It pays to be a technology expert, study shows
While many industries struggled badly during the financial crisis, Europe's IT sector continued to perform well.
Companies are becoming more reliant on new, cutting-edge technology, which means highly-skilled digital experts will continue to play an important role within European organisations. There has been a great deal of debate about skills shortages in this area and this is something the EU is hoping to rectify.
With talented, experienced IT specialists in such high demand, their wages have risen sharply.
Impressive job and pay growth
According to a study recently published by Belgian university KU Leuven, "high-tech" employment grew by 20 per cent across the EU's 27 member states in the past decade. This was more than double the eight per cent improvement in overall labour market activity during the same timeframe.
The research indicated that the digital unemployment rate has remained below the four per cent mark on a consistent basis. The technology industry's unemployment rate was lower than overall unemployment figures for all 27 EU countries.
High-tech workers also earn far more money than the average employee in other sectors, the study confirmed. It calculated that people who work in a technical industry generally earn 19 per cent more than their counterparts in non-technical fields.
The KU Leuven research showed that Germany, France, Italy and the UK collectively accounted for 60 per cent of all high-tech employment across the EU 27. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic had the highest concentration of digital employees, making up 13.7 per cent of the country's overall workforce.
What skills are employers looking for?
The European Commission is concerned that thousands of digital jobs will remain vacant in the future, as there will not be enough people capable of filling them. Speaking to EurActiv, Lucilla Sioli from the European Commission's DG Connect group, explained that coding courses should become mandatory in IT curricula, as these are key skills that employers are looking for.
"Lots of jobs will require coding in the future, people will have to be able to program or modify a piece of software themselves," she was quoted as saying.
The most talented individuals will also have in-depth skills in areas such as big data analytics, cloud solutions and cyber security. In many organisations, the divisions between different departments have been blurred and IT experts are now expected to have strong financial skills and the ability to contribute to key business decisions.
Employers are willing to offer eye-catching remuneration packages to attract the best technology experts, so IT professionals should constantly update their skillset.
Does IT appeal to women?
There has been a lot of talk about gender inequality across Europe and this issue is particularly prominent in the IT sector.
Speaking in Brussels on March 6th 2014, European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said "tech is too important to be left to men alone". Her comments were in reference to official figures that show just nine in 100 app developers in Europe are women.
Less than one in five IT managers are female, while less than 30 per cent of the overall IT workforce is made up of women. Just 19 per cent of IT entrepreneurs are women, which is a huge drop from the figure of 54 per cent for other service sectors.
The European Commission has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging more women to embark on a career in IT. Ms Kroes feels the industry might have an image problem, but she insisted IT is not for the "geeky few" and there are numerous examples of women making a real impact in the digital sector.
"It is cool and it is the future," she continued.
"We wanted to provide a platform for women to tell their stories about getting ahead in tech. And there are so many success stories out there - so please share yours and help us to inspire the next generation."
There are clearly many opportunities opening up for talented digital professionals and with governments and EU leaders taking a proactive approach towards promoting the benefits of IT careers, companies should find it easier to hire highly-skilled workers in the future.