EDDIE aims to become the leading aggregator of educational resources for the digitalization of the energy industry. EDDIE was launched as a project funded by the European Erasmus+ program and has already resulted in a wide range of studies and an online platform to which 16 partners from 10 countries have contributed.
The challenge that the EDDIE project set out to answer is to develop a long-term oriented plan for the digitalization of the European energy sector in such a way as to allow the correlation between the current and future demand for skills needed for the digitalization of the energy sector and the supply of improved education systems and training.
Where is the gap
A first survey was carried out to identify the skills that are missing in the industry to face the challenges of digitalization and digital transformation. Around 60 prestigious industrial companies responded to a survey, providing a clear overview of the demand for skills in the energy sector. To validate the results, 5 interviews were conducted with industry executives. In addition, a new second survey was developed to collect information from Vocational Education Trainings (VET) providers, involving 33 organisations. Examining a number of European study programs with a focus on both universities and other relevant vocational education and training institutions supplemented the research.
The analysis showed a discrepancy between the current and future demand of abilities in multiple working domains, while digitalization and technological changes are transforming the way of live and work. “The digitalization of the energy sector requests rapid transitions from the present level of knowledge to a more contemporary level and from one occupation to another, forcing people to continuously upskill and reskill,” say the authors of the study.
The key areas that present skill gaps between demand and supply are data management and analysis, big data, cyber security, and programming and development competences. Electricity showcases the biggest skill gaps, probably as a result of the accelerated development of distributed energy resources and smart grids. The study also shows that “apart from technical skills and competencies, transversal skills (e.g. communication skills), business skills, and green skills are very important in the energy sector”.
Assessment of the educational policies and systems
Efforts for identification and assessment of education and professional training systems for the provision of professional skills and knowledge in order to address digitalization in the energy industry have been concretized in five reports addressing themes such as VET systems for delivery of skills and professional knowledge to address digitalization, best practises for VET education, best practises for university education, best practises for continuing learning, and synergy with other European education frameworks.
The assessment of vocational education systems in five countries with strong energy industries – Germany, Spain, Romania, Greece and Sweden – showed that standardisation at European level is needed to overcome the obstacles raised by the significant differences that exist at national level. Also, more flexibility is required, but also new models for education and training in the energy sector, new contents and areas of professional knowledge and training, such as ICT, artificial intelligence, smart grids, renewable energies, programming, machine learning and data analytics.
The study includes five recommendations to consider when designing and developing educational programs:
- Emphasise collaboration and networking with industry as well as education institutions
- Building capacity through specialised training with quality assurance processes
- Foster customised and practical learning with hands-on experience
- Utilise digital tools and interactive training methods
- Increase interest in topics of digital energy already in early education
4 online platforms
To achieve the goal of building the main aggregator of resources for education in the field of digitalization in the energy industry, the proposed strategy includes the creation of four types of digital platforms (marketplaces) and the operationalization of a Large Scale Partnership (an association) to manage this aggregator. The four marketplaces will be dedicated to distinct categories of services: 1. training, 2. jobs, 3. research and dissemination, and 4. tools and systems.
The first one is already operational in demo mode and integrates into an online portal a database with the shareholders and the training programs they offer, in a standard format that allows the description of learning objectives (knowledge and skills). For four weeks, interested parties – providers of training programs and consumers of training programs – are invited to sign up and submit feedback for improvement.
An example of good practice in the field of education for the digitalization of energy, but also in other fields of activity, is the Digital4Energy project coordinated by the Romanian Energy Centre Association – CRE. It included actions to raise awareness of the importance of participation in continuing vocational training (CVT) programs among small and medium-sized enterprises in Romania. More specifically, 13 participating SMEs were supported in organizing in-house learning and specialization programs at the workplace and more than 400 employees from over 50 SMEs benefited from 10 CVT courses to improve specific digital skills.