Talent shortage in digital economy

The shortage of skilled digital staff will exceed 1 mio in the near future. Where to find the builders of the digital future, who should train them and how – these are not purely ideological questions, but also commercial ones. The Digital Economy national program allocates RUR 138.7 bln ($2.1 bln) for training and refresher training. Today, digital education is in confusion and disorder, says Sergei Bezdelov, chairman of the subcommittee on the development of tools for financing innovative and venture projects of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI). Without standardization of educational programs, even at the basic level, it would be impossible to build a digital future for the country, according to the CCI. Its November 14 strategic session focused on the issues of standardization of digital education in the context of the new economic structure.

Sergei Bezdelov, who moderated the meeting, noted that at least basic knowledge standards should be introduced in this new area. Also, according to him, all employees of firms and companies involved in implementing the Digital Economy National Program must complete certified programs of advanced training at state universities.

Andrei Svistunov, deputy director for methodology support at the Communications Ministry’s center for expertise and IT, gave an assessment of the current educational services market in Russia.

“The market is overloaded: programs with titles containing ‘digital’ can be found in the additional education segment, at universities, and even in the MBA. They offer a huge discrepancy in content as well as cost – from RUR 10K to 1 mio,” Svistunov said.

But this does not solve the workforce training problem. The expert notes that Gartner identifies around 100 new technologies while the Digital Economy technology maps only include nine areas. For example, wireless power transfer and neuromorphic research remain overlooked. But the situation may change in two or three years and the market will require specialists with other qualifications. Therefore, the authorities need to develop requirements for training and instructors. Only after that, they will be able to talk about standards. 

Nikolai Komlev, Chairman of the CCI Council on Development of Information Technology and Digital Economy, Director of the Information & Computer Technologies Industry Association (APKIT), says that since 2007, they have been working on professional standards. For example, they are currently supervising professional standards for systems programmers, graphic and user interface designers.

“The ministry promoting digital economy becomes a bottleneck where professional standards get stuck,” Nikolai Komlev stresses. “In 2017 and 2018, most of new digital jobs were blocked by the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media. Now it is the new Ministry of Digital Development.” 

Thus, in particular, Deputy Minister Alexei Volin gave a negative assessment of the professional standards for such training programs as ‘managing data and information objects,’ as well as ‘digital curator’ program. The ‘internet marketing’ training standards have been blocked for a year. Unless they are approved it is impossible to conduct further work because educational programs are always based on professional standards. According to Head of the Communications Ministry’s center for expertise and IT Roman Urnyshev, it takes about 18 months to approve a new professional standard. However, the digital world changes so quickly that the newly adopted standards might already be obsolete.

Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Committee for Financial Markets and Credit Organizations Vladimir Gamza suggested the creation of a Higher Learning Foundation, similar to social and pension insurance funds and the US 529 plan designed to encourage saving for the future higher education expenses. The foundation, created by the leading universities and the Russian Venture Company, will be an endowment foundation led by professional investors. Russian families, participants in the foundation, will be able to pay for their kids’ higher education by signing a futures contract and paying for the education three years before training, four years during the training and one year after. It will be possible to choose an education program at an open market place. The foundation will also be responsible for the creation and development of a platform to select educational projects and investments from endowment, the Russian Venture Fund, and partners. 

The project aims to make Russian education as accessible and applied as possible, as well as to begin exporting it by the example of Australia.

By Anna Oreshkina 

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