In August, Microsoft launched Upgrade Your World, an initiative celebrating the non-profits who are working to create a better tomorrow and the technology shaping our world. Over the next few months we’ll be highlighting some of our European NGO partners who are making a difference in their communities in countries around the region.
The challenging economic outlook in Greece has left a whole generation of young people hungry for change. Rather than waiting for opportunities in more traditional industries that could take a long time to appear, many young Greeks are now channeling their energies into learning and honing their IT skills to take control of their own destiny. In the last few years, Greece has seen significant progress on the uptake of digital skills among its population at large. It now counts 24 percent of its citizens as “highly skilled in ICT”, closing in on the EU average of 26 percent (EC Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2013-14).
The Greek government is currently focused on creating more ICT-related jobs to kick-start the economy and tackle unemployment. Recognizing that digital skills are crucial for today’s job market, the private sector is also looking to improve computing skills among potential candidates through training and partnerships. But critically, it’s the contribution of local NGOs such as the Hellenic Professionals Informatics Society (HePIS) who are really helping to up-skill thousands more young people, and create new opportunities for Greece’s youngest generation.
Nikos Faldamis, President of HePIS states, “HePIS’s vision is to promote the ICT sector as the means to up-skill Greece’s labour workforce and reduce unemployment. We’re working to connect all ICT professionals in Greece, and promote the benefits of technology and science to society”. HePIS is a Microsoft YouthSpark grantee and Microsoft is supporting HePIS as they are working directly with young people to bolster their digital skills and equip them for jobs in our modern workforce. “Working with Microsoft has been a fantastic opportunity to help progress our vision of using IT to create a better future for Greek citizens”, continued Mr Faldamis.
Manolis Labovas, Microsoft’s Greek YouthSpark Advisor and Strategic Development Manager, highlights, “One of our main objectives with Microsoft’s YouthSpark program is to help thousands of young people acquire the skills and knowledge needed to boost their employability in the current and future labour market.”
Here are some recent, standout HePIS initiatives:
Fit4Jobs is a European-funded programme that offers job seekers free training courses to bolster their IT skills and connect them to employers. In Greece, HePIS runs this initiative in collaboration with Microsoft Hellas. Recent graduate, Stelios Kavouras, found this training indispensable, as it opened the door for him to get a job. He told us “What really set Fit4Jobs apart from other training activities was that, on completion, participants were put in contact with employers looking to hire. Having that first-hand connection really helped boost our chances and I got a job as a junior .NET Developer straight afterwards.” Since the Fit4Jobs project was launched in Europe in 2015, over 16,500 European job seekers have completed various skills development programmes and over 12,000 have gone on to find work (Digital4EU). More recently, the European Commission showcased this project as one of the most effective initiatives for increasing employment amongst young Europeans.
Launched in 2012, this is a joint effort combining NGOs, federations, educational institutions, startups and HR agencies. Together they offer online resources to teach digital, entrepreneurial and management skills. For the last three years Getbusy has also organized an online contest which gives young people the opportunity to win a full scholarship for a Bachelors or Masters degree, plus ECDL certifications and e-learning courses to secure the digital skills needed in today’s competitive job market.
Every year, HePIS collaborates with Microsoft Hellas on Code.org’s Hour of Code initiative and the European Commission’s Europe Code Week. As part of this effort, HePIS launched Getcoding.gr, an online platform designed to highlight the importance of coding and digital skills in schools and at work. In addition, HePIS organises coding workshops in different towns across the country where kids have the opportunity to try coding for the first time. The activities organized by HePIS during EU Code Week in October contributed to the fact that Greece ranked eighth in the Europe Code Week scoreboard among 46 countries.
In addition to driving uptake of digital skills among young people, HePIS participates in broader social initiatives and charitable efforts for key issues including the protection of human rights, gender equality, educational developments and social welfare. HePIS is now working to equip even more young people in Greece with the knowledge and training needed to close the country’s current digital skills gap. In doing so, it can help prepare youngsters for the ICT jobs of today and tomorrow, and inspire them to make a difference through technology.