E-skills are one of the building blocks for European competitiveness and prosperity in the 21st century, while the way forward to widening and deepening e-skills in Europe is through dialogue with stakeholders, said Günter Verheugen, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, at the launch of the Industry Leadership Board. The Commissioner called for increased involvement from the information and communication technologies (ICT) industry in ensuring that Europe has the right competences. 'A highly skilled and adaptable workforce will be the foundation for Europe's competitiveness and prosperity in the 21st century. This can only be done by building a more dynamic and cohesive economy based on skills and knowledge,' the Commissioner told participants at the launch event. But while there is broad recognition of the importance of e-skills, and while demand for people with these skills is growing, supply is declining. Fewer students are enrolling in ICT courses, women are widely shunning a career in ICT (only 20% of practitioners are women), and fewer students are studying the related subjects of maths, sciences and technology. The main priorities for Europe are the following, according to Mr Verheugen: - longer term cooperation between public authorities, industry, academia, trade unions and associations through scalable and sustainable multi-stakeholder partnerships; - human resources investment to ensure sufficient public and private sector investments in e-skills education; - attractiveness and the promotion of science, maths and ICT, as well as role models, job profiles and career perspectives; - employability and e-inclusion and the development of digital literacy and e-competence actions tailored to the needs of groups at risk of exclusion; - lifelong acquisition of e-skills and the promotion of better and more user-centric e-learning approaches. A key achievement to implementing these priorities is through dialogue with stakeholders and partnerships for action, said the Commissioner. One such stakeholder is the ICT industry. 'We believe that the ICT industry can bring an important contribution to the development of a European e-Competence framework, monitoring the demand for e-skills, raising awareness, building bridges between formal and industry-based qualifications, delivering better training and e-learning platforms, fostering scalable and sustainable public private partnerships as well as reaching a critical mass by pooling resources, expertises and experiences,' said Mr Verheugen. Observers can expect more from the Commission in the coming months: a communication on 'e-skills for the 21st century' is set to be adopted by the Commission over the summer, and an initiative on e-inclusion is due to launch in 2008.