Digital Skills Report

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face significant challenges in keeping pace with technological advances and the corresponding skills demands. The DigiAdvance project emerges as a strategic response to this critical need, aimed at bridging the digital skills gaps identified within the SME sector across Europe. Focusing on specialized technology areas such as blockchain, big data, and machine learning, this project recognizes the pressing demand for advanced digital competencies among SME employees, managers, and owners.

This project not only addresses the immediate training needs but also engages in a thorough needs analysis to ensure that the educational offerings are well-aligned with the current and future demands of the sector. Through its innovative approach, DigiAdvance is set to empower SMEs by enhancing digital literacy at all levels, thus driving innovation and competitiveness in a digital-first world.

The present report aims to synthesize key insights into the digital skill needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), providing a robust foundation for future training and policy initiatives. This report is pivotal in outlining the digital competencies that are currently in demand as well as those likely to become critical in the near future. Targeting SMEs, policymakers, higher education institutions (HEIs), training providers, and governmental bodies, the report seeks to bridge the gap between existing digital skills and emerging market requirements. Through comprehensive analysis, it will inform stakeholders of the critical skills needed to drive innovation and maintain competitiveness in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. By addressing both technical and transversal skills gaps, the project aims to prepare SMEs for the challenges of the digital age. The report highlights significant regional disparities, the importance of continuous training, and the necessity for strategic partnerships to enhance digital competencies.

Report key findings indicate a significant disparity between employees’ and employers’ perceptions of crucial digital skills, emphasizing the need for a balanced development of both technical competencies and interpersonal abilities. The quantitative and qualitative analyses reveal challenges such as budget and time constraints, which hinder effective training implementation. The report underscores the necessity for continuous digital skills development, robust KPIs for measuring training effectiveness, and strategic public-private partnerships to enhance digital competencies.

The main results of the quantitative analysis indicate that while employees generally recognise the importance of digital skills, there is a significant gap between their perceptions and those of employers regarding the most critical skills needed. Cross-cutting skills such as analytical thinking, flexibility and resilience emerged as paramount, highlighting the need for holistic skills development that goes beyond technical competencies. The analysis also shows that SMEs in Portugal, Ireland and Spain face particular challenges in funding and implementing effective training programmes. While internal funding and government-backed initiatives are common, the variability in training duration and engagement levels highlights the need for more standardised and accessible training solutions.

The interviews highlight a notable emphasis on transversal (soft) skills over technical (hard) skills, with attributes such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability being prioritized. This indicates a growing recognition of the importance of holistic employee development that balances technical expertise with interpersonal abilities. Additionally, the strategic focus on areas like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and data analytics underscores the need for specialized skills to drive future competitiveness and innovation. The comparative analysis of Portugal, Ireland, and Spain demonstrates a strong shared commitment to digital skills development, despite common challenges such as time and budget constraints. The diverse approaches to measuring training effectiveness and the strategic emphasis on different digital skills reflect the unique contexts and priorities of each country.

As we move forward, DigiAdvance remains committed to empowering SMEs through tailored training programs and strategic initiatives. We invite you to read the full report and join us in our mission to bridge the digital skills gap and foster sustainable growth in the digital era.

Download the report