Byron Nicolaides, President of CEPIS, is on Morning Money with Nigel Cassidy discussing the current scarcity of skilled ICT professionals worldwide, the Alliance For Digital Employability, and how positive actions, namely the 1st Coding Bootcamp, can mitigate the problem.
Nigel Cassidy: Well they say if you can’t work a computer ask an 8 year-old but there isn’t always an 8 year-old handy so we’re asking, “what would it take to retrain people to use computers and the Internet more effectively?”. The UK is currently on the grip of an IT skills crisis with an estimated 12.6 million lacking in even the most basic digital skills. According to the EU Commission by 2020 we will have a shortfall of 900,000 much needed IT professionals. On the line is Brian Nicolaides who’s president of CEPIS – I think it’s pronounced that way – the Council of European Professionals Informatics Societies. So, good morning to you Brian!
Byron Nicolaides: Good morning! Byron.
Nigel Cassidy: Byron, yes, I’m so sorry, I don’t know why I called you Brian, it says Byron right in front of me. Ok, so let us look at this digital skills gap there, you’re particularly focused on people who can do coding. So just talk a little bit about the shortages and how you’re involved in trying to plug that gap.
Byron Nicolaides: Well, one word about CEPIS: CEPIS is, as you mentioned, the Council of European IT Professionals Societies, we have 32 members across Europe – one of them is British Computer Society, and we’re looking at IT skills all around Europe. The problem you mentioned is not only in the UK but it’s all around Europe, and all around the world as well, there is a huge IT skills gap, and this is mainly not only at the low level but at high level as well. There is a study of the European Commission that is being conducted every year, and the latest says that there is a skills gap in the labour market of approximately 400,000 people right now, which means that the positions that are offered on high-skilled IT jobs are not filled by 400,000. And if we don’t do anything serious about this, by 2020 this gap is going to be around 800,000. To give you a better perspective of numbers around Europe, the IT-skill positions are around 14 million.
Nigel Cassidy: Ah Byron, let’s kind of leave the numbers a little bit and go on to the sort of the detail of how you’re trying to tackle it. You’re involved with some Bootcamps that are supported by various banks. Is this essentially (you are just sort of seeing) if you can get the skills of people up, or there are actual jobs going for people who are successful here?
Byron Nicolaides: Yes, the Bootcamp is taking approximately 12 weeks, it is very intense, and mainly about coding. Usually coding is taught in the schools, the universities for 3 or 4 years, but the global trend is, because there is the skills gap, to fill it with very intense programmes – and the uniqueness about this is that it provides guaranteed jobs. We take people through reskilling: some are university graduates, some of them are unemployed, but they have this ability – the computational ability as we call it. We pass them through tests, and once they pass through them banks and big employers offer them guaranteed jobs, provided that they complete the 12-week Coding Bootcamp and be certified as a result of it.
Nigel Cassidy: So this is all taking place in Greece. Can this make a big difference to the Greek economy, is Greece well positioned to perhaps start to lead Europe on initiatives like this?
Byron Nicolaides: Oh yes, I think this is a programme through which in the next 10 years we are planning to create half a million jobs, and well-paid jobs. You see, Greece is a country that today in Europe has the highest rate of unemployment, around 24%; this means 1.2 million people are unemployed and half of them are university graduates. So the plan is to take them and reskill them and put them in the economy, in well-paid jobs. And I think this is going to be one of the main initiatives that is going to change the shape of the labour market in Greece the coming years.
Nigel Cassidy: Now this sounds pretty impressive and I would imagine the idea is that you’re trying there could work anywhere, if you could get more employers interested in these kind of collective Bootcamps to upskill people. But the fact remains, this work could be done offshore, couldn’t it? I mean why should Europe bother if it could farm this work out to India or any other place?
Byron Nicolaides: First of all, the skills exist everywhere in the world. The world is changing today, everything is becoming computerised, from cars to houses, and there is a need for more and more programmers. So this is not something that is happening only in the UK or only in Greece or in Europe, exactly the same problem is in the US, in Australia and in Canada, even in India there are not enough programmers. So, everybody is working around this, and around what comes as a result of addressing this need in the market. Now, of course, the programmers’ market is a very open market because a programmer can work from anywhere, including his house, and his employer can be in another city or another country. So we’re talking about a global market here and addressing a global need. The difference between Greece and the other countries is that in Greece we have a very big number of well-educated and unemployed people, and this makes it easier.
Nigel Cassidy: What could stop it working?
Byron Nicolaides: Well, there are two things that may not work well: one is if the programme is not successful, if at the end of the Bootcamp people do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to be employed by companies. That’s one thing. The other is if it’s not well-communicated and there is not enough demand. So what we’re doing about those is, first, that we are very closely monitoring other successful examples all around the world, and (second), this monitoring is also not only during the programme, but at the end of the programme. During the programme they are two exams that lead to certification; the certification is somehow the monitoring or the policing of the product which guarantees that at the end of it people will definitely know, have (acquired) the knowledge.
Nigel Cassidy: That’s Byron Nicolaides, he‘s president of the Council of European Professionals Informatics Societies and he’s organising the first Coding Bootcamps in Greece, which obviously are projects which could offer a lot of promise for other places, the UK included, where coding seems to be something that people can’t do – and banks are crying out for people.