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New jobs = New training

Modalità digitale, 19/07/2021, National Interest

Even before the pandemic hit, a general reconsideration was already underway of various ongoing global phenomena in labor, such as the rise of new professions, the globalization of job supply and increased international competition, along with the exponential spread of digital technologies and automation. The events of the past 18 months have served to accelerate these processes while at the same time also offering opportunities for significant intervention.

The key words here are digitization, sustainability and inclusion. The first, which by now encompasses every aspect in the creation of products and services, concerns not only production but also finance, administration, human resources and so forth. The second (increasingly understood as sustainability “by design”) is by now inseparable from the green transition, has important economic and social implications and is central to companies’ desire to be globally competitive and to attract talent.

The third makes it at least partially possible to address problems such as the disparity – among the female population, for instance – between formal and informal work and pay.  Some experts cite these long-term trends as drivers of the changes that by 2030 will have affected 80% of today’s professions; demand for some will rise, while for others is destined either to fall, in some cases nearly to the point of extinction, or become hybrid; increasing the risk of a talent shortage that would result in failing to satisfy the emerging demand. The addition of the pandemic’s effects has resulted in significant quantitative changes, such as a slump in employment in some sectors, as well as qualitative ones, for example in work mode variations ranging from remote to smart working  

These challenges imply a central role for the work world’s prime interlocutor: education, of every sort and at every level. The school system and training in general seem to be seriously behind when considered in the light of the rapidity of the current changes, yet the post-pandemic recovery project, starting with the PNRR resources, should facilitate long-term planning at all levels.

With effective planning, instead of following the changes, the school system could equip the students of today – and workers/citizens of tomorrow – with solid tools for confronting both uncertainty and transformation. The “hard” skills of the traditional humanistic and scientific knowledge base will have to be enriched with “soft” skills such as leadership, problem solving and the ability to absorb, communicate and cooperate. With this as a foundation, and with the help and collaboration of the school system, society and production spheres, it should be possible for students to gain the specialized knowledge required by various work environments.

Secondary schools and universities will also have to rethink their roles, with a view to more personalized education on innovative technological platforms, the creation of university alternatives such as the professional training institutes already present in some other countries and an enhanced interface with the business world. For its part, this latter must be increasingly prepared to assume a role as provider of continual, up-to-date training, not least in order to counter the obsolescence of a work force that often embraces up to five generations. A general reskilling, made particularly necessary by the pandemic, could foster inclusion. A need for new work modes – in addition to infrastructure and ad hoc rules – also calls for new ways of forging relations and generating cooperation. The dialogue between training and production could thus lead to the development of those highly qualified skills needed to facilitate the recovery of the entire country.