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Yvonne van Hest SAEYSYvonne van Hest is responsible for the PEOPLE domain as Program Director at Brainport Development. In her columns for IO Eindhoven, she focuses on regional developments, backgrounds and trends in education and the labour market.

Last week I was in Como, Italy. At the EfVET conference. An annual conference for and about vocational education in Europe (in Dutch called MBO), with about 250 participants – both policy- and decisionmakers. EfVET stands for ‘European Forum of Technical and Vocational Education & Training’.

I was asked to talk about the power of our triple helix collaboration*, how I think – especially vocational – education can innovate and more generally about the skills that will be needed in the future. I would like to talk about the latter with you. The EfVET organisation sent me the following picture from the World Economic Forum:

skills of 21st century

The question was whether I could reflect on this from the business side. Are these indeed the ‘future skills’ that we should all focus on?

My answer to that question: I have no idea. And I honestly think that nobody really knows. In other words: anyone can say whatever they believe. Of course, we all know that the so-called ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important. But I do think this has to be alongside the ‘hard skills’, hand in hand with each other.

I was at ASML two weeks ago and they are consciously working on soft skills. They have defined this nicely, from three types of leadership: 1. thought leadership; 2. results leadership; 3. people leadership. And by ‘leadership’, they mean: being responsible for your own development. Beautiful! With 12 behavioural competencies, such as ‘customer focus’, ‘optimizes work processes’ and ‘values differences between people’. With the realization that not everyone is or can be perfect in all those competencies, but at least these are the 12 defined behavioural aspects that the company appreciates. And this is just one example, many companies – including many SME’s – are working on this.

But I do think we have to realise that we cannot all be sheep with 5, 6 or 7 legs. Good in all the required competencies and all the required knowledge and skills. In fact: I don’t know many of them, sheep with so many legs. And I also wonder if we should want that, the ‘5-legged pressure’ of our society. I don’t think we should put that pressure on our education. Can’t we just be satisfied with 4 beautiful legs, or maybe 3 already?

I recently met a couple of recruiters from different companies and I was shocked when one of them said: “We rejected this CV, because this person has done two bachelors. So that must be a doubter who doesn’t know what he wants, we don’t need that sort of employees”. Well, if we look at applicants like this, I understand that there is a shortage of talent… (I certainly don’t want to accuse all recruiters by this statement, but I want to challenge them and make them think).

So what should we do with the hard vs soft skills discussion? Nature vs nurture, EQ vs IQ? Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about what Lifelong Development is exactly and which skills it is about. His reflection in brief: Lifelong Development is based on someone’s talent and it aims at further developing it. But frankly, I don’t entirely agree with that. All the reports I read about the labour market and jobs are about the worryingly growing shortage of ICT professionals. Well, I’ve never heard anyone say that ICT is his or her talent. Of course, soft skills such as analytical capacities can form the basis for this, but then you still have to learn the programming language, for example, right? So back to the hard skills.

In short, I think this is always the case. I think it’s always a combination of hard & soft skills. We shouldn’t want to create sheep with 5 or more legs. And above all, we all need to learn how to learn, with our teachers in a leading role.

* Education, companies, governments


Innovation Cafe

On November 8th, Brainport Development hosts the Eindhoven Innovation Café. Yvonne van Hest and Naomie Verstraeten will start an open dialogue with you about innovation and education, the labour market and business development in the Brainport region. You can submit your questions beforehand by sending an email to [email protected] or by commenting them at this post. Yvonne and Naomie will be happy to discuss them during the open dialogue.  

Feel like an inspiring conversation? An opportunity for new collaborations? Join the Eindhoven Innovation Café on November 8th from 17:00-19:00 in De Kazerne, Eindhoven. You can find more info here:[/box]