Lavoro Sede Nazionale dei Salesiani per il Lavoro
Guiding Best Practice 26 June Jun 2017 1554 26 June 2017

When the company is teaching, employment is the winner

In Italy, the mismatch between school and the productive world is still quite significant. But the wind is changing: during the 2015/16 school year, 45.8% of students in the third, fourth, and fifth year of secondary school experienced work/school alternation, as against 18.5% the year before

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By 2020, all professions will be changing. This is stated in a report by the World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs: in just a few years, 30% of the skills strategic today for carrying out any job will be supplanted by new ones, different from those required in 2017. What is truly new is the faster pace of change: according to the same study, 50% of the knowledge acquired today in the first year of university will be outdated even before getting to the degree. What about training in a time of such rapid obsolescence of skills? This is the crucial issue, confirmed by the numbers – not new, but always alarming – of the mismatch: in Italy, over the next three months, 38.8% of hirings planned by enterprises will be “hard to fill” – in practice, unfilled positions. Why? In one case out of five, it is due to the candidates’ inadequate training.

In Italy, over the next three months, 38.8% of hirings planned by enterprises will be “hard to fill” – in practice, unfilled positions. Why? In one case out of five, it is due to the candidates’ inadequate training

Young but experienced
Reading the job advertisements, we see a paradox: they want youth, and they want experience. But this is possible, and in fact necessary. The mandatory work/school alternation introduced by the Buona Scuola plan goes in this direction: during the 2015/16 school year, 45.8% of students in the third, fourth, and fifth year of secondary school have had an experience of work/school alternation, as against 18.5% the year before. There has been no shortage of debate, or of mediocre proposals, but it is an initial way to take one’s measure of the world of work. In Apulia, for example, in the municipalities of Galatone, Francavilla Fontana, and Terlizzi, the students published some data on public administration in open format, surveying B&Bs, street lamps, and architectural barriers. “The young people learned that raw data can be transformed into services for citizens: they will need it, because this will be the “re-use generation,” explains Pierfrancesco Paolicelli, OpenData trainer and consultant for public administration. The other card played by the Government is the revision of the old apprenticeship contract, to give impetus to the idea that in Italy, too, we can “learn by working,” as they do in Germany. In 2016, 8,800 level-1 apprenticeship contracts were activated (+33% over 2015), signed by very young people enrolled in educational and vocational paths, with wages starting at € 500 and up. “The transformations in the working world are not a switch. They are processes,” says Antonio Bernasconi, director of Enaip in Lombardy, a region that on its own has more level-1 apprentices than all of Central Italy taken together. “In relations with businesses, we are constantly reminded about how sectors can evolve. Bread will always be made; the difference is the approach: think of bread for the gluten intolerant, or of useful bread designed with IEO physicians, for example, using flours that support therapies.”

Businesses in the classroom
So do businesses do well in school? After years of mutual suspicion, the answer is yes. It is no accident that the training paths with the highest employment rate in Italy are the higher technical schools (ITS – Istituti tecnici superiori): their governance includes the participation of businesses; 65% of teachers come from companies, and 80% of their graduates have a job within 12 months after completing their studies. “If businesses need a given skill, in a short time we look for an expert, and we provide a course. This isn’t possible in schools, because the curricula are too rigid,” says Maria Carla Furlan, director of ITS di Jesolo, Italy’s employment-rate leader in 2017. That is all true, but a short-term logic remains for Piero Dominici, a Public Communication instructor at the University of Perugia: “precisely due to the fast change taking place, it risks being counterproductive: we are witnessing faster and faster obsolescence of knowledge and of the necessary skills; many reports say we cannot even imagine the professional profiles of the future.” The radical intervention would be to put an end to the “false dichotomies” our school and training systems still hinge on, which promote interdisciplinarity in words alone: “We desperately need people that can bring together knowledge and skills, scientific learning and humanistic learning. It is a matter of maintaining our gaze on the systems, on the whole, on the overall, which does not correspond to the sum of the parts. In the knowledge society, it’s no longer enough to know and to know how to do. You also have to know how to communicate knowing and knowing how to do.”

The future will be a hybrid
We need a new humanism, then, of which science, technique, and technology are integral parts. We are saturated with knowing how, as shown by the ever shorter lifespan of everything we learn. For Alessandro Fusacchia, former Head of Cabinet of the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (Miur) and now a strategic advisor for the new H-Farm educational area, “in a world with so many robots, in order to govern processes we have to become ‘more human,’ to develop more empathy, to be more emotionally smart. The skills that have been the most important for me are the ability to generate trust and manage complexity. The future belongs to those who can bring together worlds apparently distant from one another today: archaeology and design, for example. But we’ll have to be excellent in both things.” Miriam Cresta, on the other hand, is director general of Junior Achievement Italia; they bring the mini-enterprise device to schools, and have worked with 18 thousand young people this year: “In a setting where it’s no longer valid to say “I’m going to this school and then I’ll do that job,” having business skill is a value. Young people will have to learn to follow paths whose outcome they do not know, to be where you experiment, doing jobs that not even the market knows how to seek yet. You have to know how to be in it, and to do so without anxiety,” she says. It’s no accident that the Polytechnic Universities of Milan and Turin, to complete the training of their top one hundred talents every year, are targeting social responsibility, confident that an understanding of complexity will be the ace up their sleeve. Mario Calderini, Deputy Director of Alta Scuola Politecnica, explains that “social responsibility is the offspring of the understanding of complexity. With young people, we’re working on the role of religions in innovation; we bring them into dialogue on issues of philosophy and science; we challenge them to provide solutions of social and urban requalification in disadvantaged areas, even far away and in dramatic situations. This cross-cutting expansion of skills is the true challenge for the future.”

Opening photo: young people in the classroom, attending a course promoted by Cnos-Fap, the training body of the Salesians.