“We need to once again invest in human capital: this is the basis for Italy’s rebirth.” Italy’s Minister for Labour, Nunzia Catalfo, has announced a significant investment for the National Skills Plan, one of the eleven projects included in the Recovery Plan to benefit from European Union funding.
Developed in tandem with the Ministry for Education, University and Research, the plan is worth 11.2 billion euro and its goal will be to “acquire those skills needed to bridge the mismatch between the world of education and the labour market. This is the only way we will get through these difficult pandemic times,” Catalfo explained.
The plan aims to provide young people and adults with the required skills sets, primarily in the fields of sustainable business and digitalization. It will start with the national strategy for digital skills drawn up by the Minister for Technological Innovation, Paola Pisano, which focuses on four areas: schooling and higher education; active workforce; specialist ICT skills; citizens.
The goal is to improve digital skills in both the younger age group and among adults and give everyone the chance to benefit from a digital education. This is no small detail when looking at the figures. Italy in fact ranks last in the 2020 DESI (The Digital Economy and Society Index): just 42% of the population aged between 16 and 74 has basic or advanced digital skills.
This is a very low percentage when compared to the European average of 58% and the German average of 70%. This means that 26 million Italians do not have the appropriate digital skills to exercise their citizenship and no fewer than 15 million use the internet with even less know-how.
Teachers have over 50 years’ worth of knowledge of analogue systems which are of no use in this digital world. We need to train teachers before we can educate children. Giovanni Biondi, President of Indire
School must therefore be the starting point for this new digital literacy, especially at a time when the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, from education to the world of work. “The funds should be used properly” points out Giovanni Biondi, President of Indire, an institute which provides teacher training and analyses the best practices for learning. Along with digitalization, the other goal of the Recovery Plan is the green transition. “A lot is being said on this topic,” says Biondi, “but we need to look beyond single study courses, which are outdated.”
The reality of the situation proves this point. “Take the automotive district. Here you find factories of some of the world’s biggest names, like Dallera, Ducati and Ferrari. When these companies realised they needed new professions that could combine different aspects from different fields, they designed brand new degrees to integrate their know-how into a university course,” Biondi tells us.
This example highlights one of the ills that have been afflicting Italy’s world of work for some time now - the missing link between university and jobs. “Our Higher Technical Institutes have set an example,” Biondi explains, where at least 30% of course time is spent in companies and 50% of the teaching staff must come from business. “It is no coincidence that almost 80% of those who qualify find employment, sometimes that number is even 100%. The teaching staff have real experience of what the labour market needs.”
Teachers are therefore the starting point to build a new world of expertise. “This is key, because if we want our youngsters to have the right digital skills, we have to teach them those skills,” Biondi continues. Not an easy task if we think that Italy, according to the 2019 Eurydice report, has significant gaps in its digital education policy. It is therefore essential to help teachers given that “teachers have over 50 years’ worth of knowledge of analogue systems which are of no use in this digital world. We need to train teachers before we can educate children.”