e-CF becomes a European Standard

By Fabio Massimo, SBS expert, Chairman of CEN/PC 428 ICT Professions.

Following a unanimous vote by the CEN (Comité Europeen de Normalisation) Technical Committee 428 , the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF 3) will become a European Standard in 2016. A European Standard “carries with it the obligation to be implemented at national level by being given the status of a national standard and by withdrawal of any conflicting national standard”. Therefore e_CF is going to become automatically a national standard in each of the 33 CEN-CENELEC member countries. The development of the e-CF has been undertaken by the CEN, with the support of the European Commission, with the objective of providing a common, shared European tool to support organizations, companies and training institutions in recruiting, assessing, analyzing competences, learning, designing and developing path careers.

Before the e-CF, there was no common agreement on how to define ICT competences and to express ICT competences/skills requirements and gaps on an European level. e-CF is a pillar of the EC Digital Single Market strategy; it is a powerful and useful tool, but at the same time it is also limited. e-CF has been designed taking into account software developing processes; Dimension 1 ( A- Plan, B-Build, C-Run, D-Enable, E-Manage) describes the circular process used by an organization which is aimed at producing/implementing software products and services.

e-CF is first of all a methodology, as it shows how to identify and define ICT competences; it is then furthermore an implementation of this methodology. The 40 competences listed into e_CF have been strongly tested by hundreds of stakeholders. If they are implemented with their scope, no lacks are evident, nevertheless it is not a thorough system. For instance if an academic department wants to use e_CF to define a study plan, it needs to add some missing knowledge and skills: that’s because the e_CF granularity is not sufficient for its task. In fact, e_CF provides proficiency levels but it doesn’t provide the indicators to measure the personal level of competence.

The e_CF is like a “kernel” of a larger system which doesn’t exist nowadays, but works are in progress. Actually ,many initiatives are going to be developed around the e_CF and new areas of application are explored. The European Commission is supporting some initiatives about e_leadership, an important tool to disseminate and support digitalization of European companies and society; for this reason new projects are exploring the skills needed by anyone involved in digital innovation.

In some European countries certification companies countries have begun to use e_CF both to assess and to certificate professionals, therefore they are developing a lot of experience and many tools. National Accreditation Bodies must provide and check Certification companies and certification criteria, if the EU wants to build a digital single market where entrepreneurs, workers and professionals work independently of national borders; these criteria must be common, consistent and use the same, or at least comparable, indicators that entails a project to define in a uniform manner indicators of proficiency at European level.

Computer security is another important issue, fundamental for companies and for the whole European society: this is a worldwide problem, not just an European one. ISO / ETC JTC 1 / SC 27 is worldwide responsible for industry standards, CEN is in charge for Europe: that means that CEN has to coordinate and cooperate with the ISO in order to avoid different or conflicting definitions and to expand the e_CF on the field of cyber-security.

Big data is another area which is developing quickly, leading the development of data scientists. The data scientist is a new profession and it perhaps implies new competences, skills, knowledge: e_CF has to respond to new needs.

Skills are built through knowledge and other skills, a knowledge may not necessarily belong to a single competence as well as the ICT market can generate a new knowledge, which belongs not yet to a competence: hence the opportunity to build a Book of knowledge that lists and defines all knowledges needed to determine an ICT Professional; the creation of a common European BoK is a goal many projects aims to.

These are just a few examples, the ICT world is dramatically dynamic and it is evolving faster that expected. The e_CF is a keystone, around which many initiatives are created, aiming to provide tools to develop an European competitive, digital and professional market. The e_CF will become a standard in 2016 and it is a brick of a larger European project: the whole construction has already begun.