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Information society, work, and the generation of new forms of social exclusion: Skills and competencies

There is some evidence that the emerging information economy triggers a trend towards up-skilling. This trend cannot be related to the introduction of modern ICTs only; instead, as stressed several times, one has to highlight the central role of ICT-enabled organisational change in a cluster of complementary and mutually reinforcing social innovations in order to understand the shift in skill demands. However, in order to identify trends in skills and competence development, we cannot focus on the traditional up-skilling versus down-skilling controversy. We have to analyse what new kinds of skills, competencies and capabilities become important.

While it is obvious that the demand for digital skills is increasing due to the widespread use of modern ICT, it does not always seem to be the most urgent demand. Our empirical findings suggest that it is not the technology in the first place that causes new skills and competencies to emerge. Instead, the new network forms of organising work must be seen as the key factor that triggers changing skill demands, as companies stress increasingly the need for organisational, management and social skills. Particularly the competence to co-operate and communicate with organisation members and people from outside is often mentioned as an important competence. In addition, employees’ preparedness to take on responsibility and being trustworthy is also emphasised. When recruiting new employees, more emphasis is often placed on personal characteristics, such as creativity and entrepreneurship, than to formal qualifications. Also 'international skills', including the knowledge of foreign languages and openness to other cultures, are highly demanded. But probably most important is the development of learning-to-learn competencies.

The changing skill demands also impact on training aspects. The company is becoming an important place for promoting human capital and acquiring new skills, knowledge, competencies, work attitudes and work virtues. A great number of skills and competencies will not be acquired in formal education processes separated from the work process. Instead, they have to be developed continuously in learning processes on the place.

But the need for new impulses coming from formal training in various training institutions still exists and is even growing. This means that government’s role in providing certain types of education is still very important. In addition, as companies and particularly SMEs often under-invest in human capital, financial incentives are necessary to guarantee that all categories of employees are able to continuously renew their skills and competencies. What is needed is a diversity of learning places with different focal points. In addition, the process of acquiring new qualifications and competencies must be seen as a continuing lifelong learning process.

Reported by

University of Tampere
4 Tullikatu 6
33014 Tampere
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