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We can use COVID-19 pandemic to reinvent education

By: Harin Contractor.


A lot has been said about how the COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the digital divide in education, health care and elsewhere.

Overnight, millions of students were consigned to the wild wild west of distance learning at home. And we are quickly discovering the depth of the digital divide in the field of education, and that its dimensions reach far beyond the simple notion of just having broadband inside the home.

Currently, distance learning is breaking down for many reasons. Nearly three months into distance learning in Philadelphia, fewer than half of the students participated in their virtual classroom. Los Angeles’ largest school district reported 15,000 students were absent from online learning, even after many students received distance learning devices.

The lack of planning by school systems is probably the most significant failure. Surveys show that nearly 65% of teachers worldwide were completely unprepared for what the distance education transition requires, and it takes a lot: understanding the technology, updating curricula, in-home supervision especially in single-parent households, literacy and a range of other baked-in sociological factors.

Inequities, already ubiquitous in public education, are also deepening in distance education. Forty-three percent of Hispanics and 42% of African American students don’t have a desktop or laptop at home, and 33% of urban students lack home computers.

And even if students get devices from their local schools, we face a digital literacy crisis. One survey found many fifth and eighth graders are insufficiently prepared digitally.

In order to fix the distance education challenge, government, business and nonprofit leaders must come together and get our nation’s best minds focused on every aspect of the problem. The future of our education, health care and so many other institutions depend on it.

Through the CARES Act, Congress is trying to address some of the device gap and other divide challenges by appropriating $13.2 billion in grants for elementary and secondary schools. Congress wisely sees that the distance education challenge involves many issues simultaneously and appropriated funds for a wide range of purposes — curricula, computers, broadband connectivity, software and so on.

It’s a useful start, but unless the education community, parents, community leaders and students all rally to fix the underlying challenges, we will be climbing a steep hill on education this fall and beyond.

While many broadband providers have stepped up to provide $10 a month broadband internet service to low-income households — and some are even offering free service to many homes during COVID-19 — we need the flexibility on E-Rate and CARES funds to beta-test other broadband adoption strategies. For instance, we should use these funds to help broadband providers wire every single unconnected home in a community where that provider already servicing a school.

Other ideas should also be tested, including incentivizing even more low-cost broadband by returning universal service contributions to broadband providers that take such initiatives. Federal funds should also better support public libraries, which have become critical learning centers for many communities during social distancing phase of education and training.

But most fundamentally, it’s time for the government and private sector partners to set up a national blended learning, mentoring and tutoring effort. Unless we think big along those lines, students will remain sidelined this fall regardless of how much broadband connectivity and devices they have.

Big structural change ideas must include massive new digital literacy efforts in urban and rural America where the online education gaps are most stark. Policy leaders must remember that the divide is as much an adoption issue as anything else; many non-adopting homes don’t see the relevance of the internet or may prefer their mobile device.

This crisis allows us the opportunity to reinvent our education system and make it more fair and inclusive to reflect our 21st century realities.

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We need to talk about racism in schools

Hey — hey America, can we talk about racism for a second? Everyone else, feel free to listen in, but America . . . we really need to talk. Why? Because you seem to think the only racism that counts is the kind that involves crosses being burned on lawns by people in white hoods.

In reality, it’s the way that racism is passed down through generations — the way that it is taught passively and overtly — that should concern you. And one of the many ways this happens is via our deeply flawed education system.

Our education system is systemically racist in myriad ways — from unequal funding for schools, to a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects students of color, to the fact that white women in education make up the majority of teachers, which can engender oppression against female students of color.

It’s ironic, then, that we also don’t teach kids about racism, and how it has informed American culture since the country’s inception. We teach a lie about Thanksgiving to keep racism going, and we venerate Columbus for “discovering” America, but we don’t talk about how manumission laws were written to prevent people from buying the freedom of their families.

Because we don’t teach real history during the K-12 years when history class is mandatory, by college, many Americans are left with the idea that racism is over because slavery and Jim Crow are over. That’s why there are many Americans with the flawed perception that the U.S. is post-racial, and that electing a Black president is proof we’re beyond our history.

Without understanding how racism works, white students also often have a fundamentally flawed understanding of affirmative action, believing it to mean that their classmates and co-workers of color are actually less qualified because they’ve been “helped” along. They point at lower graduation stats for marginalized communities as proof that “those people simply don’t value education.” And this idea — that only some (read: white) communities care about education — means that when people of color do succeed, there’s an assumption that they don’t deserve their success. It’s this attitude that led Abigail Fisher to sue the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, claiming affirmative action is what kept her out of the college — and not her subpar application.

When I was in college, I heard a lot about affirmative action and its supposed role in my own academic success; in later conversations, I realized that many of my peers experienced similar scrutiny. The message we received from others was that we couldn’t possibly know so much, and have such good grades, without the assistance of affirmative action.

But while there’s an assumption that people of color just don’t work as hard as white people, the opposite is often true. Students of color often work harder . . . because they have to in a system that works against them.

As famously noted on Scandal, and obliquely referenced in a speech by the First Lady at Tuskegee University, parents from marginalized communities know their kids have to work harder to get anywhere near where white privilege can take white students. So even though students of color may lack access to the same rigorous classes as many well-off white students, at home they are being pushed to read extra books and do extra work to make up for what they are missing. Like many of my peers, some of my most challenging work was done at my grandmother’s table because she would accept nothing less than my best.

In college, issues often arise when these hard-working students of color come up against white students who have benefited from their privilege. While I was in college, it was repeatedly made clear that many of my white peers weren’t prepared to have to compete with me or with my fellow students of color. It had never occurred to them that we deserved to be there.

After white students graduate college, they’re also often not ready to take their degrees into the workplace, where they may find the people of color they didn’t know existed before college sitting next to them in the same meetings. Racial resentment is ugly in any situation, but in the workplace, where there are actual laws against acting on it? It’s easy for resentments to play out in petty ways, like snidely refusing to use a coworker of color’s name.

This fear of having to compete with people of color for success is a driving force of white supremacy. Just look at how many high-profile white supremacist supporters of Trump (like Matthew Heimbach and Richard Spencer) were best known for being failures in their personal and professional lives despite their white privilege. Spencer struggled to keep jobs even at conservative publications because of his extreme views, and Heimbach was fired from the Indiana Department of Children Service earlier this year. Even as they attempt to make racism profitable, and argue for the myth of innate white superiority, they push for politicians to gut any programs, including those in education, that might erase their unearned social advantages. Instead of competing on merit, they want to compete against the oppressed so that they never have to face the cold reality that they are not inherently better or smarter.

They have benefited from structural racism, and are afraid to compete on a level playing field because deep down they know they aren’t guaranteed a win.

America, you want to pretend that education and time have changed not only the existence of racism, but also who is racist. You have built a mythos that racism is the province of the old, and the uneducated, despite the fact that many of the people in those Klan robes were educated and successful.

It’s difficult to admit that education — that bastion for success, opportunity, and progress — is itself steeped in racism. But we’ll never move forward until we do.


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Egypt to expand online education system amid coronavirus outbreak

Africa/ Egypt/ 09.06.2020/ Source:


Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Monday said that the government will expand its online education system in order to prevent overcrowding at university campuses and schools amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

During a meeting with Minister of Education Tarek Shawky, Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghafar, and Minister of Telecommunications Amro Talaat, Madbouly said that the government will establish solid technological infrastructure to develop the country’s online education system during the academic year 2020/21.

Madbouly added that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi asked for internet capacity to be increased so that the online education system’s contents and database can be saved.

Talaat, meanwhile, asserted that the Ministry of Telecommunications is making great efforts to increase internet capacity and to improve internet services in Egypt.

For his part, Shawky presented several tools to develop the online education system, including an e-library containing interactive digital curricula allocated to grades KG1 to G12.

Shawky added that Ministry of Education is preparing to broadcast live lessons for grades G-9 to G-12.

Shawky discussed a proposal for merging the “face to face” education and “online education” systems in the new academic year, with the aim of helping students obtain knowledge and skills through a “hybrid education” system.

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Japan’s two-month-long school closure is not a pretty sight

Asia/ Japan/ 28.04.2020/ Source:

Japan is on the cusp of considering reopening schools nationwide but would do better by focusing on ramping up online learning, says Yuka Hasegawa.

It’s been barely two months since Japanese Prime Minister Abe issued an order on Feb 27 for schools to close as part of a first phase of nationwide restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19 but it feels like forever.

With the announcement coming just four days before the actual shuttering, teachers say they were not given enough heads-up to prepare for education to continue apace while students stay home or design suitable homework.

One might think it strange home-based learning has become this huge challenge for Japan, but the country’s technologically superior reputation masks society’s low-tech workings.

Soon after the news broke, Japanese students and their parents were called back before the closure to collect assignments for the break. These took the form of paper worksheets.

An elementary school student and her mother walk toward her school in Tokyo, Japan
An elementary school student and her mother walk toward her school in Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Indeed, the Japanese education system scores well on paper.

The education system continues to produce top-performing students since the inception of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment, with bigger proportions of the country attaining tertiary education compared to OECD averages.

But a deeper dive into what makes the system tick reveals vulnerabilities in an increasingly digital world when it hasn’t quite made that leap towards embracing information and communications technologies (ICT).

On a macro level, Japan’s public expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary education is 2.9 per cent of GDP – one of the lowest among 35 countries – according to an OECD Education at a Glance survey 2019.

Much of it goes to Japanese educators, who pull in some of the world’s longest hours, and have demurred from introducing new technology and teaching methods into the classroom because of lack of familiarity and resistance to change.

What this has also translated into is a sluggishness to transform, where decades-old, one-way instructional teaching remains dominant despite the world increasingly needing education systems to cultivate curiosity, critical thinking and agility, which requires team-based learning and two-way discussions.

On a micro level, that has manifested in low investments in ICT, hindering the adoption of online learning.

There is only one computer for every 5.4 students in public elementary and junior high schools. Few districts have given out computers or tablets for home-based learning during this school closure.

The Japanese government only recently put in place plans to ramp up ICT infrastructure in schools, and for every student to have access to a computer, with 231 billion yen (US$2.15 billion) allocated under a Global Innovation Gateway for All (GIGA) school programme over the next four years.

School students participate in a special lecture about national flags by Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Par
FILE PHOTO: School students participate in a special lecture about national flags by Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games flag organiser Tadamasa Fukiura (not pictured) at Koto City Ariake Nishi Gakuen in Tokyo, Japan February 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ju-min Park


Even as I write this, in Osaka, one of the countries’ busiest and most densely populated cities, parents have headed to schools to pick up new textbooks and assignments twice in April, and have become responsible for checking their kids’ schoolwork.

This stymying of the adoption of tech also has knock-on effects given the need for social distancing. Take for example, the idea that teachers say they have found keeping tabs on individual students to be close to impossible – because schools have only a limited number of phone lines.

Information regarding assistance for low-income households that need computers and plans for the future regarding home-based learning have not been forthcoming.


The Japanese government knows this situation is less than tenable.

But instead of funneling more resources towards getting online learning up to mark, they are sidestepping that elephant in the room and allowing prefecture authorities to decide, in consultation with the national COVID-19 public health expert panel, whether schools can be reopened, on a case-by-case basis.

Yet risk-averse local governors have kept 95 per cent of the 300,000 public elementary and junior high schools closed as of last week.

Japan knows it has a lot riding now on the Japanese government’s announced acceleration of the GIGA initiative to provide one computer for each student within the 2020 fiscal year.

These plans, long overdue, are supposed to provide for critical infrastructure for households to make online learning a reality, including the rental of mobile routers for those in need and the implementation of a remote learning system.

Schools in Japan have been closed, but that could be counterproductive
Schools in Japan have been closed, but that could be counterproductive, experts say. (Photo: AFP/STR)


Yet whither are such plans? Frustrated Tokyo parents, fed up with the lack of progress on this front, have taken to circulating surveys regarding their status and submitting their findings to municipal authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education.


Much has been put on hold while schools scramble to find their footing, with the school term neither here nor there.

Seven prefectures postponed first days of schools, meaning new students have yet to see their classmates or teachers, but, weirdly, have worksheets for studying at home and little contact with their teachers.

The lack of communication is throwing what has been a big transition point in the lives of many students into disarray, though in a warped way, this disorientating feeling is a rare, shared experience many Japanese are finding some level of togetherness on as the pandemic threatens to split Japanese society.

While COVID-19 is bringing into sharper focus the digital challenges that have plagued Japan’s education system, it has also accentuated disparities between well-funded private schools, where students have easy access to advanced educational online resources and an array of personal devices that aid remote learning, and scrappier public schools that do not have the benefit of generous corporate sponsors or well-endowed, successful alumni.

When much of Japan’s aspirations to be an egalitarian society rests on the small shoulders of the education system, public schools have ironically avoided technological adoption to avoid avert accentuating disparities between families that can afford electronic devices and those who cannot.

Yet, such a disposition has put all their students at a far greater disadvantage this coronavirus outbreak.

Where over 1.4 million students (or about 15 per cent) have subscribed to lunch school fees, these needed services have also been suspended given distribution challenges, with the food donated to quarantined patients cooped up in hotel facilities.


Much has been said about the lost generation of Japanese graduates who entered the job market in the decade after the early-1990s, when the country underwent a period of stagnation. Japan is facing a situation of similarly unprecedented proportions.

Day Care in Japan
An employee of an official nursery school taking care of young children in Yokohama. (Photo: AFP)


Some hope lies ahead as Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura announced on Apr 22 an intention to shorten the summer vacation to secure class time for schools if the coronavirus comes under better control.

But news of a Toyama prefecture cluster that same day, where four students and a class teacher in Shinmei Elementary School were found to be infected with the coronavirus despite being in contact for only four days, suggest we are unlikely to see a mass reopening of all schools in Japan even if significant precautions were taken.

Until the virus can be brought under control, Japan needs to ramp up its ability to roll out online learning.

That has been talk about tech but more focus should be shone on the human beings, especially the policymakers who must get into swift action to make this happen. This would especially require the cooperation of educators to embrace uncertainty and adapt to new ways of teaching.

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Digital innovators are trying to plug gaps in Nigeria’s broken education system

Africa/ Nigeria/ 03.03.2030/ Source:

There’s an easy way to check how much of a priority education is to the Nigerian government: look at the national budget.

Last year, the allocation for education stood at less than 10% of the entire $29 billion budget—much less than the 26% recommendation for developing countries by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Years of perennial under-funding of education has seen infrastructure whittle while teaching standards and quality continue to fall short, especially at government-owned schools. Wise to the shortcomings of the national education system and the lagging teacher to pupil ratio in high schools, parents have long attempted to shore up learning gaps by employing after-school tutors, known locally as “lesson teachers.”

But Sim Shagaya, one of the key actors in Nigeria’s digital tech space since its early-days, is looking to offer an alternative through technology. After a hiatus from actively running a tech venture since stepping down from the troubled Konga in 2016, Shagaya launched uLesson, an edtech startup that’s attempting to merge online and offline components to meet learning needs of millions of Nigerian students while the public sector struggles.

“The [education] system has not kept up with the numbers,” says Shagaya. “That’s a quantity discussion but also qualitatively, we’re delivering much less quality than before so there’s a huge market there.” After nearly a year which entailed building a team, developing a vast video library of pre-recorded learning content and beta tests, uLesson to the market next week.

Nigeria’s long-running shortcomings with the sector means education has always been big business offline ranging from elite private schools and expensive tutors to more affordable options which are only marginally better than public schools.

Over the last decade digital innovators and entrepreneurs have launched startups including PrepClass and PassNowNow. For its part, PrepClass operates as a amartketplace for connecting after-school tutors to learners while PassNowNow allows users access high school class notes for several subjects and past exam questions for a fee.

Last October, CCHub, the influential Lagos-based tech and social enterprise hub, opened an edtech center at The Tai Solarin University of Education in Ijebu-Ode, about two hours outside of Lagos. “Education is the bedrock of healthy societies,” wrote CCHub co-founder Bosun Tijani in a tweet celebrating the launch. “As we continue to contribute to shaping the innovation ecosystem in Africa, accelerating the application of innovation and technology in improving education outcomes will be crucial to driving our overall agenda.”

ULessson’s  service and features are anchored on its mobile app through which users can register, take tests and have their learning progress measured, uLesson’s offline component will see it send its full library of learning content to registered users on SD cards. Content on the cards can then be plugged into phones and accessed seamlessly and without the associated cost of downloads or streaming online.

Taking “a uLesson.”

With the problem of under-funding education also prevalent in other African countries, Shagaya has pan-African ambitions for uLesson. The service will be immediately available to secondary school students in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia—the five Anglophone West African countries that share similar curricula and take school-leaving tests set by the West African Examinations Council.

Despite dropping costs of smartphones and mobile internet, gaps in quality network coverage and inadvertently high cost of online streaming means “the pre-recorded model is what works really well for Africa,” Shagaya says.

ULesson is designed to undercut the after-school tutorial market with refined service delivery and a $80 annual subscription fee.  The model has already proven enough to win investor backing: uLesson raised $3.1 million in a seed round led by TLcom Capital last November. Konga, which he founded raise over $70 million amid early-day skepticism for the viability of local tech startups in the mid-2010s.

Ultimately, Shagaya will be hoping uLesson fares much better than Konga which was sold, likely at a major loss to investors, in early 2018. But a long history of demand for better education alternatives among Nigerians suggests uLesson will find a willing market. In 2018 alone, the economic impact of spending by Nigerian students studying in the United States reached $514 million while better education choices is also a factor  driving migration of middle-class Nigerians to Canada and Europe.

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Iraq education system on brink of collapse

Asia/ Iraq/ 25.02.2020/ Source:

Millions of students across Iraq are losing out amid a shortage of teachers and education funding, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has said.

Across Iraq, 2.5 million children are in need of education support, including 775,000 internally displaced children residing in and out of camps, the independent humanitarian organisation told Al Jazeera.

According to NRC information shared with Al Jazeera, more than 240,000 Iraqi children were unable to access any form of education in the last year. The United Nations’ humanitarian funding appeals for education in Iraq have also not been met for this year, reaching less than half of the $35m required.

Over recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest against the poor state of public services and corruption. Their demands include more access to jobs and better economic opportunities.

Tom Peyre-Costa, the media coordinator for NRC Iraq, said one way to empower young people would be to provide education and training so that young people would have a better chance of finding work.

«An education system on the brink of collapse can’t effectively address these challenges,» he said.

Teacher shortage

Since the conflict against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group erupted in 2014, no new teachers have been hired, which has led to a 32 percent shortage, according to the NRC. In Nineveh, the second most populated region in Iraq, the number of teachers has plummeted from a prewar level of 40,000 to 25,000.

The aid group said that a lack of teachers has contributed to a high student dropout rate, particularly affecting secondary schools, where 28 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys are not in school. This is compared with primary schools where 9.6 percent of girls and 7.2 percent of boys are out of school.

In addition, a lack of contact time with teachers has hindered the performance of those children who are in school; many schools are now run in a system of two to three shifts a day in order to reduce class sizes, though numbers of students can still reach up to 650 per class.

Nada, a secondary school student in Mosul, said the lack of teachers was shocking.

«Today is my first day in school and I am in shock, we are more than 1,700 students and we don’t have enough teachers,» she told NRC.


With no new teachers hired since the start of the war, volunteers have started to fill the gaps in many areas. In Mosul, which bore the brunt of the war against ISIL, 21,000 volunteers represent almost half of the teachers in the city, the NRC said.

Volunteer teachers are generally subsidised through stipends paid by humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF and NRC, though some, such as those in Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in Duhok, north Iraq, receive no such funding.

«The volunteers are typically not trained teachers and are either unpaid, or working on short-term contracts,» Peyre-Costa said.

He told Al Jazeera that since 2015, NGOs and the UN have spent more than $30m paying teachers in Iraq.

But for this current school year, humanitarian agencies said they will cease funding teachers’ salaries, in an attempt to pressure the government to hire and pay qualified teachers.

«Well qualified teachers, who have strong subject knowledge and effective pedagogical skills, are critical for moving from crisis to recovery in Iraq,» Peyre-Costa said.

IDP camps

Children in IDP camps have been hit particularly hard by the shortfall. At an IDP camp in Kirkuk, the Iraqi education ministry pays two teachers for more than 1,700 students enrolled in two primary schools, the NRC said.


After ISIL, children try to catch up with school in Mosul

In Hamam al-Ali camp, classes for the current school year have not started due to a lack of teachers, leaving some 5,000 children without access to education.

During the war against ISIL, 50 percent of all school buildings in conflict-ridden areas were damaged or destroyed, the majority of which have not been rebuilt, according to the NRC.

«Now we study in prefabs, it’s cold during winter and burning during summer. We are suffering a lot,» Nada, the student, said.

In some governorates across Iraq, announcements have been made that all support for IDP school facilities would cease from the start of this school year.

In Duhok, northwest Iraq, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement stated they would cease paying rent on buildings used as schools for IDP children.

As a result, approximately 60,000 children in 12 official IDP camps in the Duhok area were at risk of losing access to education, the NRC said.

A teacher counting students in the schoolyard due to a lack of school building - back to school day 2019-2020 in Aljaleel school, Mosul [Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC]
A teacher counting students in the schoolyard due to a lack of school building [Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC]

Peyre-Costa told Al Jazeera the closure of schools is one of the multiple government measures designed to encourage people to return home.

«But by closing IDP schools, the government just pushes children out of schools, not out of camps,» he said.

«The education of their children is often sacrificed vis-a-vis security issues, or simply the lack of a home to return to.»

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The job vacancies that Spain constantly struggles to fill

Europe/Spain/12/02/2020/Author(a):Carmen Sánchez Silva/Source:

By: Carmen Sánchez Silva.

“We need specialists in artificial intelligence, application developers, customer management experts, and people who have gone through vocational training, who are currently as hard to come by as technological staff,” says Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute, which is part of the human resources and temporary staffing firm Adecco Group. “It happens with warehouse workers, forklift operators and ham carvers. There are a lot of jobs with a high demand but very low supply.“

The construction sector is short on specialists in wall masonry and ironworks, as well as crane and other machine operators, according to Blasco. And in the industrial sector there is demand for forklift drivers, welders, milling machine operators and specialists in electromechanics. The same applies in the food sector, with skilled workers needed in food handling, carving and to perform various slaughterhouse duties. “These are well-paid workers because their position requires great physical effort and subjects them to thermal stress,” explains Blasco.

According to the experts, anyone specializing in these fields will have no trouble finding employment. In general, workers emerging from vocational training can expect an annual gross salary of between €25,000 and €35,000, although those with the most sought-after skills will be on €40,000.

The sources consulted for this story all agree that in 2019, for the first time, there was more demand for professionals who have undergone vocational training than for university graduates. “They have better employment prospects and even better pay, given that many university students do not work in jobs related to their degree,” says Andreu Cruañas, president of the temporary staffing company Asempleo.

At Adecco, 42% of job offers required vocational training compared to 38.5% requiring a university degree. At the employment website Infojobs, which processes three million job offers annually, a quarter of its vacancies require vocational training while only 14% require a university degree. According to Neus Margalló, a data and research analyst at Infojobs, more than 40% of the ads are aimed at unskilled workers or those with no more than basic qualifications.

Although the future lies in digital technology, Spanish companies are still not hiring many experts in that field. Of the 22.5 million contracts signed in 2019, computer technicians and programmers did not account for even 1%, nor do they figure among the fastest-growing hirings.

Experts note there is little correlation between the education system and the demands of the labor market

The contracts showing the greatest growth rate are actors (28%), technicians in workplace hazard prevention (27%), waste sorters (23%), journalists (19.6%), crane and machinery operators (19.4%), emergency health workers (18.9%), slaughterhouse staff (18.5%) and delivery workers or messengers (15.9%). The demand for computer scientists rose last year by 6% from 2018, according to data from Spain’s State Public Employment Service (SEPE).

A complaint voiced repeatedly by both entrepreneurs and human resources professionals in recent years is the lack of digital expertise. All sectors are crying out for it, it is not confined to technology firms alone. According to Infojobs, vacancies in general attract an average of 38 applicants each while vacancies in the realm of computer science struggle to attract 10.

The vacancies that are hardest to fill and have no unemployment rate include engineers, cyber-security experts, network administrators, programmers in the Python language and big data, and experts in robotics, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless technology and augmented reality. These workers are on high salaries, according to Blasco, earning between €50,000 and €60,000 per year. There is also high demand for social media programmers, digital analysts and customer experience specialists.

“You can’t find people with these skills – there are very few of them around as there are no degrees for these specialties,” Blasco says. “Nobody studies blockchain or digital marketing. They either do a master’s degree or take a six-month boot camp course.”

Blasco says that it typically takes the government two years to react to an extreme lack of candidates by proposing training courses, but that by the time these are up and running, demand has often tailed off. According to Cruañas, there is little correlation between the education system and the demands of the labor market, a problem that can be seen in the field of big data analysis.

The start-up response

That is why start-ups such as Jobbatical – a company that headhunts technology experts all over the world – have taken off in Spain. According to the firm’s founder, Karoli Hindriks, Spain and Germany have the highest technological growth rates in Europe. Jobbatical deals mainly with software engineers, devOps engineers, UX / UI designers and data scientists, experts whose salaries range between €35,000 and €65,000 a year, depending on experience.

Another start-up, Valencia-based Jeff, offers in-house laundry and hairdressing services, and has set itself a target of hiring 500 employees in 2020, doubling its workforce to accommodate its expansion. It needs frontend and backend developers, product designers and data scientist developers as well as 150 consultants for its sales team – because specialized sales people are also hard to find, according to Margalló.

English version by Heather Galloway.


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