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"Escalate" - Coordinated Higher Education Institutions' Responses to Digitalisation
Digitalization is transforming the skills needed by Europe's working population to successfully engage in the world of work in a globalized modern economy. Consequently, national education systems must swiftly and appropriately respond to the challenges digitalization poses. Digital transformation is generating a fierce debate among education providers, policy-makers, economists and industry leaders about its societal impact. As digitalization disrupts society ever more profoundly, concern is growing about how it is affecting issues such as jobs, wages, inequality, health, resource efficiency and security. Current estimates of global job losses due to digitalization range as high as 2 billion by 2030 (World Economic Forum). There is currently great uncertainty, with concerns also about its impact on wages and working conditions. Within the European Union, the European Commission's Digital Economy Society Index for 2018 shows that EU countries face deep digital development gap and therefore "it should invest more in digital and also complete the Digital Single Market as soon as possible to boost Europe's digital performance”. Even more, the same disparity is seen on digital skills, "while Nordic countries and the U.K. have populations with notably advanced digital skills, almost half of all Europeans still lack basic technical competences”, according to the index. In this framework, ESCALATE is a strategic partnership composed by 6 partners from 5 different EU countries. The project brings together the right mix of university responsibles, educators/teachers, learners, labour market experts, alongside business and local government to offer a coordinated response to the challenges arising from digitalization. We aim to assist universities in implementing activities designed to increase the levels of digital competences for employability, upskilling, according with a growing range of employment generated by the digital economy, aligned with the needs of and opportunities offered by the labour market and linked to professional profiles. Also, we consider the dual education system and the permanent connection between both university professor (higher education) and business representatives/specialists, by combining school-based learning with work-based practice. This broader comprehensive education approach will ensure the acquirement of new digital skills and improved competences. Our project will explore what constitutes new and emerging innovative practices in understanding and responding to digitalization at university level, but also at regional and local policy levels and then prioritize producing new materials in partner's own 6 key themes, and the project has been designed to include experts within each of these thematic areas.

As a result we will be in a position to engage in a second major activity - the transnational trialling (in an identified region within each country) of a successful new innovation - the Digital Skills Escalator being developed in the Exeter (sub) Region of SW England. This will require a systematic mapping of educational delivery form early school age all the way through to postgraduate and CPD educational offers and is an effective means of identifying not only where the gaps in a region/locations provision may be but also a means of identifying all of the agencies and institutions involved in digital skills delivery. Finally, the new materials and approaches developed by the partners will be combined into a new Training Course mainstreamed through Europe’s expert network of labour market observatories - the European Network for Regional Labour Market Monitoring (ENRLMM) and offered to those seeking to modernize digital skills and associated educational policies/practices in light of the threats posed by the changing world of work. ESCALATE will bring considerable impact on the community of educational providers, teachers, learners, labour market observatories and analysts across Europe to help them advise and support the decision making process on responses to digitalization. The new model will therefore help policymakers to design effective responses to the threat of digitalization, embeding digital literacy as a key educational goal and helping to grasp the job opportunities of the future. In conclusion, ESCALATE aims to understand '"university disruption" at regional and local levels and the threats posed to universities and labour market from digitalization; who are the educational institutions and organizations involved; what innovations can be employed to help understand and tackle digitalization impacts; and ultimately we seek to elicit more effective local and regional higher education institutions' responses to digitalization across Europe.

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