Summary

Information and Communications Technicians (ICT technicians) support the design, development, installation, operation, testing, and problem solving of hardware and software.

Key facts:

  • Around 1.9 million people were employed as ICT technicians in 2018. Employment in the occupation grew by almost 11 per cent between 2006 and 2018.
  • Employment is projected to grow by a further 5 per cent over the period 2018 to 2030 – i.e. an additional 98,000 new jobs will be created. 
  • This underestimates the true level of employment demand. In order to replace the workers who will leave the occupation for one reason or another – an estimated 575,000 between 2018 and 2030 – and meet the projected growth in demand over the same period, around 673,000 job openings will need to be filled. 
  • ICT technicians may differ according to the sector they work for. Despite these dissimilarities, common drivers of change can be identified in relation to development of new business models and processes both in IT and its user sectors.
  • Most ICT technicians hold either medium- or high-level qualifications (49 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, in 2018). Between 2018 and 2030, these proportions are expected to change, as those with medium level qualifications will represent 40 per cent of the workforce in 2030, whereas those with high level qualifications will represent 54 per cent. The share of low qualified workers is expected to decrease from 8 in 2018 to 6 per cent in 2030.
  • Another key characteristic of the occupation is that skills are particularly vulnerable to the swift and constant technological advancements across sectors.
  • In the workplace, using ICT, being autonomous, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks of ICT technicians.

Tasks and skills

Information and Communications Technicians (ICT technicians)i support the design, development, installation, operation, testing, and problem solving of hardware and software. They regard a wide set of sub-occupations that range from network system technicians to telecommunications engineering technicians. Due to the wide penetration of information technologies (IT) across the economy, they work in a wide range of sectors, from IT to manufacturing and telecommunications and number of other service sectors.

According to Eurofound's Job Monitor, using ICT, being autonomous, gathering and evaluating information are the most important tasks of ICT technicians.

Figure 1: Importance of tasks for ICT technicians

Note: The importance of tasks and skills is measured on 0-1 scale, where 0 means least important and 1 means most important.

The employment level of ICT technicians across sectors is expected to grow by 5 per cent between 2018 and 2030, a further increase in employment following the almost 11 per cent increase over the period 2006 to 2018. The 5 per cent growth in employment will result in there being 98,000 new jobs by 2030. 10 EU Member States are expected to experience significant growth of ICT technicians’ jobs in the future while in only 6 countries this occupation is projected to experience a significant decline.

Figure 2: Future employment growth for ICT technicians across the EU (2018-2030, in %)

This, however, understates the growth in demand for people to work as ICT technicians. Over the period 2018 to 2030 an estimated 575,000 people are projected to leave the occupation for one reason or another such as retirement iii. Given the projected increase in employment over the same period, this will result in there being around 673,000 job openings that will need to be filled between 2018 and 2030. Among total job openings in the ICT occupations between 2018 and 2030, only 1 in 6 is projected to be for ICT technicians, so their share within ICT occupations is  declining. Advancements in artificial intelligence, cloud-based services and most of all mobile devices have polarised demand for ICT skills. The demand for ICT specialists has intensified but technicians are less needed as even very sophisticated ICT tools can be now mastered by people with only user-level skills.

Figure 3: Future job openings of ICT technicians (2018-2030)

Technology advancements and ever-augmenting permeability of IT in production and collaboration processes are expected to significantly boost the share of high qualified employees in the occupation. Most of these workers currently hold either medium- or high-level qualifications (49 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, in 2018). Between 2018 and 2030, these proportions are expected to change, as the share of employment accounted for by those with medium level qualifications will fall to  40 per cent of the workforce, whereas those with high level qualifications will represent 54 per cent. The share of low-skilled workers is expected to decrease from 8 to 6 per cent.

The need for higher and more specialised qualifications and skills may draw more employment growth to ICT professionals, but technicians are expected to have surmounting role in some non-IT and telecommunications sectors: comparing 2018 to 2030, the financial and insurance sector (business services) will employ much more more ICT technicians. Significant employment growth is also foreseen in media sector, as well as in industries in manufacturing; wholesale and retail trade, non-marketed serviceseducation and health & social care.

More information on employment trends for this occupation can be found on the Skills Panorama, here.

Which drivers of change will affect their skills?

Given the wide range of industries that ICT technicians can be employed in, they need to combine technical skills with sector-relevant skills as well as understanding of objectives and challenges of that particular sector. Subsequently, sector-specific skills are influenced by factors not necessarily related to IT. 

ICT technicians may differ according to the sector they work for. Despite these dissimilarities, common drivers of change can be identified in relation to development of new business models and processes both in IT and its user sectors. These drivers are foreseen to affect the demand for and skills of ICT technicians:

  • Mobile internet technologies and adoption of business models of ICT provision such as software-as-a-service, web-based services and downloadable applications will generally decrease demand for customer serviceiv. As the provision of these services is centralised and applied remotely, on-site technical support becomes less pertinent, but not obsolete: mobility (of employees, consumers, devices and applications) asks for the support and smooth interference of different software versions, operating systems and security arrangementsv which can be safeguarded by an ICT technician.
  • Increased user friendliness of web applications/ management systems and software empowers non-expert users to function autonomously, while the level of user ICT skills also rises. Although “traditional” customer support may change in nature as a consequence, the increased share of older employees and customers with less advanced e-skills calls for ICT technical support.
  • Explosive increase in the development of overall technological, online and mobile activities (for example, e-sales) asks for ICT technicians’ support of Internet, networks and relevant infrastructure.
  • With the growing utilisation of mobile and web-based solutions, the ability to manage more complex partner and supplier relationships becomes more important. Technicians may be less needed for their technical skills but as they will become more client-facing, they will be exposed to a growing need for business and interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate technical as well as non-technical information verbally and in writingvi.
  • Automation and digitalisation infiltrates all sectors, even non-ICT intensive ones (such as health, education, accommodation and catering), creating further demand for ICT maintenance and support services.
  • The need for stronger cyber security is also impacting on technicians’ skillsvii. There is a need to continuously update and improve security skills related to the entire range of products and services that information and communications technicians deal with, from adjusting software that delivers tighter security to technical support to ensure the on-going protection of systems. This requires skills to develop integrated security solutions and manage risk, based on a solid understanding of the vulnerabilities of underlying ICT system architectureviii.
  • System integration - the process of linking together different computing systems and applications to act as a coordinated one- is still a major ICT trend. The demand for ICT technical skills to manage complex IT environments and systems can therefore be expected to increase.
  • Technological advancements such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things and advances in computer power and Big Data are expected to substantially alter the way the economy and society function. ICT technicians can be expected to have a role in supporting the well-functioning of the advanced computer systems and networks.

“As perhaps the biggest disruptive technology trend in recent times, cloud computing is steadily permeating throughout businesses across the world. As IT infrastructure and operations are moved to off-site hosted locations, there will be inevitable reverberations in the job market. It means that new and updated skillsets will be required, while others will have to adapt and be redeployed. As the uptake of Infrastructure-as-a-Service increases, in-house infrastructure related jobs such as system administrators or operators may find that their primary tasks will be moved to the cloud. This means that fewer traditional data centre managers will be needed internally as IT becomes hosted offsite by someone else.”

Source: Computerweekly.com

  • 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 technicians are reportedly an occupation with very low risk of automation.

How can these skill needs be met?

The expected increase in the demand for high qualifications opens opportunities for education and training providers. Pertinent to ICT occupations overall, the challenge lies in proper design of curricula or work-based learning training to ensure the balance between specific ICT skills that will probably be obsolete by the learners’ graduation; and overly general skills that hinder employability.

Employers need to be able to provide learning opportunities covering the entire range of learning outcomes connected to a holistic qualification. This might be difficult for small companies offering a limited portfolio of services, or in sectors where a company offers one specific solution (as often in the ICT sector).

Another key characteristic of the occupation is that skills are particularly vulnerable to the swift and constant technological advancements across sectors. At the same time, ICT occupations draw significant number of individuals with non-ICT background. High quality continuous vocational education and training is therefore necessary to ensure that ICT technicians stay abreast of technological advancements, regardless of the sector/industry they work for.

Certificationx and reskilling programmes are necessary to ensure that current and future ICT technicians are well-equipped to handle these skill challenges. Moreover, as employment demand outpaces supply in ICT occupations due to fast technology developments, recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning can be a significant component of bridging skill shortages.

References

[i] Defined as ILO ISCO 08 group 35 ICT Technicians occupations. ILO (2012) International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO-08

[iii] 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.

[iv] World Economic Forum 2016, The Future of Jobs”.

[vi] UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2012, Information and Communication Technologies: Sector Skills Assessment 2012.

[vii] World Economic Forum 2012, “Global Risks 2012