TWO-THIRDS OF THE JOBS WILL REQUIRE SOFT SKILLS
➢ EDUCATION - A NECESSARY INVESTMENT OF THE BUSINESS (11.05.2022, во 08:15:16)
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Soft skills in the focus of the companies
TWO-THIRDS OF THE JOBS WILL REQUIRE SOFT SKILLS

Recently, the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia and the Ministry of Education and Science organized a two-day regional conference "Skills for Future Jobs" with the support of the Swiss "Education for Employment in North Macedonia" project. The conference was an inspiration for experts from many countries in Europe and the Western Balkans to express their opinions and views on the skills required for the future jobs that will be created because of the rapid development of science and technology. Having the opportunity to take part of a panel discussion on the topic of: “The situation in the production industry with professional staff, how does the real sector tackle this issue and the future skills that will be required in this sector,” the topic opened a broad spectrum of discussions.

Primarily, purely for illustration, according to the latest data from the State Statistical Office (2021), the production sector in North Macedonia participates with 37% in the GDP and absorbs 256,723 employees. That is why it is quite an important foundation of the economy and related to the most important economic topics: economic growth, investment, export, employment, research and development, productivity, added value, innovation ...

In 2009, North Macedonia adopted the first Industrial Policy, which was the basis for the Industrial Strategy of the Republic of Macedonia 2018-2027. The extent to which this strategy is being implemented remains to be seen, and the trends that dominate the global labor market require rapid changes in the manufacturing sector. To remain competitive and profitable in the global economy, manufacturing companies must be prepared and innovative, automate their processes, introduce modern technologies, use a specialized approach to refine the products, use data to analyze and refine the manufacturing process and work with minimal waste. This requires professional and experienced management with a broad knowledge of the dynamics, but also of the actors in the industry, which means how to identify, hire, and promote professional staff that will respond to the new challenges.

However, the reality is completely different when it comes to the staff required by the companies. The analyzes made by the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia show that 65% of the companies face a shortage of professional staff, especially technical and engineering staff, and 48% of the companies identify a limited number of candidates with appropriate qualifications and work experience. Although the reason is of a different nature, the answers of the companies are identical:   

1. insufficient practical experience and knowledge of the staff.

2. inadequate education.

3. migration (internal and external migration) and

4. retirement of the professional staff

This situation requires necessary changes in the core concept of education to keep up with the modern times, and on the other hand, the education system has long been rigid and slow to keep up with all changes. And the question immediately arises: How do companies solve this problem?

1. The first step, as the most effective at the beginning, was to generate staff within a short-run process through the system of non-formal education, through the programs for re-training and additional training, which were undertaken in the business offices of the companies.

2. The second step was to solve the problem, long-term, through the system of formal education. The approach for providing qualifications and skills for the needs of the manufacturing companies was initially difficult, but companies were not discouraged. The first companies as pilot projects have trained staff according to latest programs, designed for their own needs (EVN Macedonia, AD; Drexler Mayer; Kostal; LTH Learnica). The private sector was becoming louder, and the Economic Chamber, which in 2016 demanded the introduction of dual education as the most effective way to provide staff, through its activities gave support to this process. And slowly the changes in education began.

The Work-Based Learning has become an integral part of educational programs. The companies have started to take whole classes of students for the implementation of the practical training in a company so that they can be employed immediately. The number of companies included in the dual education model started from eleven companies, while in the academic year 2021/2022 the same has increased to 211 companies, to top the same in the academic 2022/2023 where the number of companies that want to get involved reached about 450 companies. The effort was not futile. The data from the Chamber’s analysis show that 42% of the companies have cooperation with vocational schools, and 46% of the cooperation is related to providing practical training for students in a company, while 26% is related to employment of staff in the company. The latest data show that as many as 90% of companies want to cooperate with schools for vocational education.

And now, to reiterate the question: What will be the most demanded skills from the labor force? The dynamics of technological development gradually creates new occupations and needs for new skills, and young graduates should have the skills for a long-term perspective in the sector for which they have been trained. Understanding the new skills requirements is crucial for addressing the challenges in skill demand. In addition, the health crisis, climate change, energy crisis and other have contributed to changing certain operating habits of the manufacturing companies, which were firstly hit and were most affected by the consequences of the crisis and changed the agenda and priorities in providing skills. Such dynamics have caused some sectors to experience great development, other sectors to decline, and in some cases the sectors are just simply closing. The data of the latest analysis of the Economic Chamber (https://www.mchamber.mk/upload/publications/4/781_1.pdf), showed that the processing industry will grow rapidly in all urban regions in the next 10 years, while the agriculture sector will decline in general, where in some regions will stagnate but in the southeastern region it will disappear.  

This will encourage the creation of new professions, which require new skills and the development of new occupations and qualifications. Some of the existing occupations and professions that offer specific "knowledge" will no longer be able to meet the future demands of the labor market, and this will lead to the disappearance of some of the existing occupations.

The soft skills will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 and will contribute to companies' productivity growth and sustainability.

·critical thinking, problem solving, analytical skills,

·emotional intelligence, corporate responsibility skills for undertaking responsibility for the mistakes and successes in the company.

·creativity and innovation.

·skills and abilities for independent learning and how to learn throughout life to easily adapt to change.

·communication skills, leadership skills and decision-making skills.

·teamwork and project management skills.

·data processing and forecasting skills.

·skills for adapting to change and accepting challenges in a fast and dynamic environment (open mind for fresh solutions)

These skills are still in demand today but are exceedingly difficult to acquire through the current education system, which requires urgent reforms and adaptation to change.

Although being aware that companies are automating their processes, someone still must manage the machines and the equipment. Therefore, the most demanded qualification, today and in the future, will be the CNC Machine Operator.

Deficient qualifications needed for the future include but are not limited to: Metal processing technician; Welder; Auto technician-mechatronic; Construction mechanic; Mechanical and Energy Technician; Industrial Production Technician; Mechatronics; Machinery mechanic; Electrical-technic engineer; Food Technician; Chemical Technology Technician; Meat and milk technician; Clothing assistant, Clothing technician, Textile Technician; Shoe Technician; Production-processing technician; Furniture and Interior decorating Technician; Woodworking Technician; Carpenter; Pharmaceutical Technician; Auto electrician, etc.

The qualifications from the IT sector are necessary for the work processes of all sectors: Software Tester, Developer, Data Processor and Forecast expert; Coding expert…

It is quite logical to ask about the position of the higher education. The answer is precise and clear. A lot of work should be invested in strengthening the links between universities, research centers and companies in the manufacturing sector for generating staff with higher education qualifications which will fill the gap in the system between the academic learning and the right job. The graduates have the latest academic knowledge, but often lack knowledge of industry requirements and apprenticeship experience in such an environment. On the other hand, the manufacturing SMEs that are not well connected to the latest technological and engineering advances could in this way get support to adapt to latest changes, to innovate and to remain competitive.

Obviously, we must not make changes chaotically, but in a structured, systematized way, using analysis and forecasting. Forecasts are important because they will encourage the policies to focus on developing human resources which will provide skills that are useful to employees in the workplace, especially on the long run.

 

Natasha Janevska, M.A
Expert at the organizational unit for member representation and networking