Technology giant Cisco Systems hopes to help tackle high levels of youth unemployment in European and address the region's skills gap with a new education programme.

The US firm has launched its Networking Academy Internet of Everything curriculum, giving electricians the internet protocol skills to service the millions of potential new intelligent Smart Grid devices.

There are estimated to be 240 million smart meters to be exchanged by 2020 in Europe.

Cisco is a signatory of the European Commission Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, which aims to tackle the lack of digital skills in Europe and the several hundred thousands of unfulfilled ICT-related job vacancies.

According to Eurostat, the official research body of the European Commission, the unemployment rate for young people was down from 23.4% in April to 23.3% in May.

In contrast, the UK's youth unemployment rate was 18.5% in the three months to April.

"In Europe, we know that the demand for ICT workers is outstripping supply," said David Bevilacqua, vice president of south region, Cisco EMEAR

"There are about 26 million people unemployed in Europe, and the European Commission expects there to be up to up to 900,000 unfilled vacancies by 2020."

He added: "We recognised that the Internet of Everything will create further demand for higher-paying, skilled jobs and we are creating a specific curriculum that addresses these opportunities."

The skills shortage is also an issue in the UK, with the business secretary Vince Cable warning that the gap is "crippling" the UK manufacturing sector.

The senior Liberal Democrat MP told delegates at a Department for Business Manufacturing summit in New Brighton, Merseyside that his ministry was attempting to resolve the issue.

"The problem which is growing, is the problem of skills - we just don't have the right level of people at all stages [who have the abilities employers need]," Cable said.

"We've got a gap already. We've got people approaching retirement who have got to be replaced, this is potentially a crippling handicap unless we get on top of it."

The manufacturers' organisation EEF said almost four out of five UK firms have had recruitment problems because of the issue.