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Panicos Masouras, General Secretary, Cyprus Computer Society

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Investing in digital skills is a must

“A training market has been created and is rapidly developing in the field of educational robotics, employing more than 250 people in Cyprus, according to estimates.”

Albert Einstein once said, “Education is that which remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” According to general secretary of Cyprus Computer Society, Panicos Masouras, the education system in Cyprus and worldwide is going through a crisis.

“As the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, educational robotics, which automate processes increases, the need for and the creation of a new training model becomes more imperative,” he said. “Especially in small countries, such as Cyprus, investing in digital skills and education is the only way to create new knowledge and economic value, but also to achieve the ambitious goal of digital transformation in all aspects of the economy and society.”

The Cyprus Computer Society (CCS) is a professional, scientific and independent non-profit organisation founded in 1984, with the aim of developing, upgrading and promoting the IT sector in Cyprus.

“Our aim is to develop high standards among industry professionals, recognising the impact IT has on employment, business, society and the quality of life of Cypriot citizens. We believe that the future of any country is its children.

“CCS has emphasised actions aimed at acquiring digital skills from a young age. With the cooperation and support of private and public organisations and the contribution of its valuable volunteers and members, the association organises national and international competitions in the fields of technology the winners of which represent Cyprus in corresponding international competitions, and often return with medals and distinctions.” Masouras said.

“We organise the Informatics Olympiad, the BEBRAS computational thinking competition, Robotex Cyprus and WRO educational robotics competitions, as well as the Cyber Security Cyprus Challenge organised with the approval of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth.

“Furthermore, CCS student activities include the Coding Our Future programme, which provides students the opportunity to participate in free coding, programming and educational robotics workshops. It is worth noting that this educational programme has been used by over 10,000 students from all around Cyprus,” he added.

Labour Market and Digital Transformation
“For the labour market, it is very important that every person applying for a job or seeking to upgrade their career can demonstrate and document in a reliable way the digital skills required to effectively perform the duties of the position they are applying for. CCS offers this opportunity to both individuals, the employed and unemployed, as well as businesses, as the national representative of the largest international digital skills certification program ICDL (International Computer Driving Licence).

“The relevant European Union directives call on member states to ensure digital literacy for their citizens, while in recent years, there has been an emphasis on coding skills as a means of developing 21st century skills among youth.

masouras robots2

“The relevant indicators of the European Union show that as a state we lag behind in the fields of research and innovation but also in the level of digital skills of citizens. Therefore, all actions must contribute to improving the position of our country at a European level with smart innovative initiatives and actions that involve the youth as well as the rest of the population.

“Without citizens’ digital skills, the “digital transformation,” which the government rightly and consistently preaches – especially after the creation of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy – will simply be a house without residents.”

Tell us more about Robotex Cyprus.
“It is estimated that Robotex, one of the main actions of CCS, has been the trigger for several educational organisations to deal with educational robotics, which is now considered cutting-edge technology. A training market has been created and is rapidly developing in the field of educational robotics, employing more than 250 people in Cyprus, according to estimates.

“Thus, following the auspicious forecasts for the continuous increase in the demand for jobs in industries related to what is defined as the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) field, we consider that Robotex, as well as other robotic actions, have already contributed very effectively. Not only to attract more young people into technology professions, to meet the increased demand, but also to provide the right resources, knowledge and skills to succeed in them.”

But why educational robotics?
“Educational robotics is an independent discipline that effectively combines both computer science and engineering since the robot must be assembled from its individual component parts and also programmed to perform a specific task. Mathematics and physics play an important role in this process. Therefore, I consider educational robotics as an interdisciplinary field with a very wide range of applications and innovations in all areas of social and economic activity. Also, the field of educational robotics and combined sciences offers young students a wide field of career pursuits, prospects and opportunities.”

What improvements are you suggesting for IT education and training?
“We suggest:
• The Introduction of the Technological School Institution (such as the Music School, the Sports School), which should be based on the STEAM field.
• Introduction of autonomous and cross-curricular educational robotics courses from pre-primary to high school level. Its experimental introduction in a limited number of schools must finally be ended and its official introduction proceed.
• The continuous training of teachers and professors of all specialties in digital skills and in the use of digital educational tools with the introduction of virtual and augmented reality in education is required.
• Extension and upgrade of the IT course, and for it to be made compulsory until the end of the Lyceum three-year cycle.
• Creation of an IT field for all Cypriot university entrance exams.
• Upgrading the “Work Week” institution so that students can get to know the real world of digital work.
• Training for digital integration of vulnerable groups of the population and their equal participation in the digital transformation of society and the local economy.

“As an association, we consider the fact that the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy was established as a victory for the citizens, and we support its initiatives by contributing with practically implementable suggestions to the deputy minister. However, it is time to move from theory to practice and implement the announcements of the deputy ministry as soon as possible. The inexorable time was never an ally of our state in timely planning and implementation of innovations. Let us finally turn the page in this area.”

masouras ccsc

The search for IT talent is never-ending. What are your thoughts on the matter?
“There are auspicious predictions for the continuous increase in the supply of jobs in the ICT sector internationally, and the same is true for Cyprus. The goal of all of us should be to develop new actions to attract more young people to the very interesting and exciting professions in the field. We owe it to our children: to offer them and enjoy a quality education in a modern digital school, developing their digital skills and broadening their horizons for professional rehabilitation and a successful career.

“Furthermore, recognising the lack of women in the ICT and STEAM related fields, the CCS is undertaking an initiative via an Erasmus+ Project Femme Forward (www.femmeforward.eu) through which we plan to train for free 30 women from various disciplines who are interested to change their professional ambitions and enter the world of computing. Called Future Tech Careers, the programme is designed to help women break entry barriers into the tech industry, gain the essential digital skills needed for the job market, and secure tech jobs.

“Our commitment, as the Cyprus Computer Society, is that we will continue with the same passion to develop actions that upgrade the education of the place and implement the above goals. On this path we are looking for fellow travellers, private and public organisations, with similar visions for cooperation.”

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