Cyprus hosts first European Coding Challenge amid concerns over talent shortage –

Nicosia hosted the first European coding challenge on Friday May 20, where young Cypriots received training and advice from tech experts as the EU tries to ensure it won’t run out of the skills it needs. needed to achieve digital sovereignty.

The war for tech talent is raging around the world, with European companies having difficulty recruiting information and communication technology (ICT) specialists.

European association All Digital, Cyprus Computer Society and global tech company Huawei organized a one-day coding challenge in Nicosia to raise awareness of the issue.

It aimed to motivate young Cypriots to embark on the path of coding, as these skills are becoming more and more essential. “Coding should be accessible to everyone,” said Peter Palvolgyi, CEO of All Digital, adding that it “can best be achieved through non-formal education.”

The 27 participants had the opportunity to receive training on HUAWEI mobile services – the Chinese company that acted as the technical partner – and to receive feedback and advice from coding masters. “We know that the app ecosystem is very important,” Marco Xu, public affairs director for Central, Eastern and Northern Europe at Huawei, told EURACTIV, stressing that such events are a chance to encourage developers to use their platform.

“Most graduating students now only have basic knowledge, not the specialist knowledge that companies need,” he said, pointing to an ever-changing industry that requires state-of-the-art experts. technology.

In Cyprus alone, there is a shortage of some 4,000 IT specialists, according to Kyriacos Kokkinos, the country’s deputy minister for research, innovation and digital policy, who spoke at the event.

“Pathway to the digital decade”

To address these shortages, which are also found across Europe, the European Commission presented a plan in September 2021 called “Path to Digital Decade”. This initiative aims to ensure that the continent fully embraces digitalization by 2030.

Under the proposed set targets, at least 80% of the bloc’s citizens should have basic digital skills, and the EU27 should be able to count on 20 million ICT workers by 2030.

“It’s not an easy task to achieve,” the Cypriot minister said, calling it an “ambitious” goal but pledging to make it a “high government priority”. Huawei is “ready to become one of the contributors to this [European] ambition,” Xu also said.

“Shortages have two dimensions,” Kokkinnos told EURACTIV. He mentioned that it was not only about quantity but also about quality. “There is a lack of market needs,” he said, pointing out that the skills students learn at university already need to be improved when they enter the job market. “Coding is like moving sand. We must always be on the lookout, ”he said.

Not All Countries Are On Track For Skills, According To 2021 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), an index assessing the digital performance of Member States.

More women needed

The EU executive has also set itself a goal of gender convergence, calling on member states to promote women’s access to this field.

Asked about the importance of having more women in the ICT sector, Kokkinnos said his question was “easy to answer, but difficult to tackle”. “Our education system, our social a priori, do not encourage” women to this profession, he explained.

“It starts with family and society, and then the education system maintains that, rather than overturning and reversing it. It’s a huge challenge,” he told EURACTIV, pointing out that there has been no “measured improvement” despite numerous initiatives in Europe over the past few years.

“I have always believed that digital technology is the best opportunity for men and women to achieve equality,” Xu said, calling on each country’s education system to encourage female students to enter these professions.

“Everything is packaged to make a woman think she’s not good with a computer,” said Elena Strouthou, co-founder of Cocoon Creations Services, a mobile design agency, who shared her journey with attendees. . “It excludes 50% of the population,” she told EURACTIV.

The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) of the European Parliament has adopted his location on the “Path to Digital Decade” proposal on Tuesday, May 17.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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