Degree versus skills

New technological developments can have a major impact on work. Understanding how this changes work is necessary for employees to develop the necessary skills and to take possible measures against negative effects on the quality of work.

How is work changing in the Netherlands and Belgium? What do these developments mean for workers and employers? What skills do workers need and how can they obtain these skills? Which workers are at risk of educational obsolescence and job loss? Can skills passports play a role in reducing labor market mismatches and facilitating labor market transitions?

Changes in tasks & consequences for workers

Digital skills are becoming increasingly important and Dutch occupations increasingly technical. The tasks that workers perform and the skills needed to do so have changed in recent years; and these changes, possibly accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, are expected to continue in the coming years.

A concrete example is the work of logistics workers. Specifically looking at the impact of technological developments on changes in their work. The results show that in the future, logistics workers will have to enter and use more and more data during their work, and will have to collaborate more with other fields such as planning and transportation. The skills they already need today will remain important, but in the process logistics employees will need more (basic) digital, analytical and communication skills.

The value of a labor market organized around tasks & skills

The research suggests that a focus on tasks and skills offers valuable insights. A greater understanding of changes in the range of tasks makes it easier to identify the impact on the knowledge and skills needed of workers. By starting from tasks and skills rather than occupations and training, matches on the labor market can be made easier. Job seekers and employers can benefit, especially in a tight labor market.

Those who lack the right qualifications but have the right skills are more likely to find suitable work when there is a focus on skills rather than qualifications. Employers can more easily find suitable candidates by focusing on the tasks to be performed and the skills required to do so than if they rely solely on degrees obtained. Both education and employers, workers and job seekers theoretically benefit from a focus on skills and tasks.

Skills passport to complement diplomas?

Information about education completed is not always sufficient to determine whether a person has the right skills, especially if workers completed their education a long time ago. In addition, skills are acquired not only during training but also afterwards, by attending training and courses in addition to work and through experiential learning in the work itself. A skills passport is a tool to record the available skills of workers.

How realistic is a skills passport?

It is skill which attracts the employers, clients and management which elevators or drops the person. Without the skill, the person would not be able to catch hold of the interest of their superiors and attain success. To be fair, skills are already being demanded by companies. Very definitely in the logistics sector, staffing agencies are getting demand for employees with specific skills. It is now only a small step to test these skills and record them in a skills passport.