By Michael Gould and Frank Holsmuller
According to the European Commission, 100 million Europeans have never used the Internet, one third of all workers have insufficient digital skills, and there is a possibility that we may be have as many as 750,000 IT jobs that can’t be filled with trained workers by 2020.
To help combat these issues, today the Commission hosted the launch of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, a new flagship initiative bringing together multiple stakeholders and EU Member States committed to reducing the digital skills gaps in Europe.
Esri is proud to have formally pledged a GIS School Program to this initiative. The program will offer free access to the ArcGIS Online platform, especially for STEM education, and initially to 300 primary and secondary schools and vocational institutions in 10 EU member states by the end of 2017.
By giving students access to ArcGIS Online, they will be able to acquire digital skills such as:
- Managing and analyzing large sets of digital maps, and satellite images
- Working with software and data in the Cloud
- Working with and creating mobile apps
- Producing multimedia Story Maps to disseminate their findings
- Developing skills in spatial thinking that will help them in their careers
GIS is applicable in all sorts of different industries, including public sector, utilities, natural resources transportation, defense, and commercial retail activities.
Introducing an initiative like the Esri GIS School Program is designed to enrich school education for every student who participates across Europe. The GIS School Program fits into the Europe2020 Strategy because it empowers teachers and students, creating opportunities for individualised learning and the development of rich, digital content. It also offers opportunities to develop core digital competences, soft skills and the chance to work with curriculum content, allowing meaningful contributions to a smart, data-rich, sustainable society and workplace.
To be successful, we will need to work together to build nationally-based support systems across Europe that involve professionals who can offer advice and guidance to schools in local languages. We at Esri envision a support system similar to the GeoMentor Program that operates with the encouragement and collaboration of European associations, professional bodies, public and private sector organizations, and others who can contribute to help educators become familiar with and use the technology. This in turn brings the world of professional digital skills closer to schools and the classroom.
Our pledge to European schools is modelled after a similar program in the USA called ConnectED. This program started three years ago and, given the postivie response, Esri has just announced its continuation for another three years (see press release).
Realizing that there is a shortage of students in Europe with GIS-related digital skills and, at the same time, many open positions requiring these skills, we have pledged the GIS School Program with hopes we can help fill those job opennings with quality employees who recognize the value of GIS, spatial data and spatial thinking.