31 August, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital interview – Filling the e-skills gap in Europe

Deutsche Telekom (DT)’s Markus Lecke, Programme Manager for corporate HR-Development, talks to ETNO about future ICT skills requirements, what his company is doing to prepare for the future expert gap and how to make the sector more attractive to women. 

​As a member of the ETNO Employment, Health and Safety (EHS) working group, you were involved in the FITS-Project (Filling the ICT skills gap in the Telecommunications Sector of the future – identifying and spreading best practice). Could you explain how this project has and can continue to help meet future skills requirements in the digital world? 

From my point of view, this project has shown that many companies in the European ICT world face the same challenges when it comes to filling skills gaps in the future. Through a survey that was carried out within the framework of the project, it became clear that ICT companies have very similar needs in terms of expert skills. We were able to gain an overview of the core areas in which there is a lack of such experts for ICT companies, namely in the development of new networks – what we call IP transformation, from public switched telephone networks to IP networks, cloud computing, cyber security and Big Data. This outcome, I found, was very interesting from a business point of view.

The project also showed that the exchange of concepts and ideas on a European level is a very practical way to help individual companies find the best solutions to fit their needs. When I look at other EU-funded projects in this area, the aim has often been to find a common competence framework or approach for all, but I don’t think this really works as every company is different in structuring their competence needs. The FITs project took a different approach, looking to create a platform to exchange positive examples, solutions, concepts and ideas to guide companies. 

Going forward, I think it would be good for companies to remember the five FITS recommendations included in the project conclusions. It would be useful to identify a model or process for identifying skills gaps/needs and to set up an annual or biannual conference for companies and social partners to exchange experiences, trends and best practices in an open space atmosphere.1

Despite high levels of unemployment in Europe, shortages of skills continue to increase in the ICT sector. Which areas are the most affected and why?

Both in the sector in general and in DT more specifically, there is increasingly a need for skills in ICT security. The gap exists on different levels, from the apprentice to the basic general knowledge that every IT professional should have to the top expert.

The other area is big data. Not only the  architecture or analytics side, but also understanding the business potential of big data and the impact that this new form of data processing can have on daily business.

A third area is cloud computing, which is connected to my previous point on big data and how to work in a big data environment.

Finally, businesses need to understand new network architectures, for example software-defined networks (SDN) or the next generation of mobile networks (5G) and what it will mean for telco employees as more and more classic networks are replaced by more flexible IT systems.

These are the four main areas in which, in my opinion, a skills shortage can be expected in the future.

What is DT doing to close the expected expert gap and prepare the company for future skills needs?

As DT is an international company based in over 50 countries around the world, it is difficult to get a full overview of what skills are most needed in each department of the company.

In order to solve this problem, DT has created a strategic skills management programme to identify the areas of knowledge that are important to each department of the company and the areas where we feel every employee should have some knowledge. At DT, we have looked into how to analyse the needs of each department to know what the main skill demands are across the company and to then identify measures to encourage qualification in those areas. In order to deal with the ongoing case of skills shortage in the future, we have designed an approach in which the different departments – Business, HR and Finance – have a continuous dialogue on this topic.

What advice would you give to policymakers and regulators who are working hard to make Europe a leading digital continent?

I think it is important for policymakers and regulators to define the top areas in which they want Europe to become a leading digital continent and really focus on these areas, rather than applying a wide approach. One of these areas could be security for example.

Then, in order to identify the key needs in each area, I would encourage policymakers and regulators to talk to business experts directly - to those who are actually involved in handling business. This would enable them to move away for the political level.

Once the top areas have been defined and the right business experts identified, I think the next step should be to ensure a proper and a faster funding process for projects. It took a whole year to set up the funding process for the FITs project for example. This is too long and can impede finding valid solutions on time.

Finally, once funding has been achieved and the results of a project are available, I would advise creating a useful mechanism to translate and transfer these results into business opportunities.

There is more and more talk about the lack of women in ICT. What are telcos doing to attract and retain women employees in the sector ?

This is an important factor for DT. We have a 30% quota at management level to ensure there are enough women in these positions.  At year-end 2014 we were at 25.6% of this target, so not too far off. This is a voluntary target that DT set for itself a few years ago. I would recommend allowing companies to set these quotas in a voluntary way rather than translating these into law as is the case in some countries.

At DT, we also have a lot of experience in attracting women into ICT roles from the beginning, through education. We have projects in kindergartens and schools, starting with children from a young age, to explain and demonstrate how important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are and to demonstrate how exciting they can be. The way our ICT courses are marketed has also changed. Our message is that tech. courses are not only for so-called “nerds”, but for anyone who is interested in a varied, multi-option career that has a lot to offer.

1. The social partners UNI Europa and ETNO meet regularly to maintain the dialogue and keep exchanging best practices. The next Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Telecommunications will be held on 29 September and will analyse the way forward, including setting up a yearly roundtable.

By Joanne Mazoyer for #ThinkDigital, 1 September 2015


Markus Lecke, Programme Manager for corporate HR-Development, Deutsche Telekom

Markus Lecke is a telecommunication engineer and studied at the University of applied Science in Lemgo, North Rhine Westphalia. He started his career as an expert for vocational training concepts within the Deutsche Telekom AG in 1995. In 1999 he was responsible for a team of education consultants. From 2002 to 2005 he became head of DT´s vocational training organization three German states. Since 2005 he is working in DT headquarters department for Human Resources Development in Bonn, in 2009 he became head of the education policies for the group. Since January 2013 he has the role as program manager for individual development. In this function he is responsible for education policies and academic training off ers, e.g. “Bologna@Telekom”, a corporate programme for part time study courses with 700 students. Markus participates in educational-political committees and boards on national and European level.

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