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DIGITALCITY.brussels: an Employment-ICT Training Centre to support the challenges of digital transformation and the digital economy in Brussels

Jean-Pierre Rucci, Director Evoliris & DIGITALCITY.brussels
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Jean-Pierre Rucci

Times are changing, as are our habits and consumption patterns. In a society entirely focused on digital technology, the digital transformation appears to be one of the growth drivers favoured by the most innovative companies. Even though most companies have begun the process, many believe that they have fallen behind the global challenge of business digitisation. To ensure the sustainability of Brussels' economic future, it is time to take a new step forward and offer training and support in digital skills management in line with market realities.

What do we mean when we talk about digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the direct result of the emergence of new technologies. The 19th century was marked by the development of the steam engine. The 20th and 21st centuries are those of the computer and digitisation.

Digital transformation is not only linked to the democratisation of the computer, tablet and smartphone, although these devices are involved. In fact, all computer systems are a part of this: social networks, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CMS (Content Management System) software, virtual services (including SaaS, online management tools (your bank!), 3D printers, and email services.

Digital transition therefore responds to major strategic challenges. Through it, the entire production or service chain is modified. As a tool to accelerate innovation, it redefines customer-partner relationships, promotes employee autonomy and decompartmentalises services. As a result, a business's operational performance improves, a company's profitability increases and customers are more satisfied than ever.

Digital transformation requires a fundamental rethinking of the structure's organisation and the creation of new specialised positions or an in-depth transformation of existing ones. For it to be successful, it must therefore be incorporated at the very start of a project, so as to avoid the human and financial costs of late implementation.

The need to go beyond the strict framework of the ICT sector and be well trained

In this context of business transformation, there is a severe shortage of digital experts and professionals and an increasing lack of digital skills (which have become relevant to all sectors and professions), both in Brussels and in the rest of the country.

A recent study by Agoria, presented in September 2018 and entitled "Digitalisation and the Belgian labour market "1, warned that if nothing is put in place, "the gap between supply and demand will continue to grow until at least 2030." By 2021, demand for workers will exceed supply. Among the sectors most affected are ICT, healthcare and education. The report points out that this shortage, particularly of ICT profiles, is both quantitative and qualitative. According to the report, Flanders (12%) and Brussels (11%) are the regions most affected by this shortage.

Agoria's report puts forward four strategies to help our labour market cope with these transformations:

  1. upskilling of all employees, particularly their digital skills;
  2. retraining a certain number of workers and the unemployed;
  3. activating and harmonising awareness towards studies leading to promising and/or scarce trades;
  4. increasing business productivity by taking advantage of digitalisation tools.

One way out of this restrictive framework is to monitor the evolution of IT in the context of the current labour market, rather than merely in the context of its professions; this will broaden the scope of action, particularly towards sectors other than ICT that are present in large numbers in Brussels (finance, insurance, banking, non-market, etc.).

This perspective is no longer limited to a "trade"- or sector-specific approach, going beyond this to propose a vision focused on the acquisition of digital skills for all professionals, whatever their sector. It can also be considered through the digital conversion strategy of the Brussels-Capital Region, in particular by supporting the NEXTTECH Brussels plan.

DIGITALCITY.brussels: an Employment-ICT Training Centre in Brussels

In 2018, the social partners - AGORIA, FGTB, CNE and CGSLB - partners of Evoliris (the ICT Professional Reference Centre in Brussels), signed a memorandum of intent to support, manage and coordinate the Employment-ICT Training Centre together with Brussels Training, VDAB and ACTIRIS.

DIGITALCITY.brussels, the Employment-ICT Training Centre, is therefore the result of a public/private partnership that will very soon become a bilingual non-profit organisation founded by the sectoral social partners on the one hand, and the Brussels Public Employment Service, Actiris and the public training services (Brussels Training and VDAB) on the other.

DIGITALCITY.brussels consists of three pillars that define the centre's strategy: the Sectoral pillar (R&D), the Training/Skills validation pillar (VDC) and the Employment pillar.

The centre's objective is to bring together and develop employment and training resources for the information and communication technology sector, and the digital sector in general, in a single physical location in Brussels.

In concrete terms, DIGITALCITY.brussels will open in early 2020, in the "Danone" building on Rue Jules Cockx in Auderghem. The location was chosen for its visibility and ease of access and also to establish a physical link with nearby universities (ULB and VUB). The goal of this collaboration is to develop synergies and partnerships with these institutions based around the centre's various activities, particularly in the field of continuing education.

The partners' aim is to make DIGITALCITY.brussels functional, welcoming and modern, in line with new technologies and the digital world. The four floors of DIGITALCITY.brussels will house a 100-seat auditorium, some 15 equipped rooms, a digital media studio and laboratories dedicated to network technologies (CISCO) and skills validation.

In light of the significant public investments involved, contacts with private partners are increasing in order to initiate new public-private partnerships and obtain sponsorship. There are many partnership needs, in the areas of infrastructures and equipment as well as the need for innovative projects, experts, trainers, etc. In return, DIGITALCITY.brussels is the ideal place for companies to find qualified personnel (including young graduates), train their (future) employees and increase the visibility of their projects, products or services.

Proposals are welcome!

 

1Digitalisation and the Belgian labour market. "Shaping the future of work", Agoria, 2018.