Studies have found that youth are lacking the skills needed for safe and effective use of digital technologies. What’s more, only 13% have engaged in programming activities. It is clear that the future rests with our young people, but they are at a disadvantage due to a digital skills gap that is contributing significantly to youth unemployment. This is despite being considered digital natives who possess the necessary digital skills.

Much needs to be done to equip youth with 21st century skills and to conquer the digital divide, especially with the European Union setting a target for 80% of the population to have basic digital skills and 20 million information and communications technology (ICT) specialists by 2030.

To develop the necessary skills for today’s digital jobs and to close the digital divide, SAP’s Meet and Code initiative, in partnership with TechSoup Europe and Haus des Stiftens, has helped non-profit organizations implement fun and interactive workshops geared toward introducing young people to the exciting world of technology and coding. For the last six years, the program has provided grants of up to €500 to enable these events across Europe.

Meet and Code has successfully become Europe’s biggest digital skills program; I am truly honored to be a part of it. In 2021, the initiative saw applications and funded events increase by 15% and 10% respectively, year-on-year. It also recorded an 11% increase in events hosted by non-profits located in small villages and 35% in larger cities and towns.

All youth, from all walks of life are equally important.
No matter where they come from, whether it is a
small village or large metro, they can have a bright future.

Not only is the program growing in popularity and reach, but the impact is tangible, with survey results highlighting that participants’ IT skills improved from 40% to 60%. Additionally, 84% reported that they would like to learn more about coding in general.

The workshops typically focus on how young people can harness technology to serve specific purposes, which 16-year-old Stefania Spachou, this year’s Meet and Code youth ambassador, pointed out is an essential skill for people entering the job market as they are frequently required to use technology to complete their tasks more effectively and efficiently.

Stefania also noted that technology is all around us, affecting our daily lives in ways that only science fiction writers imagined and that in a society ruled by technology, digital skills are essential for young adults not only to take part in a competitive job market, but in the online communities that are becoming as active as those in real life.

To further improve digital skills among European youth, Stefania believes that each country’s government and institutions should help to raise awareness about how important digital skills are today. More specifically, that educational technology programs need to be promoted more actively to the public and especially young people. Moreover, she asserts that schools must include specific subjects that develop and enhance their students’ digital skills in their curricula.

I could not agree more. Closing the skills gap should be a collective concern; the next generation who will be instrumental in shaping the future of society depends on this.

As our growth and success thus far has been made possible by the power of collaboration, we invite new partners to come forward to take Meet and Code to new heights and support SAP’s purpose of making the world run better. Each year, Meet and Code takes place throughout September and October. Applications for non-profit funding close on September 14, 2022.

To find out more about Meet and Code or to become a partner, visit www.meet-and-code.org, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Gabriele Hartmann is head of CSR for SAP MEE and a Meet and Code board member.