The e-Competence Framework is coming of age

By Fabio Massimo, SBS expert in CEN/TC428.

The European framework of ICT competences after ten years of growth and development and three versions released is going to become standard for Europe.

Strongly desired by the European Commission, in response to demands from large European industrial companies and other stakeholders, the e-CF, as it is commonly named, has been developed over the years with the work, collaboration and contribution of many experts and thousands of stakeholders of both ICT and user companies, as well as institutions.

At first, the e-CF was published as a “Workshop Agreement”, a document that gathered the consensus of the members of the CEN Workshop on ICT Skills. Then, the same document became the basis for the work of CEN TC 428, the CEN technical committee set up with the contributions of National Standard Bodies from several countries. CEN TC 428 aims at turning the e-CF into a European Norm (EN).

The final version of the new standard was approved by the TC on February 26, 2015 and began the process of formal approval by the National Standards Bodies of Europe. The e-CF is expected to become official as a standard by the end of 2015.

Why is this an important step for the ICT sector?

Digital technologies have become the basis to development in all areas: social, industrial, educational; nowadays there can be no development without the support of knowledge of digital technologies.

So the e-skills strategy is a basic pillar of the European CIP “Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program” for 2014-2020 and the e-CF is the mounting stone of the program, it is the tool that allows all of us to describe and define the set of digital skills.

To describe the requirements, the needs and the goals of users, professional users, practitioners, ICT professionals and e-leaders we need a common language, officially recognized as standard and shared across Europe .

Recruiting skilled people coming from different countries, comparing or setting up a basic study programme and university, training staff, writing contracts are just some of the large variety of applications for which a comprehensible and common language in Europe is fundamental.

The e-CF is this language.

The e-CF is defines the competences as a high-level language, ie as a reference, but as such it is not sufficient for all purposes.

For instance, defining an ICT academic or engineering programme requires great detail and granularity. In this case, the e-CF provides the infrastructure and methodology, but it must be combined with the wider body of knowledge of the ICT sector.

Similarly, companies are used to exploit professional profiles that identify people’s activities within the company. Also in this case, the new standard provides the structural basis and methodology to define categories of profiles in the different ICT areas (eg: web, security, software development etc..). Depending on market needs, some profiles or some sectors will generate new European standards or shared rules based on e-CF.

Certifications providers find e-CF as a basis for proposing certifications to the market. Compliance with e-CF ensures that different schemes are comparable to each other and integrated with proprietary certifications so that the market can recognize a commercial overall value.

The e-CF is the seed from which it a larger family of standards, tools and chains of products can be grown. The new standard is the end of a long process and it represents the maturity of ideas and methodologies conceived a decade ago and, at the same time, it is the starting point of a new evolutionary path aimed at developing a truly digital single market in Europe.