The European Computer Driving Licence is going down a storm. But what is its true value? Simon Kent reports
In May 1998 a new IT qualification was launched in the UK. The European Computer Driving License (ECDL) had its genesis some three years earlier as a local qualification in Sweden.
Offering a simple mark of a user’s skill and knowledge at using IT, the qualification quickly spread throughout Northern Europe and is now awarded in the UK by the British Computer Society (BCS). According to Stephanie Malone at the BCS there are now around 1,300 recognised test centres for the licence and some 100,000 candidates registered as working towards the qualification.
But what is the licence really worth? Moreover, given the host of other IT-related qualifications - from NVQs to degrees to Microsoft qualifications - does it really have a legitimate place in the training roster? “It is the best thing available for a reasonably short test of basic computer usage,” says Simon Ellis, head of the London Skills Forecasting Unit. “To that extent I think it’s useful, but it’s probably not the complete answer to current skill shortages.”
The Forecasting Unit’s annual surveys of 5,000 companies and 14,000 individuals have found IT skills to be among the biggest problems for employers in the last few years.
But while the ECDL certainly addresses user skills, it is not intended to address the more technical skills in the software and programming areas which are also in demand from employers.
“The IT industry is probably one of the areas where take up will be lowest,” notes Karen Price, chief executive of E-Skills National Training Organisation. “It’s more for other industries where employers might be unsure of exactly how to upskill their workers.”
The ECDL can boast two major attractions. Firstly, it is a user’s qualification. In other words, anyone who uses a computer in any context is a potential candidate.
Secondly, the qualification is extremely flexible in delivery and can be adapted to meet the demands of individual organisations in terms of employee activity, their prior knowledge and the amount of time they can spare for training activi