisation. Web development and mobile app development is expanding. Most ICT companies in Cyprus are micro-enterprises but they have to do many jobs to survive.
Financial crisis has affected the creation of micro companies in the ICT sector in Spain. In the region of Madrid, because of its special conditions, the ICT sector is growing faster and there is a large demand of services to help the new entrepreneurs to set up and manage their companies. Since the unemployment is very high, there is a large number of people trying to create their own companies but not everybody is prepared to face such a large task. Soft skills are necessary to drive these new companies to success.
There is tough competition among the IT companies in Oslo region. A few large companies tend to win the biggest contracts, and many big customers still want to buy from them. Micro companies have to be extremely good at selling, while also developing very stable and concrete products, very fast. Developers, especially in startups, understand more and more the need to improve their transversal skills, and in particular be able to communicate what they are doing to other people, i.e. selling, marketing or networking etc.
In Friesland, Cloud Computing is a major trend that will remain to exist. Software-as-a- Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service are well organised and steady services in the ICT. In addition, Mobility will become more and more important. If start-up companies do not respond to these trends and anticipate on it, they will miss important opportunities.5.3.2 Tallent supply for micro-companies in ICTs
Do micro-companies in the ICT sector of partner regions have any difficulties filling in job positions? It seems that the less developed/ rural regions may be facing some difficulties in filling in vacancies, while elsewhere there is a big supply of IT graduates/ staff. Here the issue is the ability of micro-companies to create new jobs and manage growth.
The majority of experts from Harghita county think it is not easy to find skilled labour for a number of reasons: lack of technical universities in the county, young people leaving the rural region for better jobs, lack of funds for training and development.
In Cyprus, there is an over-supply of young ICT graduates but companies have some difficulties to find people that have work experience. Internships should be much more developed. The more specialized employee, the more difficult to find. It is clear that some of the micro companies in the ICT sector of Madrid region could fill more job positions than they are currently filling. The more information and management training they have, the more employees they would accept.
In Oslo region, the difficult part for micro companies is growing to the extent where you can justify employing. Funding opportunities are few and insufficient. The Oslo region has an abundance of IT workers. Smaller companies in more rural regions of the country might experience more troubles finding the needed competence, especially if they are needed on-site.
If a job vacancy opens up in micro companies in Friesland, they tend to find employees in their network. A lot of the start-ups though initially choose to work with free lancers, peerstart- ups, etc. rather than the appointment of employees. In the region, as it is in the rest of the Netherlands, technical staff is rather hard to find.5.3.3 Soft skills in the micro-companies in the ICT sector - experts view
The current level of soft skills in the micro-companies in the ICT sector in their region is evaluated as average by the Harghita and Cypriot experts. A better level of soft skills in
Madrid area would be desirable.
In Oslo region, the level of soft skills is seen as relatively good, and much better than it used to be. The new generation of IT workers has stronger communication skills. However, the some people in ICT sector (e.g. programmers) can be peculiar in their ways. Their “language” can be very technical, and it can often be challenging for many to translate this into a more customary language.
The current level of soft skills in the ICT sector varies in Friesland. The companies that are more related to marketing, e.g. social media experts have good communication, team and other social skills. However, the companies that are purely involved in the ‘hard side’ of ICT tend to have less developed soft skills. Automation companies, technical developers etc. have difficulties in communicating to customers which often causes friction and even losing of the contract.
According to the experts, the soft skills needed in the ICT sector of most partner regions
1. innovation (mentioned by experts from 5 regions)
2. problem solving (4 regions)
3. creativity (4 regions)
4. learning mindset (4 regions)
5. teamwork (3 regions)
6. strategic thinking (3 regions)
7. customer service (3 regions)
8. communication (3 regions)
9. leadership (3 regions)
10. risk management (3 regions)
11. networking (3 regions)
Teamwork skills seems to be the most important in Romania, strategic thinking – in Cyprus, risk management – in Spain, communication – in Norway. The Dutch experts did not prioritise the soft skills but agreed on the 5 most important ones: Creativity , Innovation, Strategic thinking, Problem solving and Networking.5.3.4 E-learning space and other soft skills development tools
The experts from all regions agreed that e-learning resources would be a suitable soft skills development tool, and in most cases it was advised to combine e-learning with faceto-
There are some differences in the suggested forms of interaction and the importance of e-learning vs workshop/ consultation. The Norwegian experts consider group training/ workshops to be the most valuable; Inter-personal relations in the learning process are important in particular in learning soft skills. In their opinion, e-learning resources would be a good supplement to inter-personal trainings, especially when it comes to content that is possible to practice online, e.g. risk management.
E-learning and individual consultation would be preferred by the Dutch experts. They have also suggested
that because the project deals with micro enterprise from the ICT sector, special importance should be given to developing training materials that are highend and meet today’s technical requirements. People in general, and especially people that are active in the IT industry, know what applications, software and latest technical
possibilities are available and therefore expect training materials to meet these requirements.
Further expectations/ suggestions towards the e-learning space include:
- accessibility, usability
- intuitive, easy to use and responsive user interface
- interactive, with gamification elements
- downloadable materials (for offline learning)
- mobile apps
- organised in a clear way, easy ways of searching
- meaningful content, practical, easy to understand material
- short and effective. Must be attractive and engaging so that it is “easy to sit down and work with”.
- possibility of interrupting and continuation from the same place, possibility of selfchecking
- it should draw entrepreneurs attention to already existing online tools
- there should be some challenges in the programme
- provide options for co-working, and a network for common learning
- available in native languages
- should have the possibility of participating in live workshops. As soft skills are often abstract subjects, there is usually a need to have discussions, e.g. to pause a presentation and talk together along the way.
- library with a range of possibilities: e.g. interactive exercises (texts/video clips/Q&As etc.); cases in which groups can explore different issues and situations – discuss – and later on be presented with explanations to various scenarios
- possibility to be in contact with the person holding the course, to ask questions
- possibility to follow-up on the course participants
- show the progression/give feedback on how the participants are doing. Motivate.
- courses should last over a longer period. Soft skills takes time to learn and internalize.
• teach the market value of things: learn how to question your own ideas, e.g. determine whether an idea you have is sensible to carry out. Measuring if what you are about to do is worthwhile doing (risks, cost-benefit analyses etc).6 CONCLUSIONS
ICT is an important and growing sector in all SKILLS+ partner regions. The majority of companies in the sector are micro-enterprises, which face different challenges including strong competition, lack of funding and difficulties in finding suitably qualified and experienced staff in some regions. They need to keep up with the latest trends, offer high quality products/ services and improve their soft skills in order to stand out in the market and succeed.
Based on the analysis of European level documents, 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.
Following the analysis of available European level research, the partners carried out local research in attempt to identify the most important/ necessary soft skills in the ICT sector of their regions. Analysis of secondary sources (national/ regional reports, studies, etc.) and fieldwork showed that there is a wide range of soft skills that the employers and staff of ICT micro-companies should possess in order to be successful. There is no doubt that all soft skills are useful and desirable in any company; at the same time there are some differences in partner regions in prioritising all the different skills.
Assuming that the findings of desk research and expert interviews are equally important, the most important soft skills to be developed in the ICT micro-companies in partner regions are:
2. Problem solving
4. Learning mindset
7. Strategic thinking
8. Customer service
10. Risk management
The list includes the soft skills ranked as most important in the desk research and the soft skills chosen as the most important in each partner region.
E-learning is considered a suitable soft skills development tool; it is advisable to combine it with face-to-face interaction, e.g. workshops and/ or individual consultation. The SKILLS+ e-learning space should be:
- mobile device compatible,
- accessible, usable, responsive,
- attractive, engaging, interactive,
- in different formats (video, text, etc.),
- short and clear,
- focussed on the achievement of performance goals,
- motivating and showing the progress of the learner,
- tailored to learning and studying at the students own time and pace (soft skills take time
- provide options for co-working, networking and common learning.
As the project deals with micro enterprise from the ICT sector, special importance should be given to developing training materials that meet today’s technical requirements
Soft skills development opportunities, especially online learning free of charge is very limited at the moment; at the same time understanding of the importance of soft skills is growing. Therefore SKILLS+ soft skills development programme has a potential to be well received in partner regions, with the condition that it provides meaningful contents in an modern, attractive and accessible way.
CEDEFOP, Skills Shortages and Gaps in European Enterprises, 2015
Manpower 2014 Tallent Shortage Survey
Manpower 2015 Tallent Shortage Survey
CEDEFOP, Skills, Qualifications and Jobs in the EU: the Making of a Perfect Match? 2015
Eurobarometer survey 304 (European Commission, 2010)
Regional reports (Annex)