We managed to catch Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General at DIGITALEUROPE, for a short interview between a meeting and a business lunch. She is very interested in the topic of the Agoria Be The Change study, that is, the shortage in digital skills on the labour market. From the very start she started a passionate plea for better education and more women in digital jobs.


The Be The Change study showed the major issue with digital skills. How does Belgium compare to other European countries in this respect?

The lack of digital skills is a problem throughout Europe. Belgium has, however, already implemented a few concrete initiatives due to which Belgium is leading the way. The Agoria Be the Change study is, therefore, unique. Even though the methodology is not finished yet, you can already implement it in other countries.

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General at DIGITALEUROPE: "To invest in education and training is the responsibility of not only the government but also of all companies. The responsibility for the near future must be shared."

The same applies to other initiatives, for example, cybersecurity retraining courses for women. A higher level of diversity results in a higher quality level. That has been scientifically proven. Most of the people currently active in the field of cybersecurity are usually in their forties, white and male.  We need more diversity to avoid interpreting risks in much the same way. Women apply a different analysis pattern and have a different way of seeing things. It makes sense from a social as well as a safety point of view to employ more women in the field of cybersecurity.

Are European leaders aware of the opportunities?

Education is a national competence but action at EU level must urgently be considered and enhanced. This is one of the few areas where there is room for improvement. Countries have been working on decentralising educational systems to stay close to their citizens. Employment, however, is now global, not national. The same applies to skills. Just try to move a Danish citizen from Denmark to Belgium without creating a bureaucratic mess. There is no framework for this yet.

"We never implemented "the best teacher for every student" principle. If your maths teacher is not a good teacher, will the student fail at maths? That's ridiculous, isn't it? The current level of technology allows us to have the very best teachers in every classroom."

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General, DIGITALEUROPE

We never implemented "the best teacher for every student" principle. If your maths teacher is not a good teacher, will the student fail at maths? That's ridiculous, isn't it? The current level of technology allows us to have the very best teachers in every classroom. School students can learn from online resources and good examples. This can be implemented immediately. But we cling to the old paradigm of a fixed curr iculum without deviations. We do not innovate our education system and that is disastrous. If our education system had been a company, it would have been bankrupt a long time ago!

Many are scared of a digital future or are afraid of digitisation. What can we do to improve the general opinion on digitisation?

Policymakers should take action now. If you ask me what should be done, I would say: the EU has to take more responsibility for the education systems in Member States and invest in a mechanism that can predict retraining. Even though the European Commission does not have a mandate in education policies, it should take the lead in forecasting tomorrow' skills. The Commission could, for instance, publish a periodic report highlighting the disruption and future needs of the job market, including guidance for retraining and reskilling the workforce. These predictions decrease anxiety levels. Companies can include their employees in their story and tell them there is no need to be scared as the company has a plan ready for them. People are scared because they do not understand what is happening. The main reason for a democracy is to have people who can think clearly and rationally who are able to take sensible decisions. When people do not know where they are heading, they feel uncertain of the future. This is when they take irrational decisions such as voting on the wrong leaders.

"We can fly to the moon, we can manufacture advanced weapons, but we cannot predict the future of specific jobs? And we cannot give our children the best teacher? How pathetic is that?"

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General, DIGITALEUROPE

Every EU member state should focus on education. Education is the first step. We can fly to the moon, we can manufacture advanced weapons, but we cannot predict the future of specific jobs? And we cannot give our children the best teacher? How pathetic is that?

Education and professional training form the basis of the solution. Companies also need a little motivation. How can we improve the current state of affairs?

European countries should cooperate to develop a mechanism, just like Agoria developed a mechanism, to apply a national solution in other countries. How can we develop a social method to predict future changes in the labour market? How can we find the financial resources and how can we include this in the next EU investment framework? This is the responsibility of not only the government but also of all companies. The responsibility for the near future must be shared.

Innovative solutions for a sustainable labour market? You will discover them during the Agoria Annual Event 2019 "Be he change". Get inspired on May 22nd and register now!