The strategy presents perspectives and expert recommendations to skill, upskill, and reskill individuals into high demand professional software roles. It sets the direction of the work ahead under three important pillars: training, education, and validation. They are the starting points to design up to date, market-oriented VET (Vocational Education and Training) curricula and programmes for software skills in 2022.
Scope and starting points
The strategy translates the results from the ESSA’s Needs Analysis in a structured way and with a specific focus on skilling, reskilling, and upskilling. It focuses only on professionals involved in the development, implementation, and operation of software. The 5 CEN European ICT Professional Role Profiles selected are Developer, DevOps expert, Solution designer, Test specialist, and Technical (software) specialist.
Besides VET programmes to train these professionals, a certification framework will be developed to validate acquired competences and skills. This framework and the VET programmes will be aligned with standards like the e-Competence Framework (e-CF).
This strategy is relevant for organisations with software needs, learning providers on VET level, and of course (future) professionals working in software roles.
The ESSA Needs Analysis report showed that there are three important skills categories for professionals in software roles:
- Hard software skills: These are primarily programming skills like for example Java, SQL and Python, but also other skills like testing and debugging, algorithm skills, and DevOps skills.
- Profession-related skills: These are skills related to the ICT professional field in general like project skills, security skills, software lifecycle skills, sustainability skills, and ethical awareness skills.
- Soft skills: These are interpersonal soft skills like teamwork skills and communication skills and personal soft skills like critical thinking & analysis, problem-solving, and self-management.
The training of skills takes place in many forms and in formal, non-formal and informal learning settings. It requires cooperation between organisations with software needs and learning providers like work-based learning opportunities.
In general, training should be flexible to widen access to many professionals. Self-paced learning and concepts like microlearning will support this. As well as the use of innovative methods of delivery to increase the attractivity and quality of training such as flipped classroom, gamification, and peer learning.
Software role profiles
T-shaped and π-shaped professionals are needed in the software sector. These are professionals that will not only able to programme and maintain software, but also have a broad range of skills to function well in multidisciplinary teams. π-shaped professionals are especially in demand because they have a second specialism besides software, so they can understand the business and ICT side of things very well.
The software-related ICT role profiles were adjusted to emphasise the importance of these kind of professionals. Two skill sets were added to all the profiles:
- Soft skill set: A set of skills that is transferable to other fields and that include teamwork, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-management, and English language.
- Profession-related skill set: This skill set includes skills related to the field like skills involving security, (agile) project management, software development lifecycle, sustainability, and ethical awareness.
The adjusted role profiles will be translated in educational terms by using the educational profile, ensuring this way that learning programmes are adapted to market needs.
Educating for roles
The education of software professionals is about skilling and reskilling people. VET curricula will be formulated based on educational profiles and subsequently learning programmes developed to train people.
The reskilling of individuals into software professionals will take place by using flexible learning paths in the modular VET programmes. Modularity is key in creating flexibility in VET programmes since it also makes exemptions for previous learning possible.
Two other important aspects are cross-border mobility and localisation to help close the skills gap between demand and supply.
Assessments can validate the achievement of learning outcomes and, to formalise these achievements, certification is important. The creation of a certification framework based on the principles of micro-credentialing and using digital badges will make the supply of software professionals and their skills more visible. The accreditation of programmes assures that software professionals are educated or trained to meet the ESSA standards.
Activities and outputs
The outputs of this Software Skills Strategy will be developed in the coming years in respective work packages. Starting off with curricula, qualification/certification frameworks, accreditation standards and a mobility programme. After that VET programmes and materials will be developed and pilot training programmes conducted. These programmes will include a work-based learning component and there will also be a train the trainer programme.