What digital skills are employers looking for?

A substantial number of vacancies were analyzed in one of the very first research projects that covers demand for digital skills in public sector.

Universitetslektor Vasili Mankevich
Senior Lecturer Vasili Mankevich
Photo: Maja Härnqvist

Most contemporary trades in public sector include the need for skills of a digital nature. Even the ones that are traditionally seen as domain knowledge professions, like teachers and social workers. 

The growing demand for digital skills in the public sector was studied by researchers at the University of Gothenburg by looking at all job vacancies published by the Swedish Public Employment Service from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2020. The article is available to read in the scientific magazine Information Polity.

“We looked at all job vacancies computationally and analyzed them. So it’s a sort of complete set. It’s not a sample, it’s not a subset, it’s not an opinion. We looked altogether at 1,4 million vacancies. And I think that sets us apart,” says Vasili Mankevich, Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, who was involved in the study.

The project is underway to analyze data from the most recent years (2021-2022) and Vasili Mankevich says that they are always looking for partner actors from both private and academic sector to collaborate with.

The divide creates barriers to important decisions

The researchers could see that the level of demand differs geographically, as well as between different parts of the government. Compared to regions and state agencies, municipalities as a group show a very strong increase in the demand of digital skills, which Vasili Mankevich points out as quite surprising, since municipalities previously have been lagging behind on this area.

The growing divide between the different agencies in the way that they approach digital skills in the work force, comes with downsides, he says. In issues that for example relate to sustainability, gender equality, and traffic, this could create barriers for coming up with important solutions, since they all need a high degree of collective decision making. 

What kind of skills are requested then?

The skills requested in the job vacancy descriptions are not always of an advanced technical kind, like the ones needed for computer programming. Examples could be administrating systems, creating digital content, curating digital records, or sharing and visualizing customer data. 

“These are things that I think a lot of people already work with, but maybe not always think of as digital skills. But they are definitely becoming more important, mainly for public sector,” says Vasili Mankevich.

What do you think will happen with the status of the IT professionals when everyone is expected to possess digital skills?

“In our research we don’t indicate that there will be more IT professionals or that they will be more valued. It’s that a lot more jobs will have a digital component in them. And the proportion of that component has been growing steadily from the timeframe that we looked at.”

SCDI Analytics lab

In the study, the researchers utilized the SCDI Analytics Lab, which is a platform for researchers and practitioners to focus on and organize projects conducted with the help from computational techniques. 

“One of the things we do well is to computationally analyze digitalization and other organizational phenomena. So we take in a lot of cool different methods to analyze these big data sets and uncover hidden patterns,” says Vasili Mankevich.

People from both private and public sector organizations are welcome to use the SCDI Analytics Lab together with the GU researchers in various kinds of analysis projects.

Go to SCDI Analytics Lab's website.

Read the full-length article in Information Polity.


Text: Agnes Ekstrand