Digitisation: Today’s training must provide for tomorrow’s specialists

Cloud technologies and big data, networking and Industry 4.0 – the economy is currently undergoing a process of profound change. Many companies, especially SMEs, are demanding that training for young people should be geared more closely to the requirements of the digital transformation.

What good is the best technology if nobody knows how to handle it? There is a great need for well-trained staff that doesn’t only think of the weather forecast when they hear the word “cloud”. And it will continue to grow quickly. It is thus no wonder that more than three quarters of all companies are demanding an adjustment of existing occupations requiring training in terms of their content. Almost a third is even of the opinion that as a result of digitisation completely new professions must be introduced, as reported by BITKOM according to the results of a relevant survey of more than 1,500 companies.

SMEs particularly affected

Training regulations in Germany are at least formulated in a way that is open to the future, says Friedrich Esser. He is the president of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education, which coordinates the adaptation and revision of training programmes. However, that alone is not always sufficient in his view. If it is seen as relevant for a given industry, the formation of entirely new professions is also an option that will be considered. BITKOM CEO Dr Bernhard Rohleder goes even further. He calls for the teaching of solid digital skills in the core subjects, a compulsory computer science course and an English course “as the lingua franca of the digital world from grade one onwards”.

SMEs, in other words, companies with 50 to 499 employees, see a particularly great need for new occupations requiring training. They face the particular challenge of carrying their existing strengths over into the digital world, as Rohleder says: “Employees and their qualification is of particular importance for digital innovation capability when it comes to SMEs.” In his view, the need for change goes far beyond the typical IT sector; it concerns all occupations.

Digitalisation as a global opportunity

In a position paper on the working world of tomorrow, the high-tech association already mentioned the challenges facing the economy back in early 2014. In order to become fit for the future, being virtually present at work had to be made possible and employees’ willingness to change increased. It was also necessary to establish “fluid” corporate structures. This would increase the chances of keeping highly qualified young professionals in the company.

“Whoever does not make the appropriate adjustments will disappear from the market sooner or later,” explains Catharina van Delden, a member of the BITKOM executive committee. Products and services that used to be “fully offline” are becoming increasingly digital. Collaboration, networking and access to relevant knowledge are decisive today.

However, all that is no reason to perceive digitisation as a threat. In fact it offers great opportunities for both employees and companies. As she sees it, this includes a “self-determined and self-confident choice” between alternatives from trustworthy partners, whether from America, Europe, Asia or Africa. (ds)