Soft skills are proving decisive when it comes to getting a job

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In an ever-changing world of work where technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, transversal skills and the ability to adapt have become the keys to success. Education and human resources experts agree on the importance of preparing future professionals to face the challenges of the 21st century labour market.

The specialists debate on the subject in Deep Talks, the open, plural and high-level debate format of Planeta Formación y Universidades to analyse current affairs from the perspective of the education sector, with a multi-specialised and international vision. On this occasion, a special guest speaker was Cristina Marqués, Talent Acquisition Leader at IBM Techonology for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The other participants were: Carlos González García, Director of the Degree in Computer Engineering at UNIE Universidad; Esther González Arnedo, Director and professor of the Master's Degree in HR at EAE Business School Madrid; and Julián Núñez Lozano, Coordinator and professor of the professional cycles of the Business Area at iFP - Innovación en Formación Profesional Madrid.

To start the conversation, Cristina Marqués (IBM) focused on soft skills, which are transversal skills for any job ‘such as communication, teamwork, learning ability and emotional intelligence’. Currently, this type of skills ‘are given as much or more importance than technical skills, in fact there is a LinkedIn study that says that 92% of human resources professionals give this relevance,’ he said. On the other hand, IBM's EMEA Talent Acquisition Leader also highlighted other concepts such as transferable skills (not knowing how to use a tool, but a similar one does, for example) or learning agility, i.e. the ability to learn.

In the opinion of Carlos González García, from UNIE Universidad, the constant context of change in society following the irruption of new technologies and their rapid development poses a problem, since ‘it is difficult to study a degree or a master's degree and the world remains the same during the years you have studied’. Moreover, ‘in a globalised and hyper-connected world, you have to be able to handle English’.

The gap between education and business

One of the issues pointed out by the experts is the gap that exists between what is studied at university and the reality that graduates find when they enter the labour market. In this sense, Vocational Training is seen as an educational alternative that provides students with practical skills and specific knowledge directly applicable in the workplace, facilitating a smoother and more effective transition to the labour market. Julián Núñez (iFP) believes that this gap ‘does exist and that it is very difficult for it to disappear’, although he believes that ‘with the appearance of internships, in the case of Vocational Training, it is proving to be a success, precisely because students have many hours of training in the workplace’. Likewise, in the opinion of the iFP professor, ‘it is also quite important for the teacher to be in the day-to-day work of the companies’.

‘At EAE we always recommend continuous learning to both teachers and students’, said Esther González Arnedo (EAE Business School), ‘that is why it is very important for people to be flexible’. The EAE professor referred to ‘the more than 200 new professions’, in other words, ‘your teenage children will be working in professions that do not yet exist’. In response to the challenge of whether there will be enough jobs for everyone, the professor believes that ‘there will be plenty of work, but the key is to always be prepared, flexible and willing to learn new things’.

Cristina Marqués, from IBM, adds the nuance that ‘it's not that there are only going to be many new professions and many others are going to disappear, but that our current work is going to change. In other words, sooner or later we are all going to incorporate technology and it is going to transform the way we work, so either we are up to date with how this technology is going to transform our jobs or we will remain out of date,’ he said.

In addition, Julián Núñez, from iFP, wanted to emphasise entrepreneurship, and commented that on the first day of class, when he asked his students if they were thinking of starting a business, ‘only 1% might say yes, most of them, perhaps because of what they have experienced at home, prefer a more stable salary’. The teacher explains the case of his own microenterprise, which after the pandemic was forced to close and warns: ‘The issue of emotional intelligence and how children have to know how to manage failure is very important to deal with’. 

An open and plural forum

Deep Talks is an open, plural and high-level meeting place where experts from different fields, together with representatives from the world of education and business, will debate the great challenges and opportunities that arise in the current panorama, with a special focus on the field of training and education. This forum for reflection is an initiative of Planeta Formación y Universidades and its objective is to generate a constructive dialogue that contributes new perspectives, innovative solutions and cutting-edge knowledge to the problems that concern us as a society.

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