Europe 2020 goals: let’s not underestimate the role of technology

Youth unemployment in Europe is high. In many cases there are jobs available but the skill sets to meet them are scarce. Digital skills are in high demand and essential for enhancing employability, and driving innovation and sustainable growth in Europe.

As a matter of fact, higher education will play a crucial role in developing the knowledge and skills that Europe needs to compete in the digital economy.

In alignment with the European Agenda for the modernisation of higher education endorsed by EU Member States last year, the European Commission has set up this week a High Level Group. Their main mandate will be to identify and design interventions to support the modernization of higher education in Europe. The Group is chaired by Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and seven other experts in the field of education or related.

The core areas of interest of the High Level Group are: first of all, the promotion of excellence in teaching, to address the challenge of delivering education to a greater number of students, while maintaining high quality, student-centred teaching.

Secondly, the group aims to bridge the digital divide between the student and the teaching generation, and also make education more accessible to diverse groups of learners across Europe. Indeed, it is essential to examine new ways of delivering quality higher education in the digital age through, for example, distance, virtual or open learning, open educational resources, social networks and other digital platforms and tools.

Furthermore, the High Level Group is now considering other subjects such as:  How can we strengthen innovation and entrepreneurial skills in higher education? What is the higher education institutions’ role in regional development? Or, how can higher education institutions become lifelong learning hubs? The Group’s mission will consist of defining best practices and creative solutions, and it will make recommendations to policy makers and higher-education bodies until 2015.

Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to education and entrepreneurship and it is my honour to serve as the only corporate member of the Commission’s High Level Group. The recently launched companywide initiative Microsoft YouthSpark, aims to empower youth by creating opportunities for 300 million young people around the globe. It’s an ambitious goal, but I believe we can achieve it together.

We want to transform education and expand digital inclusion, promote innovations and increase the employability of our youth and their entrepreneurial skills. This is how Microsoft is looking to establishing better links between the education system and the labour market.

In reality, we at Microsoft and the European Commission are sharing the same goals: bring the EU closer to achieving the Europe 2020 targets on growth and jobs – and I am afraid this will not happen without enabling digital skills, digital education and closing the digital divide in Europe.

An extensive version of this article has been publish in Leaders Magazine

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