If you’re going to remain competitive in the labor market, you have to develop your competencies. If you want to monetize your workforce, you have to be flexible and willing to learn. Hardly anyone works his whole life in the same profession. This applies to both companies and employees. In the USA, sometimes competencies are already more important than the vocational qualification once acquired. Is the idea of competence development the future?
The ever shorter half-life of once obtained knowledge has been further shortened with the advent of the computer, rationalization, and automation. Since the 1980s, it has become increasingly clear that lifelong learning and competence development are essential in many occupations. The professional idea, which is based on having undergone a clearly defined education and which has since developed further through real on-the-job training, is becoming more and more defensive. Today, the profession is at best an entrance ticket to the foyer of professional life, which after a few years is hardly suitable as a ticket for the next levels of the career ladder.
Competence Development in the Age of Digitalization
In the developed economies of the West, further development of the professional idea – today competence development – can already be observed in the nineties. In the USA, labor market researchers and labor ministers such as Robert Reich already recognized in the first Clinton Administration since 1993 that the dependent middle class needed access to the labor market even without a university degree. Inspired by the theses of “New Work”, which the Austrian-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergman founded in the 1980s, employment and education programs were developed that no longer addressed the deficits of the rural unemployed, but rather the existing competence that needed to be developed. Starting from the thesis, which has been refuted today, that the job system is at its end, the freedom of action and independence of people beyond gainful employment must be promoted. After the New Work was discussed a dozen times up and down, the term is now experiencing a renaissance with digitalization, but with different signs. Again, the motive is to open access to the labor market to a detached “working class”. Unlike Bergman, however, it is not a question of the emancipation of the former industrial workers in the “Rust Belt”, as the Democrats call them “White Trash”. Rather, it is digitization and the shortage of skilled workers and the associated lack of digital skills in companies that have led to the emergence of new competence development programs in the USA.
TechHire relies on competencies beyond formal qualification
If you can do the job, you should get the job: Since 2015, the social enterprise TechHire has been expanding in the USA, operating over 200 training facilities in 72 municipalities in social partnership with 1,300 employers. The model is similar to a dual training program according to the German model. The experts use online entrance tests to identify competencies and interests. Discussions with potential employers follow this. After a few months of all-day training, the participants complete an internship in a company. A wide variety of local TechHire companies specialize in qualifications in technology industries. Specifically, they have improved matching between job seekers, employers, teachers, policy-makers and local training groups: the online tool “training finder“, developed by LinkedIn’s business network, links relevant information on competence profiles and income opportunities, skills required, training programs and vacancies for different job advertisements.
Thus even applicants who do not formally have any qualifications, but who have acquired competencies even in self-study, have a chance to specifically promote them in order to get them into jobs. Autodidacts, for example, who work on computers in their spare time also have a chance to get a job as a software tester with 40,000 dollars after a qualification. TechHire’s competence-oriented approach has already enabled companies to fill 4,000 vacancies that would otherwise remain vacant today.
Conclusion: Competence development creates a vocation
TechHire and its partners have thus managed in an unbureaucratic and, above all, intelligent way to make a contribution to reducing the shortage of skilled workers in companies and to imparting new individual perspectives to people by promoting competencies. A mission to which TÜV Rheinland Academy has committed itself, particularly in the field of technical professions. Digitalization is constantly creating new requirement profiles for which it is necessary to establish appropriate competence models that enable people and organizations to remain capable of action and to actively shape both the present and the future. Artificial intelligence, digitization and automation will create many new jobs that will have to be taken over by today’s “skilled workers”. The way there is competence development on the job, actively supported by companies that have recognized the value of lifelong learning. It is also important to lay the right foundations in the field of initial vocational training for young people and to start thinking about tomorrow’s requirements today. Application cases of TÜV Rheinland Academy, which as a partner supports governments in various countries worldwide in establishing competence development via the dual training system according to the German model, close the technical education gap between state schools and degrees and the requirements of the industry. In this way, people and companies are actively enabled to master the challenges of digital transformation. In individual cases, personnel certifications ensure that competencies are always up to date and ensure a uniform quality level of the employees in the company.