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Reform Support
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“Supporting reforms to improve the quality of education and training systems and ensure equal access to it

Funding Programme
  • 2021

Digital upskilling strategies for Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia

In Germany, digital competence levels remain low with more than half of the workforce lacking the skills required for current or future jobs, and the overall participation of adults in training courses is well below the European average. Several initiatives have been started at school level both at national level and Länder level, but do not impact the adult population directly, yet. The project aimed to assist North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria in developing a new conceptual approach for digital transition, focused on the development and support of digital skills.

The specific objectives of this Project were to:

  1. Provide ready-to-use concepts around a central online platform designed for the needs of citizens where digital competences can be tested, and suitable training offers are listed.
  2. Contribute to providing civil servants in North Rhine-Westphalia with the relevant digital skills to drive the digital transformation within the public administration and to offer digital services as a key of the digitalisation strategy.


Germany, ranking 13th in the Digital Education and Society Index (DESI, 2022), faces a significant lack of digital competences across generations and areas. The digital transformation affects all sectors of society, and bridging the gap between digitally marginalized, competitive, and pioneer users is crucial. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital services, necessitating upskilling for civil servants.

However, digital skills have become more complex, requiring a broader understanding of digital's impact on public administration and services. The traditional idea of learning once and not renewing knowledge is outdated. Continual learning is vital, both in work and personal life, as most occupations now require digital skills. Germany faces the challenge of improving online interactions with authorities and boosting the use of e-government and e-health services.

Support delivered

This multi-regional project was delivered at the request of the state authorities in Bavaria (Ministry for Digital Affairs) and in North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministry of Regional Identity, Communities and Local Government, Building and Digitalization, in partnership with the State Chancellery). It was implemented between September 2021 and March 2023 by the Austrian Agency for Economic Development (AED), in cooperation with the European Commission (DG REFORM).

The support measures contributed to a broad set of analyses and concepts as a basis for digital upskilling strategies in the two Länder. This included a review of existing tools and new concepts for needs assessment of digital competences in the respective target groups, network analysis of relevant partners and providers of upskilling opportunities, and the piloting of new training formats.

In both cases the project also developed concepts for outreach, marketing, and stakeholder engagement activities. Three workshop events allowed exchanges between the two States on good practice in their respective contexts and in relation to the two target groups of the project (public administration and citizens). 

Results achieved

In Bavaria, the results have contributed to a major digital upskilling initiative targeting the population at large by involving companies with local links who open their digital upskilling opportunities to citizens ("An alliance for digital competences" launched in April 2023).

In North-Rhine Westphalia the project has supported the state authorities through analytical activities and strategic recommendations for the improvement of digital competences, and a related mindset, in the public administration, which is expected to lead to improved provision of digital services. The project made specific recommendations on the development of existing tools for digital competence assessment (Medienkompetenzrahmen NRW; DigitalCheck NRW) with regard to public administration and on reinforcing co-operation around these topics with key stakeholders. It also successfully piloted a new upskilling measure aimed at leaders in the public administration.

More about the project

You can read the final report here: