The text of the seminar held on November 8th

University education, on-the-job learning
and permanent training
in the age of knowledge

Dr. Paola Artioli
ASO Group, Formazione AIB, CdA UniBS
Career Day UniBS, 8-9 Novembre 2017

First of all I would like to introduce myself and clarify who I am, that is an entrepreneur. I studied Economics at the Sapienza University of Rome, I practiced the freelance profession as tax accountant, and finally I returned to my origins in the family business for over 15 years.

Over the last 10 years or so I have been part of private organizations and public administrations, taking care of training and school with the aim of promoting them as a powerful development lever, but always in an entrepreneurial perspective, that is to say never dealing with teaching that I leave to those who have the right skills, but rather worrying me to spread, encourage, organize and create the optimal conditions in which training was an effective tool for the growth of people and businesses.

Coming to the topic of today I will bring you some concepts that derive from the experience or, necessarily, from the information I gathered to document me.

Innovation, Industry 4.0, automation, digitalisation, computerization, globalization, big data are just some of the terms most used today to describe the phenomena of the technological development of our era.

But what do these categories feed on if not the knowledge and diffusion of knowledge? And who are, first of all, the actors of the transformation underway in our industrial and productive fabric and services?


It is up to them that the mission is to translate knowledge into innovation in industry as in services, in private companies as in public administration.

University training, meaning courses of degree and doctorates, in fact, has always been the one that best lends itself to achieving the highest level of knowledge and the highest level of creative ability through logical reasoning and the use of technical skills .

However, this scenario based on the phenomenon of innovation has changed significantly with the spread of digital technology that has given a strong acceleration to all processes.

Today graduates are required not only to bring their knowledge to develop projects within companies and manage activities in specific areas, but to adapt quickly to changes and make decisions effectively.

Graduates, moreover, need to be specialists in their own field of study, but also to confront and dialogue with technicians from other fields of specialization, to design and manage projects that have become increasingly complex and integrated.

Against the backdrop of this scenario, a hot topic: youth unemployment in Italy at around 35%, differently distributed between North and South, is one of the country’s most serious economic and social problems.

Almost one in five young people between the ages of 15 and 34, or more than 20%, belongs to the Neet, ie those who do not study and do not work; and in the South in an almost double proportion of the North.

School dropout accounts for 18% of the student population. In fact, one young person out of 4, among those considered Neet, has a school leaving path behind him, a sign of a school that does not guide, does not commit, does not help.

General unemployment stood at 11.3% in July, improved to 11.1% in September, while the 57% employment rate shows an increase of 1%. However, the work sees the strengthening of worrying phenomena of degradation: precarious work; fragmented work bought online; the work bought by the corporals as an underpaid commodity; black work; the jobs of the gig economy of Foodora or Deliveroo.

All of this affects the young especially and configures the conditions for the creation of a “lost generation”, as reported by Mario Draghi.

The other paradoxical phenomenon is mismatch, caused by a growing skill gap: at the same time as youth unemployment, it is noted that companies do not find people with the required quality skills. It is estimated that around 150,000 jobs are discovered due to lack of skills. Recent surveys of Excelsior and Isfol show that there are about 12-13% of vacancies.

What to do then?

Labor market reforms are necessary but not sufficient to deal with phenomena of this dimension.

Work is created by private and public investments.

The work is created by businesses, the liberal professions by the state and other public bodies, today challenged by unprecedented economic, geopolitical and technological change.

Let’s go back to the premise: without technological, organizational, managerial and professional innovation, we lose out from a tough international competition and we do not create jobs. And it is not enough to create precarious jobs and jobs: we need to develop skills and quality jobs that are a requirement of people and key resources for companies and organizations.

First of all we need to redesign traditional work and develop new work: new jobs. The work necessary to support international competition, to develop a tertiarization economy at the service of the old and new products industry, to coexist and make the most of ICT technologies: this is certainly the work of knowledge.

But not the isolated one of the “egg heads” or the mortified one of precariousness, but that of old or new professions and professions that employ all kinds of knowledge GENERATED BY UNIVERSITY RESEARCH and the experiences of companies and administrations in sectors that are in the middle of disruptive innovation processes: mechatronics, the fashion system, information technology, biotechnology, agri-food, cultural heritage, etc.

But in what world of work will our young people enter? And to do what?

The world of work here in the next 10 years will radically change: there will be new occupations that still do not exist today. Those that exist today in part will disappear or be profoundly modified.

In Italy the percentages of people employed in agriculture, industry and services may not change much: the share of processes and internal service work in manufacturing and agriculture, the so-called internal services, will increase.

The structure of the working class, on the other hand, will change radically. In all likelihood it will be more and more formed by workers who are controllers of automated processes with a high level of qualification, if not graduates who will control the production process (physical, computer or virtual) by absorbing the variances and activating processes of communication, cooperation, knowledge sharing with other nodes of the organization. We see it in our companies that is already like this: a world of “increased workers” with a positive relationship with the technologies, qualified and tendentially characterized by stable and professionalized occupations.

It is calculated that knowledge workers, the so-called knowledge workers, ie technicians, artists, researchers, teachers, intermediate managers, professionals, who are already over 42% in Italy and 51% of the working population in the UK, will rise in 2025 at 60%. But their school qualifications (degrees, tertiary education diplomas) will have to replace the current gap with Europe. In Italy, 25.3% of citizens are graduates: the last in Europe, where the average is 38.7%, and (slightly) below the EU target set for 2020 (26%)

Professionals and technicians will have to be less and less “intellectual” or “superspecialist”, but they will have to be characterized by cooperation, knowledge sharing, extended communication, community development.

The 2016 report of the World Economic Forum shows that in the first place in Industry 4.0 there is the DATA Analyst, that is the one who helps companies understand and capitalize the information drawn from the huge amount of data generated by new technologies. In second place there will be sales people who must be able to market increasingly complex products with a high technological content

The researchers, who hopefully will be much more numerous and better treated than today, will devote themselves, as well as discovering new objects and products, with a new orientation towards the final user of their work.

Teachers will have to master interdisciplinary knowledge and new technologies applied to teaching, they will have to learn more about the world of work and above all they will have to understand their pupils to a large extent “mutating subjects”.

Intermediate managers will be more and more experts and coaches, and less and less hierarchical figures.

Many technicians and managers will become start-up entrepreneurs (who will grow in number and hopefully have a lower mortality rate). They will have to learn not only to exercise their specialized skills, but also entrepreneurial skills, in particular by becoming business designers, ie designers of business systems, focusing especially on activities towards the market and customers.

Due to the rapidity of the changes taking place, the initial and lifelong learning processes must be intensified: new skill for new jobs. This training must be consistent with the evolution of products and services, the needs of users, technologies in tumultuous development, and sciences that cover ever broader frontiers and that integrate with each other.

In the end, however, the real lever of development is not “knowledge” in itself, but rather as said human capital, intellectual capacity, the collective intelligence that is the true undisputed heritage of a community and that is located in the universities, but also in businesses, professions, schools, non-profit organizations, and administrations.

In fact, when we talk about development, we refer in a clear manner not to pieces of our economy, separate and fragmented, but to a system that must grow harmonically and synergistically in all its parts to generate value.

To put a system, a common factor, all the resources of a community of a country, a province, a territory, means to involve each reality, institution, organization with a role and a function that integrates with all the rest.

Only by strengthening these links can we glimpse the solutions and tools to face the challenges of the future and get out of this condition of volatility and uncertainty that dominates our current reality.

Knowledge is the common thread that unites the parts of society and the economy and communication is at the base of the interconnections that link all the protagonists together.

In companies that intend to remain on the market there is a continuous need to evolve, to make new investments to produce better, optimizing resources and above all to respond to the increasingly diversified demands of the market itself.

There is therefore the need to support the innovation of these companies by fresh and creative minds and at the same time to keep the skills of the people already in the company context up-to-date.

Investment in the talent of human capital is essential to allow the growth and competitive advantage of our companies in the markets where the other players often have whole countries behind them, both the structure of the school system and the support of the institutions in the training field. more performing.

An example to stay in Europe is that of the German education system based on the dual model that also in Italy fortunately we started to introduce and implement with the didactic modality of the so-called school-work alternation, as well as the introduction of the Higher Technical Institutes and apprenticeship in high formation.

Therefore, even in universities, the laboratory approach of learning should be intensified, not so much to limit or distort the abstraction characteristic of academic knowledge, but to complete and integrate theoretical knowledge with experiential learning modalities.

In fact, this integration of skills can help to define the preparation necessary to aspire to a job in a shorter time, and to offer oneself on the labor market as professional figures who quickly become part of work contexts.

Let’s try to summarize: we face the opportunities that the digital technological evolution offers us. We must seize these opportunities by maximizing our assets, human capital, above all graduates and their knowledge, putting them in synergy with a system of companies, institutional organizations, universities and educational institutions to train new individuals and contribute to growth .

Finally, let’s not forget that the development of talent requires the recognition of merit, the selection of the best as a natural process of pursuit of excellence that can create greater opportunities for all.


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