Vocational education and training is key to solving the growing ICT skills shortage
By 2030, there will be a shortage of 38,700 ICT specialists in Switzerland, as the latest study by ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz shows. This is despite increased efforts to promote young talent. As the largest contributor, vocational education and training (VET) is the key to meeting the demand for skilled workers. This is because 79 percent of all ICT degrees originate in VET. In order to meet the growing demand for ICT specialists, the apprenticeship quota must be increased from 5.9 to 8.1 percent.
In their study, ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz explains why the ICT skills shortage has implications not only for the ICT sector but for the Swiss economy as a whole and what we can expect for the future. Further, the organisation proposes additional measures to solve this pressing issue.
digitalswitzerland and Pro Juventute look back at the STEM campaign 2020-2022. A career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has obvious advantages: incredible potential for personal and professional development, good salaries, and a high chance to enter the job market quickly.
From the perspective of many parents, teachers, employers and the entire Swiss economy, young people choosing a STEM-career is a true no-brainer. But how do young people see it? How do they view themselves in this jungle of future professions, career possibilities and technological upheaval? Are we talking to them in the right way, with the right message and purpose?
Together with Pro Juventute, digitalswitzerland tried to answer these questions. We portrayed 12 role models from different sectors and jobs related to the STEM-field, with the aim of enticing young viewers to choose a career in STEM. From biotechnologists to ICT-professionals all the way to technicians and electricians, we featured them all. Now we are concluding our video campaign called “Future Skills – die Lösung bist du” / “Future Skills – La solution c’est toi (“Future Skills – the Solution is you”) with the aim of raising awareness and enticing young viewers to choose a career in STEM.
We want to take this opportunity to reflect back on some key insights and lessons from our journey…
What did we learn?
1. Show don’t tell
When you want to reach young people, you do not have to explain to them what STEM is; you have to show them, inspire them, tell stories and arouse emotions.
2. Make it relatable
We all prefer stories we can relate to; things that feel or are familiar to us. That applies also to the promotion of STEM-subjects and apprenticeships. If you want to show why being a service technician at Siemens is relatable, talk about the way this job can help to bring down the excessive use of energy in our buildings. If you try to explain the relevance of ICT-professions, show how they can help prevent train accidents, empower women or be of other value to society. The key question remains: what does it have to do with me?
3. Use the power of brevity and emotionality
If you have interesting content, you still need to package it well. It is not enough to have inspiring role models. Your message, if it should reach youth directly, needs to appeal to emotion (visually and content-wise) and have a short but attractive message, to which they can relate. Young people are active and “picky” users – the first few seconds determine if it’s a hit or a miss.
4. Communication channels matter
Don’t forget to entertain! When learning is entertaining, the reach is far greater. Depending on the channel you use, the form of entertainment differs greatly. TikTok and Instagram, prime channels for youth, tend to favour fast-paced and flashy content. Video Mashups with short and punchy messages work best there. Young people often don’t like switching channels. So if you want to reach them on Social Media, make sure all the relevant content is on one platform and is tailored to the audience and the channel. Listicles are effective for Blog formats, more often consumed by parents. On LinkedIn, home of all professionals, content thrives with interesting survey questions or entertaining anecdotes – and don’t forget: those professionals are often parents, too, the most important influence in a child’s career choice.
5. A crucial need is orientation
Among the key needs of youth is orientation. The critical juncture in their lives when they choose a profession is when we can make a difference with good orientation and guidance that doesn’t feel forced and top-down.
6. STEM is versatile and the field is wide open
Another important message and takeaway is that the jobs in STEM are versatile and open to many different personalities and profiles. Increasingly, a more diverse set of young people will enter the STEM-workforce – if we create the right conditions for them by removing barriers and making clear that their skills are valued and needed.
7. Invest time finding and promoting inspiring role models
This one is for the project managers out there: Peers are a great source of orientation and inspiration for young people. However, it is a challenge to find role models that fit all the criteria and that are available and willing to be featured in a campaign video. Creating a message that fits everyone and making the case for STEM is highly context-dependent. Sometimes, topics of gender and inclusion take centre stage. Other times, societal and global challenges like climate change or food security are at the forefront.
8. And remember: “No Man is an island” (John Donne)
Solutions in isolation don’t work. In digitalisation, the crux is that partial solutions have the potential to make the problem of the digital divide worse. Inclusive solutions are the only way forward. Only through a bundled effort can we make an impact that really makes Switzerland future-ready.
Want to know more about the STEM-Campaign and all things related to youth and future skills?
Bern, 26 January 2022 – Many Swiss companies are desperately seeking skilled workers. A targeted amendment to the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) is intended to make it easier for foreign graduates of Swiss universities to be employed in Switzerland in areas where there is a shortage of skilled workers. This was made possible by a motion from FDP National Councillor and digitalswitzerland Vice President Marcel Dobler.
04.10.2022 – Study on digitalisation in Switzerland: Great willingness – little movement. Read the press release in German, French and Italian.
03.10.2022 – Swiss Digital Days 2022 are coming to Eastern Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Read the press release in German.
28.09.2022 – IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking: Switzerland once again among the top 5 worldwide. Read the press release in German and French.
27.09.2022 – Swiss Digital Days 2022 are coming to Ticino. Read the press release in Italian.
20.09.2022 – Digital sustainability and secure browsing: Swiss Digital Days are coming to the Romandie. Read the press release in French.
13.09.2022 – Augmented reality glasses and e-scooters: Swiss Digital Days are coming to Zurich. Read the press release in German.
06.09.2022 – Digital topics for young and old: there’s something for everyone at Swiss Digital Days in Northwestern Switzerland. Read the press release in German.
05.09.2022 – Switzerland’s largest NFT project unveiled at the start of Swiss Digital Days 2022. Read the press release in German, French and Italian.
30.08.2022- 4. Digital Gipfel Schweiz: International business leaders, academics and digital thought leaders meet to exchange views on the digital future. Read the press release in German and French.
29.08.2022 – Startup battle, hackathon and big bubbles: Swiss Digital Days are coming to Bern. Read the press release in German.
21.07.2022 – From A as in Aarau to Z as in Zurich: Swiss Digital Days 2022 are going on a Switzerland-wide tour. Read the press release in German, French and Italian.
28.06.2022 – No improvement in cybersecurity among SMEs despite digitalisation boost from Corona crisis. Read the press release in German, French and Italian.
18.03.2022 – An important step towards increasing Switzerland’s cyber resilience: statement on Amendment of the Ordinance on Telecommunications Services (OTS) to protect telecommunications infrastructures and services. Read the press release in German and French.
26.01.2022 – Statement on the amendment of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration. Read the press release in German and French.
18.01.2022 – The Swiss Digital Initiative presents the world’s first label for digital responsibility. Read the press release in English, German, French and Italian.
23.12.2021 – Stefan Metzger appointed new Managing Director of digitalswitzerland. Read the press release in German, English, Italian and French.
18.11.2021 – Home office is establishing itself as a place of work for SMEs. Read the press release in German, French and Italian.
11.11.2021 – Digital Economy Award: Recognition for digital excellence. The digital pioneers of the year have been selected. Read the Press Release in German and French.
7.11.2021 – Programming with purpose: #herHACK Switzerland’s largest female hackathon sets an example for gender diversity. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
3.11.2021 – The Swiss Digital Initiative unveils the Digital Trust Label Seal. The Press Release is available in English.
28.10.2021 – Digital Day 2021: 12 hours of livestream and over 150 events, online and across Switzerland. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
14.10.2021 – A Swiss Pavilion at GITEX Technology Week, one of the largest technology fairs in the Middle East. The Press Release is available in German and French.
13.10.2021 – The E-ID is inevitable – let’s move forward. The Press Release is available in German and French. Read the statement in German.
7.10.2021 – Wake-up call from pandemic: The Swiss want to improve digital skills. Press Release is available in German, French and Italian. Data is available in German.
30.09.2021 – Finalists of the Digital Economy Award: Fintech industry booming, healthcare more digital as never before. The Press Release is available in German and French.
29.09.2021 – Kick Off for Digital Day 2021 – 6 weeks of inspiration start now! Press Release available in German, French and Italian.
15.09.2021 – Unacceptable solution for the Labour Law – flexible working for the ICT sector continues to be out of reach. digitalswitzerland calls for key points to be added to the insufficient proposal. The Press Release is available in German and French.
7.07.2021 – Possible approach for the creation of a trustworthy Distributed Ledger Technology ecosystem in Switzerland. The Press Release is available in German, French and English.
31.08.2021 – Swiss Digital Day 2021: Digital skills for a digital future. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
24.08.2021 – 3rd Digital Gipfel Switzerland: International digital experts and Swiss business representatives exchange ideas on digitalisation. The Press Release is available in German and French.
18.08.2021 – Security above speed: Yes to the e-voting proposal with a sense of moderation. The Press Release is available in German and French.
13.07.2021 – Swiss Digital Day 2021: This is how the population is shaping Switzerland’s digital future. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
24.06.2021 – Untapped potential for skilled workers among older employees. The Press Release is available in German and French. Survey available in German.
17.06.2021 – Digital Economy Award: Honouring Switzerland’s digital Switzerland’s top digital achievements takes place. The Press Release is available in German and French.
2.06.2021 – digitalswitzerland confirms new president. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
27.05.2021 – digitalswitzerland confirms new president. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
11.05.2021 – Switzerland-wide initiative strengthens digital skills of employees. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
6.05.2021 – SDI Report: Labels and Certifications for the Digital World – Mapping the International Landscape. The Press Release is available in German, French & English.
21.04.2021 – Switzerland provides new impulses for innovation: Privacy Icons wins award for the most impressive digitalisation project. The Press Release is available in German and French.
16.04.2021 – Sascha Zahnd becomes new president of digitalswitzerland. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
12.04.2021 – Cutting-edge Swiss technologies showcased at the digital HANNOVER MESSE 2021. The Press Release is available in German and French.
7.03.2021 – The e-ID law is rejected. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
17.02.2021 – Digital Economy Award enters 3rd round: Nomination phase started. The Press Release is available in German, French and Italian.
14.01.2021 – The E-ID law stands for a modern Switzerland. The Press Release is available in German.
Missed any of our past newsletters? Don’t worry, we’ve gathered them into one easy place for you to enjoy catching up on. All that’s left to do is make a coffee and explore our round-up of projects, activities and the latest news and thinking on all things digital!
digitalswitzerland is pleased to present new researchconducted by AMOSA (Arbeitsmarktbeobachtung Ostschweiz, Aargau, Zug und Zürich) on career changers who choose to re-skill or upskill in ICT professions. digitalswitzerland concludes that career changers are an important segment of the ICT labour market that need more attention.
The problem of the shortage of skilled workers in ICT professions will not solve itself – new forms of career entry are needed. In this context, career changers are of great importance, as a new publication by AMOSA shows.
In 2020, around 243,000 people were employed in ICT occupations in Switzerland. Since 2010, ICT employment has seen an impressive growth of around 50%, compared to an average growth of only 10% in all non-ICT occupations. Despite this tremendous growth, there is a high demand for ICT professionals.
According to current forecasts by the Institute for Economic Studies (IWSB), the future demand for ICT specialists cannot be met either by immigration or by the Swiss education system. It is clear that lateral entrants are in demand. To create a sustainable path for a successful transition into the growing ICT industry, it is worth taking a look at some key figures.
High proportion of career changers in ICT professions
Career changers in ICT professions are surprisingly common. Only one in three ICT professionals originally started their careers in the same profession. While some of them came from related ICT professions, nearly half of ICT professionals began their careers outside the ICT field.
The significance of these figures can be seen in a direct comparison with other professions, which are also affected by a shortage of skilled workers: Among the 25 occupations with the highest shortage of skilled workers, the proportion of career changers reaches just 37 percentage points. This shows two things: First, ICT is and will remain a sector with a promising future. Second, the doors in ICT are open and the profiles are diverse.
Great variability between ICT professions
Although career mobility in ICT professions is widespread compared to other professions, there are still significant differences between the various ICT professions: Career changes are very common today, for example, among instructors in the field of information technology (proportion of career changers: 93%), managers in the field of ICT services (91%) or technicians for ICT operations and user support (86%). In contrast, graphic and multimedia designers are comparatively more likely to remain in their originally learned profession – only 42% are career changers.
Where do career changers come from?
A striking diversity of original occupations can be observed among career changers. Apart from workers who were initially trained in another ICT occupation, a significant proportion of today’s software and application developers or analysts originally began their careers in related technical fields, for example, as engineers (13%) or electrical installers and mechanics (3%), but also in non-technical occupations as office clerks (3%) or business administration specialists (3%).
Among those now working as ICT operations and user support technicians, transitions from other ICT occupations are common: Many workers originally learned a profession in software and application developers or analysts (10%) or other ICT professionals (8%). However, career changes from non-technical occupations such as office administrator (9%) or salesperson (3%) also occur relatively frequently.
A significant proportion of these occupational changes are transitions from occupations with similar skill levels and require retraining rather than upskilling. But transitions from occupations with lower or higher skill levels are not uncommon either – especially among those who now work as ICT operations and user support technicians. The fact is: with targeted re-skilling or upskilling, new pathways into IT can open up for less qualified employees.
Important factors: gender and age
While older age groups and women are (still) underrepresented in ICT occupations, they are more likely than younger age groups and men to have come to this field from occupations unrelated to the subject.
This is an indication of the urgency of promoting women in STEM fields (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, technology). This is because women can be recruited for computer science even from professions outside the field: the potential for women to enter the field in Switzerland is therefore high. With targeted support for girls in STEM fields, this potential could be tapped at an earlier stage – turning career changers into entrants.The differences between the age groups can be explained primarily by the fact that older workers have been in the workforce longer and have therefore had more time for reorientation and further training. In addition, the hurdles for career changers may have increased in recent years due to more specific and higher job requirements.
This is why Lifelong learning becomes all the more important. The numbers show: The need is great, but so are the demands. But a career change is feasible.
How is digitalswitzerland supporting Lifelong Learning?
Ensuring a high-performing digital workforce of the future drives our activities. Education and lifelong learning sit at the heart of this. We are committed to offering easily accessible resources in upskilling, reskilling and training. We also work to spotlight the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) when it comes to our future skilled workforce. Supporting learners of all ages is a key commitment of our mission to make Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub.
More Information on AMOSA and their latest publications can be found here.
The digitalisation industry suffered from the crises of 2001 and 2008. In 2020, it is flourishing. Office work becomes remote work. Paper-based processes become online workflows. Factories and supply chains continue to run thanks to automation. We are about to take a 10-year leap into the future. This will shower us with productivity gains. We can even offset our covid costs this way.
Crises require pioneering efforts
In the spring of 2020, a letter from the venture fund Sequoia on the Covid crisis circulated in the tech industry. Memories of the 2001 and 2008 crises resonated. Sequoia suggested: Batten down the hatches. Prepare for the storm. Downsize.
I understand Sequoia’s letter. I lived and worked in Silicon Valley from 1998 to 2007 and through both crises. The dot-com crisis wiped out almost all start-ups in Silicon Valley. Streets and restaurants were empty, similar to the Covid crisis. Then there was the shock of 9/11. I left my employer McKinsey & Co and turned around a company. I lowered the cost base, built a new product and attracted investment.
From this experience, I founded Zattoo in 2005. I picked up the pace. There was a lot of interest in our offering. We expanded. We hired. We were a small sensation.
The financial crisis of 2008 came abruptly. All startups, not just Zattoo, were hit without warning because they didn’t have time to scan the environment for macro threats. Startups are fully occupied with user growth, product design, revenue growth and building the organisation.
Since there was no more venture capital available in the market, I even sold my flat in San Francisco in January 2009 to pay Zattoo’s content bill. The money was sitting between the US and Switzerland for about two months because the banks didn’t trust each other any more. I was able to pledge shares to raise cash for the company. I was able to convince Tamedia (now TX Ventures) to come in. With inventiveness and cost discipline, we were finally able to gain a foothold in 2010. Zattoo has since grown organically as an SME by about 20-30% a year.
After overcoming this crisis, I built up Zattoo’s Board of Directors. As president until 2019, I dedicated myself to, among other things, keeping the company crisis-resistant and recognising danger signals in advance. I hoarded cash to be able to help the company in case of an emergency. The TX Group took over the majority in April 2019. I relinquished the presidency. We continue to develop the company together.
When I first heard about Covid in January 2020, I was initially spooked. Memories of 2001 and 2008 flared up. I asked myself: How can Zattoo cope with the impending pandemic? The pandemic could lead the advertising industry to curb, delay, rebook or stop its spending. The cloud systems of Zattoo and the telecom industry were not designed to run autonomously for long periods of time. Even worse developments were conceivable.
I consulted my acquaintances, including an executive from McKinsey & Company China in February 2020. In conversation, we came up with a predicted decline in GDP to -3%, and Swiss GDP actually fell to about -3%.
It looked even more threatening in the short term, but it recovered during 2020. It recovered because we were able to keep working thanks to digitalisation. There was no need for an emergency programme at Zattoo or many tech companies. On the contrary, the tech industry was booming.
Digitisation as a ray of hope in a dark year of crisis
In the short term, innovations are overrated. The dot-com crisis of 2001 was a crisis of disillusionment, so to speak. In the long term, however, innovations are underestimated. In 2020, thanks to digitalisation, we have just lived through the first crisis in which we were soft-bedded by robots: a moment for the history books.
The economy, education, health, defence, finance, transport and energy were more crisis-resistant in 2020 thanks to digitalisation. Digitalisation is finally in full bloom:
There is a massive need for urgent digitisation projects in business and administration
We are all upgrading our IT at home, Apple, Google and Microsoft are booming
Digitisation is making its way into schools
Thanks to enterprise resource planning systems, production automation and logistics, our shelves stay well stocked. Parcels arrive. Payment is contactless.
Remote working helps us stay healthy at home and keep working
Social media allows us to share concerns, vent anger, offer comfort and discuss perspectives: A very important function.
When live performances are restricted due to a lockdown, we are kept well entertained with online videos instead.
The pillars of digitalisation are remote work and online workflows, which are mapped in the cloud, as well as online commerce.
The cloud allows collaborative work on letters, presentations, spreadsheets and more. It relieves us of server administration and provides better load distribution and higher availability than if we administered the servers ourselves.
The cloud is growing rapidly. Office work is increasingly done on Google Docs or with Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud. Privately, over a billion people now use the Apple Cloud. For all loads that are elastic or fluctuating, and for all workpieces that are handled by several actors at the same time, the cloud makes sense.
Zattoo itself offers examples of cloud services: Instead of storing recordings locally, our viewers access our cloud. Ideally, only one master copy is needed of many recordings that would all be the same. This saves money. Our B2B customer base (telecommunications and cable companies) also uses cloud services: instead of feeding TV signals from satellites via so-called headends themselves, they use our cloud service. Out of many thousands of headends in Europe, which all do roughly the same thing, it will ultimately take a handful in the cloud. Since each headend involves an investment of about CHF 10 million and ongoing costs, this saves a lot of money.
Online retail and delivery services are growing strongly and sustainably. Once users have broken old habits, opened a user account and ordered online, it is easy for them to order the pre-configured shopping basket again. Once they have practised the new behaviour, they stick with it.
Digitisation can offset our covid costs
GDP fell by CHF 25 billion in 2020; it will rise in 2021. A capital injection of CHF 70 billion flowed from the federal treasury. Let’s take this sum as a yardstick and ignore how this money from the economy ends up back in the state, because it will sooner or later. Let’s see if we can make it up in 10 years: That would be CHF 7 billion per year, or 1% of the gross national product in Switzerland of about CHF 700 billion.
This is possible: Assuming 700,000 remote workers, this amounts to CHF 10,000 per capita per year. We can achieve savings in these areas:
In urban centers in particular, a high proportion of salaries is sunk into the real estate market. These costs should ease somewhat (without inflation).
Fewer commuter movements relieve traffic congestion. This eases investment in infrastructure (assuming we use public transport again).
By digitizing business processes, we reduce transaction costs and gain speed in the economy.
Remote working enables specialization of resources and increases quality at lower costs.
For Switzerland, remote working can be the salvation from our graphical constraints. Employees can be geographically distributed throughout Switzerland or abroad. We no longer need to limit recruitment to a 100km radius around the workplace. Remote working opens up a larger pool of candidates for recruitment and promotes diversity and specialization. With remote working, it becomes cheaper to establish a startup in Switzerland.
Remote work increases employee satisfaction. Deloitte-Switzerland studies from 2020 and 2021 show: A majority of employees want to work in a hybrid way and by no means want to give up the benefits of remote working. Employees have lost a considerable amount of time commuting – they no longer want to bear this burden. They enjoy the freedom of working in places with low costs and high quality of life – this opens up new perspectives. They save time through fewer obligatory business trips. Remote work makes it easier for women to re-enter the world of work by allowing them to divide their time between the office and home.
Remote work preferences are not the same across age groups, and they also differ between industries and countries. In Japan, the loss of the “presence culture” is a major challenge. An anecdote from Japan was brought to my attention. A boss had never organised a video conference from home and asked if it would be possible for his assistants to help with this task. This type of work was always done in the office by specialists. For traditional bosses, remote work is a challenge.
The IT sector is a pioneer in remote working – other sectors are following suit
There have been other times: in 2013, the then boss of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, was still trying to get employees away from remote working. “Innovation happens in the pressure cooker of Yahoo’s development centre in Silicon Valley,” is how I would summarize her words. She saw innovation as a contact sport. Innovation is now possible online because the tools of work have improved.
The IT industry is now seizing the opportunity to offer employees attractive working conditions with remote working. It is by far the best prepared for this. Other sectors have also discovered that remote working works. Security is better than feared. So far, no new data has emerged from private banking.
Corona has done more to accelerate the digitalisation of Switzerland than all the digital initiatives we have had so far. From maybe 10’000 remote workers in Switzerland before the Covid crisis, we have made a leap to over 1 million (out of a total workforce of almost 5 million). When we talk about 700’000 remote jobs over the next 10 years, we understand the scale of change.
We know this: a clever strategy is announced, and we fudge about it because we like it differently. Does our force of habit now nullify the benefits of COVID digitization? Shall we return to box 1?
Let’s start with ourselves. We’ve learned how to organise ourselves in a home office. A zoom room would be ideal. We’ve learned to cook food, plant seeds, bake bread. Ideally, we would have our own garden. We travel more individually, less in groups. A camper would be perfect.
We improvise in the way we teach. An age-appropriate mix of face-to-face and online teaching would be ideal:
For kindergarteners and primary students, face-to-face interaction remains important. Face-to-face teaching will dominate, but not as rigidly as before. Online teaching tools complement it. Children like to use iPads and learn with them in a playful way.
At higher levels, it will become increasingly important to use the best teaching tools. They allow interactive learning and complement frontal teaching, for example with tools like Mathematica or with Khan Academy.
We may say to ourselves, “my stock portfolio has gone up, my real estate is worth more now, I don’t need to put up with the new world of work.” Or we’ve been ruined and can’t do it anymore. The Covid crisis is causing older workers in particular to leave the workforce.
For us to reap the benefits of digitalisation, we need to break the habit of returning to old-fashioned offices where we wear headphones to work intently. Instead, let’s reinvent offices and embrace the remote working opportunity that served us well during the Covid crisis.
About Bea Knecht
Bea Knecht digitalises media services with her start-ups Zattoo, Genistat and Levuro. Genistat employs experts in media data science. Levuro employs experts in social media engagement. Wingman is a VC fund she supports: By Entrepreneurs, For Entrepreneurs. Bea Knecht serves on the boards of the Society for Marketing and CH++ and is a member of the Federal Media Commission. She is a recipient of the IAB Lifetime Award, the Best of Swiss Web Award and the Emmy Award.
Continuing education doesn’t just take place in school. Roughly 20 companies have already gifted up to 4 hours of continuing education time per week during the 6 weeks leading up to Digital Day. This is donated time in which new skills can be acquired or existing ones sharpened. Is your company also taking part?