A EURACTIV – GIGAEurope Digital Debate

The Year of Skills: Is a digitised Europe learning what it takes to compete globally?

27 March 2023

14:30 – 15:45 CET


During the sixth EURACTIV – GIGAEurope Digital Debate Series event,  policymakers, civil society organisations, and industry experts will discuss how the EU and industry can help ensure that Europeans have the skills to navigate the digital future.

Homes, phones, and cars are smarter. Cities and villages are connected. Online platforms and digital tools contribute to efficiencies in vital industries such as waste management, emergency response, and the production of food. We all know that artificial intelligence is on the rise, as is human ingenuity.

To leverage human potential and ensure that users in Europe fully benefit from these digital solutions in an informed manner, the EU has paired Europe’s digital transition with the provision of digital skills. Under the framework of the 2030 Digital Agenda, the EU has set the target of at least 80% of all adults should have basic digital skills.

Those with a digital mindset hardly look to technology to replace people, but to perform their duties safely and more efficiently. This gives time back to staff to innovate and improve their way of working. Technical tools are emerging at impressive rates. Still, European innovators and start-ups need a sufficient labour force to test the efficacy and safety of these new technologies, before they go to European markets, and beyond. EU 27 Unicorns are in the making but need a talent pool.

EU’s Skills Agenda sets objectives, for the 2023 year of skills, around investments in lifelong learning and ensuring Europe’s competitiveness. As digital transitions advance globally, it is increasingly important to ensure that citizens are prepared to navigate the future.

Online platforms and distance learning programmes can help those currently active in the labour force surmount barriers to upskilling by eliminating commutes to classrooms and giving full-time professionals the freedom to learn at their own pace. Recognising the disparities in access to educational tools and devices, several telecommunications companies launched initiatives to distribute devices and other learning aids for students and teachers. Still, secure high-quality connectivity is an essential companion to improving digital skills and education. This is especially vital in rural and remote communities.

According to the EU proposal to make 2023 the European Year of Skills, only 37% of adults take part in training opportunities regularly. The same document highlights that over 75% of companies in the EU report challenges related to finding staff with appropriate skills. Does this speak to a lack of willingness to upskill or a lack of access and the resulting opportunity loss?

This EURACTIV-GIGAEurope Digital Debate will address the following questions:

  • Are reskilling and upskilling merely a matter of mindset or are those with a willingness unable to find the right training opportunities?
  • What is the European Commission doing to raise awareness and ensure that the average EU citizen can avail themselves of the educational opportunities outlined in the European Year of Skills Agenda?
  • How is the Commission engaging the private sector, specifically the connectivity community?


  • Stefan Olsson, Deputy Director-General of DG EMPL
  • Georgi Dimitrov, Head of Unit, Digital Education, DG EAC, European Commission
  • Sylvie Brunet (MEP), Member, EMPL Committee
  • Anders Lindholm, Counsellor Educational Affairs, Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU (Responsible for negotiations of the Year of Skills)
  • Raffaela Kihrer, Vice President of The Lifelong Learning Platform, European Civil Society for Education
  • Thomas Mulder, Executive Director HR, Internal Comms and Workplace of VodafoneZiggo

Moderated by Brian Maguire, Journalist, EURACTIV