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Following on from the previous episode of the L-DIH Talks series, the 7th session of presentations held on Wednesday 20 May 2020 focused on the absolute necessity to rely on high-performance training systems to enable people to master the technologies of today and tomorrow.

Permanent needs

Luxembourg has no reason to be ashamed of its current situation in terms of digital skills. The country is even ranked 3rd on this criterion in the Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI) 2019 published annually by the European Commission. “But at the same time, the need for new skills is permanent and it is important to be able to ensure the emergence of these digital skills, from primary school through to continuing vocational training cycles,” explained Claudine Kariger, Senior ICT Policy Advisor in the Media and Communications Department of the Ministry of State.

In February this year, the Minister of Education presented the initiative “Einfach digital – Zukunftskompetenze fir staark Kanner” (“Simply digital – the skills of the future for strong children”) as a series of measures to strengthen both digital and human skills for the 21st century.

Coding, for example, is a subject that will be generalised in the fifth and sixth years of primary school from September 2020 and then gradually extended to all other levels of basic education.

For the “big kids”, there is also subject matter. More specifically in the field of Industry 4.0, public-private collaborations have emerged through programmes that are already up and running, such as the AI Academy of Devoteam/Microsoft or the Nvidia Deep Learning Training for research and industry.

Digitalcoalition.lu: an open platform

These initiatives can be found on the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Lëtzebuerg platform, launched in 2017 by Digital Luxembourg in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Skilled Trades. This platform, which is part of a European approach, brings together the various players in the public and private sectors to develop measures and actions to combat the digital gap.

“Collaboration between the private and public sectors is important to enable us to offer tailor-made content that meets needs,” Ms Kariger said.

Of the 60 members currently active on this platform, half come from the private sector, stressed Marina Andrieu, coordinator of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Luxembourg. “We are proud of this balance. We are supported just as much by large specialised companies as by smaller organisations, or even self-employed people. And of course we are open to any other player who wishes to contribute to this mission.”

The coalition aims in particular to create concrete links between the worlds of education and that of work, companies and employers and to lead a whole series of initiatives around training, improving or creating skills. Against the backdrop of a national approach: “We want to promote Luxembourg as a place of excellence for ICT professionals and ICT careers,” said Ms Andrieu.

The focus is, in particular, on skills in IT security and data management and analysis.

The “Scrum” methodology in action

The notion of partnership was central to the 7th L-DIH Talk. Hartmut Lösch, Business Development Director at AMB Software GmbH, an IT development company based in Berlin, was able to share some of his own experience in developing innovations through partnerships. The “Scrum” methodology is one of the main tools he uses. “It is a revolutionary approach to project and team management, which profoundly transforms the way we operate. As one of its creators, Jeff Sutherland, says in a book that is truly a bible on the subject, it allows you to do twice as much work in half the time. And it works very well.”

Hartmut Lösch presented three examples of collaborations and the establishment of dedicated “Scrum Teams” that led to the success of these projects with :

  • The German retail group REWE, for the implementation of a digital supermarket supported by an efficient logistic structure;
  • Visible platform for the development of the B2B market place “Wer liefert Was?
  • Ecotech System for the implementation of a cloud platform for the management and recycling of waste such as bottles and cans.

“What we have learned, above all, is the importance of building interdisciplinary teams with different backgrounds, but also different generations. It is important that young people learn from the older ones, and vice versa. All this creates an atmosphere conducive to innovation.”

API strategy

For his part, Mauro Rocco, CEO, of Cap4Lab, stressed the importance of implementing a real strategy around programming interfaces (APIs, application programming interfaces). That is to say, the programmed interfaces that allow to define interactions with several other software (or data exchanges with other servers and web applications).

“It’s not just a question of implementing a technology, but we also pay attention to the organisational and change management aspects,” he explained. “In this context, training and redeployment of resources are essential.”

In the industrial field, web APIs are used at several levels: to collect data to feed preventive maintenance algorithms, to improve exchanges between different departments of a company to increase their efficiency or to feed real-time production reports in heterogeneous machine environments and protocols.

“But there is still reluctance in the industry when it comes to data access,” says Mr Rocco. “Opening up access to your data doesn’t mean giving it away. On the other hand, adopting an API strategy can open up new sources of revenue. In any case, it’s the first step to fostering a productive partnership and to better exchange and communicate effectively with suppliers or contractors.”

Setting up APIs is not, however, an easy task, and here too, upskilling and reconversion of resources are essential success factors. “But then there is a need for an educational framework that is better adapted to needs, particularly in terms of distance learning opportunities.”

Proximity requirements

This “education” aspect is obviously at the heart of the reflection and action of the Luxembourg Competence Centre of the University of Luxembourg, the management centre for university continuing and vocational training. In the eyes of its Director General, Anne Oberlé, the combination of academic knowledge and field experience is essential. “Through this proximity between theory and practice, we offer courses that meet the needs of the Luxembourg labour market,” she said, highlighting the organisation of the structure into pools of expertise, of which ICT and the Digital Learning Hub are part.

These include partnerships such as those concluded within the framework of the Cisco Networking Academy (free for students) or the Nvidia Deep Learning Training. “We are always looking to be more innovative, as in the case of MOOCs (Massive open online courses) in terms of machine learning in an industrial environment that we organise in partnership with Cap4Lab.” This is a 50-hour global module, a mix of distance learning, webinars and individual work.

Here again, collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential, in order to best meet expectations. “Our biggest challenge is to ensure that the offer corresponds to the needs,” confirmed Ms Oberlé. “Our teachers and trainers are aware that there is a skills gap to be bridged, but they don’t always know how. Translating this into concrete business examples is not always easy. Academic research has to be combined with industrial know-how.”

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