Skills Development

Although the skill upgrading of manufacturing employment is expected to intensify with the development of Industry 4.0 and the increasing demand for designers, industrial data scientists, big data statisticians and data security analysts, there will probably be fewer jobs directly involved in the production and routine administrative activities due to the long-standing automation process. Moreover, soft and communication skills will be demanded as working in teams will be more and more frequent. Indeed, in addition to destroying some jobs and creating others, technology is supposed to transform job content profoundly. As a consequence, tackling the well-documented lack of digital skills across EU population is just one part of the solution, that needs to be complemented with the development of other technical and behavioural skills to ensure that people and technology remain interdependent. The green transition interplays with such disruptive digital development by changing the face of industry on a global scale.

To deal with this challenge, workers’ reps should ask for workers’ training programmes when a new technology is about to be introduced and periodic assessments of workers’ tasks and skills to tackle their possible obsolescence. They should promote job rotation for greater versatility and expansion of workers’ roles;

should also contribute to the development of systems aimed at assessing and validating workers’ competences in order to allow for better mobility across companies and sectors. Finally, they should cooperate with companies and educational institutions in order to plan curricula that meet future industry’s needs.

‘CNC Technology 2017’ is a standard for validation and certification of knowledge and skills on three levels within the Swedish metal industry:
  • CNC Technology Green Certificate;
  • CNC Technology Blue Certificate;
  • CNC Technology Black.
These three levels correspond to European Qualifications Framework (EQF) levels 4, 5 and 6. Green and Blue Certificates secure basic skills requirements; the Black Certificate secures in-depth cutting-edge expertise in specific branches. The development of the content of these certificates started in 1998 with a pilot project in the County of Gävleborg, funded by the Swedish Agency for Employment (Arbetsförmedlingen) and the firm 7 Lernia AB, and involving a network composed of IF Metall, local companies and universities. Within the network, the company Mapaz AB committed itself to the design of internet infrastructure to support the lifelong learning process according to ISO 9000. The development process of the validation and certification system in the metal industry continued over the years and today the company Skärteknikcentrum Sverige AB, owned by the Swedish Association for Machined Components (Svenska Skärteknikföreningen), is responsible for the development and quality assurance of the content and the accreditation of test centres. There are currently 94 test centres distributed throughout the Country and organised by universities, upper secondary schools and companies. The internet infrastructure supporting the whole process is owned and run by Mapaz AB. Private stakeholders across the sector provide funding. This system is meant to help companies recognise and get a qualified workforce. On the labour side, after the validation process, workers receive either a certificate or an individual development plan to acquire those skills and knowledge that are still missing. By gaining a certificate, workers benefit from increased mobility in the labour market.
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In Italy, in the 2016 latest renewal of the national-level collective agreement for the metalworking sector, signed in November 2016, the Italian metalworkers’ organisation FIM-CISL and the other trade union federations, FIOMCGIL and UILM-UIL, along with the employers’ associations, Federmeccanica and Assistal, introduced an ‘individual right to training’ materialising in at least 24 hours in 3 years devoted to training, due to each metalworker employed in the companies covered by the agreement. If after 2 years workers have still not been involved in training paths organised by the company, they are entitled to participate in external courses and the company has to cover the related expenses up to 300 Euros. With the 2021 renewal, the ‘individual right to training’ was further detailed and articulated emphasising the need for a proper analysis of workers’ and company skills needs and the monitoring of training activities, to be performed by decentralised social partners. Moreover, in an effort to ease for companies the planning, organisation and registration of training activities, sectoral trade unions and employers’ associations agreed on the definition of a Protocol enabling the national provision of training services to be financed yearly by company contributions of 1.5 EUR per employee. Such services, particularly targeted at small and medium companies, would concern, among others, the creation of a national platform where planning and registering workers’ training hours via Blockchain technology, the provision of plans for the enhancement of digital skills and the development of soft skills for apprentices, and the support to the design of alternance training paths.
In 2020, after an analysis of the state of art and the evolutionary prospects of the involved industries, trade unions and employers’ associations operating in textile, fashion and leather sectors drafted a joint memorandum to promote sectoral policies for a shared governance of technological and green transitions. Interestingly, besides the definition of roadmaps towards digital and environmental transformations, investments in workers’ training and the implementation of sectoral training centers have been listed among the priorities. Particular attention to lifelong learning was also paid by the social partners operating in the chemical industry with the Memorandum signed in 2020. In the latter, it is pointed out that it is necessary to adapt workers’ training and upskilling to real company needs, to provide companies and trade unions with good practices and concrete examples on how to improve workers’ adaptability to technological changes by the means of lifelong learning, as well as to carry out joint labour-management projects within the framework of the national operational programmes ‘Human resources development’ and ‘Competitiveness’ (2021- 2027). Several shared projects on workers’ training on the basis of both employers and individuals’ needs, have been already conducted in the metal industry. Moreover, in the context of the above-mentioned operational programmes, the Bulgarian trade union confederation, CITUB, has recently started an initiative aimed at creating 450 new professional profiles endowed with digital skills within 90 economic sectors. The profiles are to be tested in collective sectoral experimentations. Once the necessary skills are defined, curricula and training paths consistent with the identified professions will be outlined. They will be then performed by the vocational training centers licensed by the dedicated national agency, NAVET.
In the 2018 latest round of collective bargaining renewals, the German Industrial Union of Metalworkers (Industriegewerkschaft Metall – IG Metall) provided workers with the right to ask for a ‘qualification interview’ with their employers, where workers can express their own training needs. This inter- 8 view shall be preceded by a discussion on the topic between the individual worker and the works council, that generally sees the big picture and determines if further training is necessary or at least appropriate for the company. If further training is regarded as necessary, the employer is required to bear the costs and free the employee from work for the duration of the training programme; if additional training is instead considered as appropriate, the employer has to grant the employee the so-called ‘educational part-time’ (up to 7 years, before returning to the normal working time). This measure can be financed either via a specific training account, where the employee collects and saves overtime hours as well as the allowances paid for working on Sundays or public holidays, or sabbatical leaves provided by the employer. Conversely, if further training is simply a personal desire, the worker needs to spend her own time and money. Interestingly, moreover, after the ‘qualification interview’, the employer and the individual worker are expected to reach an agreement on training, which details the duration of the training process, its main characteristics (part-time or full-time), its financing and the return to normal work. This agreement shall also be submitted to the works council, that is entitled to advise workers about these issues.
On June 12, 2019, the National Skills Strategy (NWS) in Germany was launched by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with the Federal Employment Agency (BA), the regional governments and the social and economic players. Among the trade unions participating in the strategy, there are the confederation DGB and its main sectoral organisations, including IG Metall and IG BCE for the manufacturing industry. The partners of the Strategy pursue the goal of bundling their training activities and aligning them with the needs of both employers and workers, in an effort to develop a culture of continuing education and training (CET), which is a prerequisite of economic strength and a guarantee for individuals and society in a changing world of work. Notably, all the partners have agreed on performing activities, coherently with ten objectives, among which there are: Supporting the transparency of CET opportunities and programmes, mainly through the expansion of local counselling structures and the development of online platforms and information portals; Closing gaps in support and creating new incentives to training, mainly through the provision of publicly subsidised educational leave and part-time educational leave for employees, the extension of the continuing education bonus schemes, the implementation of targeted projects; Ensuring joined-up lifelong CET counselling nationwide and strengthening skills development counselling, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises; Strengthening the responsibility of social partners, mainly through their involvement in the identification of transformation paths in workplaces and their effects on skills and the conclusion of agreements on workers’ training; Increasing the visibility of and recognising the skills acquired by workers through vocational education and training; Developing further training qualifications and CET programmes; Strengthening strategic forecasting and optimising statistics on CET.

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