Digital technologies: the new challenge for employers

Within the framework of the "Digital divide - levels, actors, interactions" project, financed by the Scientific Research Fund of the Ministry of Education and Culture, a focus group discussion was held in the end of March 2024 with representatives of small and medium-sized businesses from the city of Pazardzhik, Pazardzhik District, Bulgaria.

During the meeting with the Pazardzhik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PzCCI), a number of problems and challenges facing employers were discussed, related to the rapid introduction of digital technologies into production processes, as well as the need for certain digital skills among workers, in order to ensure the normal flow of the work process. All participants strongly emphasized that additional training and qualifications are an important part of success at a time when digital technologies are increasingly entering our lives and defining everyone's job opportunities.

A priority around which the employers united was the need to recognize the additional courses and training through certificates to be obtained within the concept and strategy of "lifelong learning". Special attention was also paid to the fact that it is necessary to take measures and actions in the direction of motivating the workers to participate in this type of training. In this direction, the presentation of some main results of a study conducted in Bulgaria during the Covid pandemic in 2021 by the International Program for Social Research also generated interest.

According to the reported data, the readiness of the surveyed Bulgarians to participate in additional training depends extremely strongly on whether it will lead to a higher salary - over 80%. The participants in the discussion were united around the understanding that new digital technologies, although they contain a huge potential to achieve a better competitiveness of the specific companies/enterprises, they generate real problems and social inequalities in terms of the deficit of a workforce possessing the needs digital skills for normal production processes.

General atmosphere among those present at the end of the event was rather optimistic and hopeful for the future, but also with the clear awareness that the digital future is challenging and is a task not only for the employer, but also for the whole society (from the individual to the state administration bodies ) to make continuous efforts to derive maximum societal utility from ICT, digital technologies and AI in particular.