Information and communications technology (ICT) professionals conduct research, plan, design, write, test, provide advice and improve information technology systems, hardware, software and related concepts for specific applications.
- Around 3.5 million people were employed as ICT professionals in 2018. Employment in the occupation grew by just over 29 per cent between 2006 and 2018.
- Employment is projected to grow by a further 11 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030. In doing so, an additional 395,000 new jobs will be created. If one adds this to the number of people who are expected to leave the occupation over the same period for reasons such as retirement – an estimated 1.2 million – then it is clear to see that there will be a substantial demand for people to work in the occupation. There will be 1.6 million ICT professional jobs that will need to be filled between 2018 and 2030.
- ICT professionals are highly-qualified: in 2018, 71 per cent had a high level qualification which is expected to increase to 74 per cent in 2030. Those with medium level qualifications accounted for 25 per cent of the workforce in 2018 and this will remain more or less unchanged to stand at 23 per cent in 2030.
- In the workplace, using ICT, being autonomous, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks of ICT professionals.
- ICT is a general-purpose technology, and so changes and disruptions in the economy can have significant influence on the future skill demands for these professionals.
Tasks and skills
Information and communications technology (ICT) professionals1 conduct research, plan, design, write, test, provide advice and improve information technology systems, hardware, software and related concepts for specific applications. They also develop associated documentation and design, develop, control, maintain and support databases and other information systems to ensure optimal performance and data integrity and security.
According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, using ICT, being autonomous, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks of ICT professionals.
Figure 1: Importance of tasks of ICT professionals
Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.
What are the trends for the future? 2
Employment in the ICT professionals occupation is expected to grow by 11 per cent between 2018 and 2030, following the 29 per cent growth observed over the period 2006 to 2018. The 11 per cent growth will result in there being an additional 395,000 new jobs in the occupation by 2030. 27 out of 28 EU countries are expected to create more jobs for ICT professionals.
Figure 2: Future employment growth of ICT professionals across the EU (2018-2030, in %)
This understates the growth in demand for people to work as ICT professionals. Over the period 2018-2030 an estimated 1.2 million people are projected to leave the occupation for one reason or another such as retirement 3 . Given the projected increase in employment over the same period, this will result in there being around 1.6 million job openings that will need to be filled between 2018 and 2030.
Figure 3: Future job openings of ICT professionals (2018-2030)
With regards to education level, the qualifications profile of the occupation will not change much over the period 2018 to 2030. It is an occupation where most of the workforce are highly qualified. In 2018, 71 per cent of ICT professionals had a high level qualification and is expected to rise to 74 per cent in 2030. A quarter of the workforce – 25 per cent – held medium level qualifications in 2018 and this will remain more or less unchanged to stand at 23 per cent in 2030. The penetration of ICT across business processes, production and services will sustain the trend for high qualification requirements in the period 2018 to 2030.
Half of ICT professionals work in ICT services sector and the other across all sectors of the economy, especially in manufacturing, professional services and finance and insurance services.
More information on employment trends for this occupation can be found on the Skills Panorama, here.
Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
ICT is a general-purpose technology 4, and so changes and disruptions in the economy can have significant influence on the future skill demands for these professionals.
- Overall, increased demand for highly-skilled ICT professionals is expected. However, developments in technology and value chains will likely shift the balance from technical ICT skills to sector-specific knowledge and soft skills such as management and planning.
As ICT penetrates more and more activities of the economy, numerous software applications have been and continue to be developed. This has enabled growth and success of various application developers/providers, often focusing on niche markets. Technological developments such as module applications empower skilled end-users in lieu of ICT professionals.
Additionally, ICT technical skills services are increasingly outsourced to non-EU, cheaper markets. EU professionals will need to have skills such as managing of supply chain in the context of ICT, in a variety of sectors.
- On top of outsourcing, further digitalisation of economy will boost demand for people with deep knowledge of these sectors, who are able to develop efficient, custom-built ICT solutions for any company or organization, from health-care providers and sewage network companies to farms and logistics companies.
- More powerful computers will increase the amount and the variety of the data generated 5. The ‘Big Data trend’ should lead to an increased demand for strong data analytical skills and skills for scaling and managing the data for enterprises 6. New occupations are expected to emerge, e.g. data scientists, data managers, and chief data officer 7.
- The shift towards cloud computing 8 has been slow, but is expected to accelerate for both enterprises and consumers. Cloud computing reduces the demand for technical knowledge on the part of its users, since services are outsourced to cloud providers 9. This will mean that enterprises will need skills on service integration, service management, designing and managing clouds, and building and optimising cloud data centres.
- As the research and industry investment in automation, such as in advanced robots, virtual personal assistants, autonomous vehicles (e.g. driverless cars), and smart-home hubs grows, there will be increasing demand for software and hardware expertise (with high levels of numeracy and domain knowledge) 10. These professionals will be valuable both for established organisations, hoping to consolidate their market, as well as start-ups that challenge the status quo.
- Likewise, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) 11 will drive demand for skills and occupations related to architecture and design, knowledge of and skills in handling diversified systems, and understanding of standardisation and interoperability between connected (and to-be-connected) systems. Technical knowledge of IoT networks, and skills for managing the multiple network configurations that are part of IoT networks, are also expected to be in demand.
- As the various components of ICT infrastructure become more interconnected with the growth in “smart systems”, the threats posed by cybercrime and cyberterrorism 12 will expand beyond the conventional confines of computing systems. In particular, increased demand is foreseen for data science and analytics skills, paired with business acumen 13. The demand for cybersecurity skills relating to both software and hardware systems will grow. Besides sector-specific expertise, these professionals will probably need to have high-level qualifications to meet the demands of the interconnected “smart” infrastructure systems of the future.
- Risk of Automation: As a part of its Digitalisation and future of work project, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. ICT professionals are reportedly an occupation with very low risk of automation.
How can these skill needs be met?
As ICT technicians 14, ICT professionals’ skills are vulnerable to swift and constant technological advancements. They are also challenged by parameters that stress the need for action to respond to yet ever-changing information technology developments.
Anecdotal evidence 15 supports that the share of computer science graduates has increased in ICT recruitment over the last decade; yet other graduates, from mathematics, natural sciences, engineering or social sciences that possess the IT skills demanded fill ICT positions that would otherwise remain vacant. As ICT professionals very often come from non-pure IT studies, enriching curricula across specialisation of studies with STEM and other ICT-pertinent skills can support people’s transition to ICT professional jobs, regardless of their educational background.
As continuous vocational education is indispensable for career progression, there are several professional certifications that ICT professionals could pursue through private providers and academic institutions. Certifications are designed to keep the knowledge and skills of the workforce updated. The e-skills QUALITY study 16 shows that certification has become essential for ICT practitioners across all backgrounds. Not surprisingly, about half of them reportedly hold at least one certification 17.
The increased emphasis on sectoral expertise poses a challenge though, as cross-skilling - i.e. acquiring knowledge and expertise of a specific sector or multiple sectors - would also need to be part of the training provided at work.
To promote mobility of ICT professionals across sectors in the economy and/or EU Member States, the European Commission offers a “common European framework for ICT professionals in all industry sectors”. Figure 1 below offers an overview of the e-competences identified, level of expertise required etc.
A common European framework for ICT Professionals in all industry sectors
“The European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) provides a reference of 40 competences as required and applied at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) workplace, using a common language for competences, skills and proficiency levels that can be understood across Europe.
As the first sector-specific implementation of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), the e-CF fits for application by ICT service, demand and supply organizations, companies, for managers and HR departments, for education institutions and training bodies, including higher education, for market watchers and policy makers, public and private sectors”.
Source: European E-Competence Framework
 Defined as ILO ISCO 08 group 25 Information and communications technology professionals. ILO (2012) International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08.
 The need to replace workers leaving a profession for various reasons, such as retirement. For more information on replacement demand and how it drives employment across sectors, can be found on the Skills Panorama here.
 Eurostat: Percentage of the ICT personnel on total employment. accessed 15 June 2016.
 Dass, M, Goodwin, A, Wood, M & Luanaigh, A, N 2015 Sector insights: Sector insights: skills and performance challenges in the digital and creative sector UK Commission on Employment and Skills
 Morrison, A., 2016, ‘Attention governments: Big Data is a game changer for businesses’ The World Bank The Data Blog 23 February 2016, viewed 1 June 2016
 https://ctovision.com/2012/03/the-emerging-role-of-the-chief-data-officer-and-data-scientist/, accessed 21 June 2016
 IDC for the European Commission DG Enterprise & Industry 2014, ICT TRENDS 2020 Main Trends for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and their Implications for e-LEADERSHIP SKILLS, viewed 1 June 2016
 Darrow, B, 2015 ‘The battle for cloud supremacy: Amazon's AWS vs. legacy IT juggernauts’ Fortune.com viewed 1 June 2016
 Darrell, W, 2015, ‘What happens if robots take the jobs? The impact of emerging technologies on employment and public policy’ Center for Technology and Innovation at Brookings, viewed 2 June 2016
 ‘The Future of Jobs’ 2015 World Economic Forum
 Hüsing, T, Korte, W, K, & Dashja, E, 2015 Trends and Forecasts for the European ICT Professional and Digital Leadership Labour Markets (2015-2020), viewed 1 June 2016
 European Commission ‘Towards a European Quality label for ICT industry training and certification’, viewed 1 June 2016.
 Korte, W, B, Hüsing, T, Hendriks, L, & Dirkx, J (prepared for the European Commission) 2013, Towards a European Quality label for ICT industry training and certification, viewed 1 June 2016