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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article25 September 2020European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

The future of work: ICT professionals

The Skills Forecast from Cedefop allows us to imagine how the world of work might look in 10 years’ time by forecasting future employment trends. In our new series of articles we look at the potential challenges and changes facing certain professions

The future of work: ICT professionals

The occupation under investigation in this article is ICT professionals. This covers people that conduct research, plan, design, write, test, provide advice and improve information technology systems, hardware, software and related concepts for specific applications.

Key facts

  • Around 3.5 million people were employed as ICT professionals in 2018.
  • Employment in the occupation grew by just over 29% between 2006 and 2018.
  • 71% of IT professionals held a high-level qualification in 2018.
  • 25% of the workforce held a medium-level qualification in 2018.
  • ICT is a general-purpose technology, so changes and disruptions in the economy can have a significant influence on the future skill demands for these professionals.

Tasks and skills

The key tasks and skills are listed below in a basic order of overall importance:

  • Use of ICT
  • Autonomy
  • Gather and evaluate information
  • Creativity and resolution
  • Literacy
  • Teamwork
  • Numeracy
  • Routine
  • Sell and influence
  • Teach, train and coach
  • Manage and coordinate
  • Dexterity
  • Service and attend
  • Use of machine
  • Strength

What are the trends for the future?

  • Employment for IT professionals is projected to grow by 11% over the period 2018 to 2030, with 395,000 jobs created.
  • Combined with the number of those leaving the occupation in the same period (an estimated 1.2 million), this growth indicates that 1.6 million jobs in ICT will need to be filled between 2018 and 2030.
  • The number of ICT professionals who hold medium-level qualifications will remain more or less unchanged at 23% in 2030.
  • The number of ICT professionals who hold high-level qualifications is expected to increase to 74% in 2030.

Which drivers of change will affect their skills?

  • Developments in technology and value chains: As ICT becomes a part of more and more economic activities, numerous software applications have been – and continue to be – developed. Developments in technology and value chains will likely shift the balance from technical ICT skills to sector-specific knowledge and soft skills, such as management and planning.
  • Further digitalisation of the economy: Digitalisation will boost demand for people with a deep knowledge of the sector who are able to develop efficient, custom-built ICT solutions for any company or organisation.
  • Increased outsourcing of ICT technical skills to cheaper, non-EU markets: EU professionals will need to have skills in a variety of sectors, such as management of a supply chain, in the context of ICT.
  • Increasingly powerful computers: These will lead to an increased amount and variety of data being generated. This ‘big data’ trend should lead to demand for strong data analytical skills and skills for scaling and managing data for enterprises. New occupations are expected to emerge as a result (e.g. data scientists, data managers and chief data officers).
  • The shift towards cloud computing: This is expected to accelerate for both enterprises and consumers, reducing the demand for technical knowledge on the part of users, since services are outsourced to cloud providers. This will mean that enterprises will need skills in service integration, service management, designing and managing clouds, and building and optimising cloud data centres.
  • Automation: As research and industry investment in automation and smart-home hubs grows, there will be increasing demand for software and hardware expertise with high levels of numeracy and domain knowledge. Professionals with these skills will be valuable both for well-established organisations that are hoping to consolidate their market, and for start-ups that are challenging the status quo.
  • The growth of the Internet of things (IoT)This will drive demand for skills and occupations related to architecture and design, knowledge of and skills in handling diversified systems, and understanding of standardisation and interoperability between connected (and to-be-connected) systems. Technical knowledge of IoT networks, and skills for managing the multiple network configurations that are part of them, will also be increasing in demand.
  • Interconnection due to ‘smart systems’: As the various components of ICT infrastructure become more interconnected with the growth in ‘smart systems’, the threats posed by cybercrime and cyberterrorism will expand. In response to this, increased demand is predicted for data science and analytics skills paired with business acumen. The demand for cybersecurity skills relating to both software and hardware systems will grow, and professionals will likely need to have high-level qualifications in order to meet the demands of the interconnected ‘smart’ infrastructure systems of the future.

How can these skills needs be met?

ICT professionals often come from non-pure IT studies. Enriching curricula with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and other ICT-pertinent skills across a broad range of specialist areas can therefore support people’s transitions to ICT professional jobs, regardless of their educational background. There are several professional certifications that ICT professionals can pursue through private providers and academic institutions in order to keep their knowledge and skills in the area updated. The e-skills QUALITY study shows that certification has become essential for ICT practitioners across all backgrounds – about half of them reportedly hold at least one certification.

Increased emphasis on sectoral expertise poses a challenge, however, as cross-skilling (i.e. acquiring knowledge and expertise of a specific sector or multiple sectors) would also need to be part of the training provided at work. To promote the mobility of ICT professionals across sectors in the economy and/or EU countries, the European Commission offers a common European framework for ICT professionals in all industry sectors.

Want to know more about the Skills Forecast and what the future holds for jobs in Europe? Check out our overview article and our articles on legal, social and cultural professions and hospitality and retail managers.


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