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 ESSA curricula and learning programmes for software skills in 2023.
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 learning programmes to train these professionals, a certification framework will be developed to validate acquired competences and skills. This framework and the learning programmes will be aligned with standards like the e-Competence Framework (e-CF).
This strategy is relevant for organisations with software needs, learning providers, and of course (future) professionals working in software roles.
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 learning 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.
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The ESSA partnership formulated an integrated approach to overcome the skills gap, considering skills and roles needed now and in the future. The strategy links European policies to concrete actions and outputs.
The actions to overcome the skills gap are grouped into 10 clearly arranged steps, that together will lead to a sustainable foundation with a coherent whole of actions, tools, mechanisms, and actors to address the software skills shortages and mismatches in a structured and comprehensive way.
The actions of the ESSA consortium are further guided by its vision for the development of software skills in Europe in the long run:
To foster strategic cooperation among stakeholders on skills development, ensuring a European long-term alliance of European key players in the software services sector.
Aligned with this vision, ESSA’s mission describes the way how ESSA will realise this vision and serve to define meaningful actions for the present and near future.
To provide current and future software professionals, learning providers, with the educational and training instruments they need to meet the demand for software skills in Europe.
Stemming from the mission, a set of strategic objectives is derived that defines the concrete goals to be realised during and partly also after the project’s duration. Finally, the strategic objectives are linked to operational objectives that describe concrete actions.
The conclusions are organised to point out some conclusive ideas from each of the six strategic objectives that provide structure to the ESSA Software Skills Strategy.
Strategic objective 1. Map, analyse and monitor skills needs. The ESSA Alliance needs analysis focused on a first inventarisation and mapping of the skills needed for software professionals. The ESSA Alliance strategy review process continues this process and will provide an overview of the future and current demand for skills and role profiles for software professionals on a yearly basis. An important part in this process is the involvement of experts by means of expert groups, organised at national levels and European level. In this way, the expert groups function at the same time as a carriage to involve stakeholders and foster essential partnerships, embedding ESSA’s activities in local contexts.
Strategic objective 2. Identify market-oriented software roles. The ESSA Alliance 5 selected professional role profiles for software professionals are evaluated given the current and projected market needs and adapted when relevant. Results from the needs analysis clearly indicated the importance of certain soft skills and profession-related skills in relation to all the selected software roles.
Strategic objective 3. Design and develop harmonised curricula. The ESSA Alliance harmonised curricula will be consistent and market-oriented. Therefore, a translation of market needs to educational concepts is necessary, which can be done by using educational profiles. There are several aspects that are important when looking at effectively and efficiently educating and training software professionals like flexibility and modularity which directly link to individualised pathways and the recognition of earlier acquired skills. Parts of the development of these curricula are also the development of learning materials and the piloting of the curricula.
Strategic objective 4. Validate learning processes. The ESSA Alliance will focus on independent assessments of learning outcomes using professional assessment organisations. ESSA will develop an accreditation system for the learning programmes and a certification framework for skills for software professionals, based on the principles of micro-credentialing and making use of digital badges.
Strategic objective 5. Boost awareness and stakeholder engagement. The ESSA Alliance designs, plans, and implements communication and dissemination activities oriented towards specific target groups involved in the ESSA activities and its ecosystem. The ultimate objective is the creation of a Software Skills Community enabling stakeholders to act as a network, share knowledge and insights, increase their visibility, identify trends, and advocate all together for software skills and professional quality.
Strategic objective 6. Foster cooperation and ensure sustainability. The ESSA Alliance fosters transnational cooperation and builds on stakeholder networks throughout the project lifecycle. The overall objective of this collaboration is to continuously research, identify and analyse the skills requirements of the European software sector, and then create and iteratively improve the Software Skills Strategy to develop innovative VET training programmes that will address the short, medium, and long-term needs of the sector, including emerging needs and new technologies and techniques that are currently being developed.
Use of this report
Because this document provides an integrated approach that addresses the multi-sectoral problem of the growing skills gap among software professionals, it is relevant to many different stakeholders in a variety of ways.
This strategy document informs policymakers and organisations such as social partners, chambers, and umbrella organisations about the concrete actions that will be undertaken to address the software skills gap. It may influence their policies and actions and serve as a source of inspiration for their initiatives.
To the many organisations that have software development and operations needs and to education and training providers, the document has an informative function but may also serve as inspiration in pointing out the concrete actions that ESSA will undertake.
In a more general sense, the document serves as a promotional tool, making explicit ESSA’s mission and actions and hopefully motivates actors to follow or get in touch with ESSA to find out if and how their policies, strategies, initiatives, and actions can be aligned with ESSA’s activities.
ESSA invites all its stakeholders to get in touch not only with the ESSA partnership, but more importantly, also with each other, and strengthen relationships in a sustainable manner in order to overcome the skills gap.