The European Year of Skills. Boosting competitiveness, participation, and talent of digital SMEs

  • The European Commission kick-starts the European Year of Skills with major reskilling and upskilling initiatives for businesses and employees

  • Fostering and improving investments in digital skills is essential for SMEs. Digital skills’ shortage hampers not just companies but also the steady pace of the digital revolution

  • DIGITAL SME coordinates the Skills Partnership for the digital ecosystem, a joint effort by stakeholders to equip 80% of people with basic digital skills by 2030

Today, the European Commission inaugurated the European Year of Skills, helping people acquire the necessary skills for quality jobs and addressing businesses’ skills shortage in the European Union. The institutional mindset of comprehensive reskilling and upskilling is set to foster competitiveness, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and contribute to the creation of quality jobs.

Recent economic and political developments have triggered an unprecedented demand for digital technologies and infrastructures. Nonetheless, significant gaps still remain present when it comes to both understand and acquire digital skills. Overall, in the European Union, 70% of businesses report a lack of staff with adequate digital skills as an obstacle to investment¹, while almost half of the EU population has no or very low level of digital skills².

Given that improving basic digital skills is already a challenge, the emergence of technologies such as big data, internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity is generating significant and newly specialised-skills gaps, shortages, and mismatches. This is especially true for SMEs, which cannot compete with large enterprises in attracting as well as retaining the scarcely available digital talents. In SMEs, there are serious digital skills shortages at every level and without proper guidance they run the risk of missing out on a giant market potential. Therefore, investing in lifelong learning, upskilling, and reskilling of entrepreneurs and employees is crucial for increasing productivity of European SMEs in the coming years.

How is DIGITAL SME supporting skills development in relevant digital areas?

DIGITAL SME has taken leadership in engaging stakeholders from the digital sector. Coordinating the Skills Partnership for the Digital Ecosystem under the EU Pact for Skills is a clear example of this commitment. The Skills Partnership, composed of European and national associations, clusters and digital innovation hubs, universities, research centres, companies and VET providers, helps stakeholders in reaching EU Digital Decade targets, thus equipping 80% of people with basic digital skills, achieving gender convergence, and having 20 million ICT specialists employed by 2030.

DIGITAL SME’s partners are developing a joint strategy to design and implement an upskilling and reskilling framework, feeding Europe’s  twin transition across all industrial ecosystems.

As one of its crucial partners, DIGITAL SME is assisting in the management of the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform, home of digital skills and jobs initiatives in Europe. It provides a wide range of high-quality information, resources, and opportunities and success stories in the area of digital skills and jobs across all levels. Moreover, DIGITAL SME has also contributed to the creation of training courses on digital resilience, emerging technologies, and cybersecurity, as well as upskilling pathways for SMEs, a course catalogue with more than 100 providers, etc. All of which can be found on the Digital SkillUp platform.

DIGITAL SME also contributes in setting up skills strategies in key areas of the digital sector, under the Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills initiative. It ensures that SMEs have their say in identifying priorities and milestones for action, and are also involved in developing concrete solutions, such as contributing with intelligence about the transformation of skills, identifying SME-centred skills trainings needs or creating and updating curricula  and qualifications based on changing or new occupational profiles. Here are the projects that DIGITAL SME is part of:

  • SMACITE Enhancing Skills for Smart City Tech: addressing the skills gap of Smart Cities technicians and engineers, combining digital skills on Smart Cities enabling technologies, with soft, entrepreneurship and green skills.
  • The Blockchain Skills for Europe Alliance (CHAISE): developing a strategic approach on blockchain skills for Europe. CHAISE will deliver future-proof training solutions to tackle blockchain skill shortages and to respond to the current and future skill needs of the European Blockchain workforce.
  • The Artificial Intelligence Skills Alliance (ARISA): creating solid and sustainable foundations for reducing AI skills shortages, gaps, and mismatches. It will develop an AI Skills Strategy for Europe based on the new skills requirements for people in AI-related professions and deliver the ARISA curricula and learning programmes to offer sufficient knowledge and skills on AI.

You can sign the Pact for Skills charter and make a specific commitment for your organisation here.

Having a skilled workforce capable to understand new technological trends and how to implement them in the company strategy and operations is an indispensable condition to move forward with the digital and green transition. Join DIGITAL SME Alliance initiatives to support technology adoption across Europe and close current skills shortages in SMEs. If you wish to be part of any of the initiatives above, contact Loredana Bucseneanu at

Working Group SKILLS

To gather intelligence on labour market’s evolution and reduce the digital skills’ gap in Europe, DIGITAL SME  has established the Working Group SKILLS. The working group comprehensively includes topics related to skills development, re-skilling and easier outsourcing. WG SKILLS’s expertise list includes: digital skills, social dialogue, movement of workers, competence centres, work-life balance, and other areas.

Interested in participating? Join the Working group here.

Comms info:

Official Communication Toolkit: 

Social media official hashtag: #EuropeanYearOfSkills


¹Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade (COM/2021/118 final)

²European Commission, Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI)