By Xanthia Aristidou

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the impact of digital technology transcends every aspect of our lives. It’s already reshaping the employment landscape fostering new opportunities and, evidently, drives the pressing need for employees to attain new skills and adapt to the new realities. As a matter of fact, it is safe to say that digital skills are now a requirement in most, if not all, new job openings.

This transition has been the focal point for the European Union who marked 2023 as the European Year of Skills. In hopes to maximise the potential of the twin green and digital transitions, the EU moves to a resource-efficient, circular, digitised and climate neutral economy. This requires multifaceted investment and structured actions in skill development as the wide deployment of artificial intelligence and robotics are expected to create new jobs, while other jobs will change, or even disappear.

As the EU notes, the European Year of Skills represents its commitment, spearheaded by the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), in helping people get the right skills for quality jobs and in supporting companies to address skill shortages in Europe. These are aims and objectives that Cyprus should be and, per the recently announced Action Plan for the European Year of Skills, is sharing so as to set the foundation to elevate the skills of our human capital. It is pivotal to do so, but how ready are we for the Digital revolution?

Digital Reality in Cyprus

While the EU has set an ambitious target of 70 per cent of adults to possess basic digital skills by 2025, according to the European Commission’s 2022 Digital Economy and Society Index report on Cyprus, ‘one out of two Cypriots lacks basic digital skills. What the report essentially reveals, is the growing need to place the skills and lifelong learning at the forefront of long-term and sustainable growth, productivity, and innovation.

By providing people with the right skills, they can function more efficiently and take full advantage of the advanced technologies. They are also paramount for improving citizens’ resilience and adaptability, while substantially reducing dependence on market conditions driving the need to act now. Investing in building up the digital skills of the workforce – and by extension citizens – is also key to supporting the business sector and our economy in general, especially in line with the government stipulating the aim to establish Cyprus as a Tech Hub.

Preparing for the Digital Future

Recognising these trends, realities and challenges the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth, in coordination with CARDET, is implementing the AdultDigitalUp project to address the need for investment in Digital Skills head on. Focused on vulnerable socio-economic groups, this initiative aims to provide technical support to the Cypriot authorities to design and implement public strategies and actions for digital skills development. The project targets upskilling, as well as reskilling with a series of multifaceted actions aimed to reap short-term and long-term results across the island’s labour market.Cardet, digital skills, adult educationOn the policy level, this means broadening our digital understanding and the potential opportunities that the new horizons bring. To that end, AdultDigitalUp organised, last month, a study visit at the All Digital Summit in Zagreb, offering stakeholders and policymakers the unique opportunity to expand their perception of the digital realities, trends, and opportunities to structure catered policies and interventions to succeed. Only by exchanging experience and knowledge in the field and identifying the existing gaps, we can comprise a strategy that’s relevant, efficient, and durable beyond 2025 targets.

Beyond that, what matters most is how we apply them on the ground level. AdultDigitalUp has thus prioritised grassroot actions to popularise understanding and knowledge in the digital field. Through the series of webinars, including the ‘AI in Education’ led by Dr George Veletsianos amongst others, the project slowly but surely reshapes the perspective of educators, adult trainers and adults, not only on the importance of digital skills, but also their accessibility.

More importantly, to help with the increasing demand for digital skills, AdultDigitalUp has also launched a series of free training courses for adult educators, to build up their capacity to infuse digital tools and innovative approaches in their subject areas and in turn, build up the digital skills and empower the more vulnerable low-skilled workforce. With the next free course starting on 22nd of October, the training serves as a long-term investment, not only in promoting digital skills, but ensuring flexibility of our job market as a whole.

Last but not least…

The road to building up citizens’ digital skills is not without its challenges, but by taking strategic and consistent steps to broaden our knowledge and awareness, a more inclusive and tech-savvy Cypriot society may just be within our reach. To learn more about the digital transition, check out the AdultDigitalUp website.

 

Dr Xanthia Aristidou is a Senior Researcher and Project Manager at CARDET. She has been involved in numerous Erasmus+ projects that primarily focus on adult learning, with a specific goal of empowering adults with low qualifications in Cyprus