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Project - Competencies for the Future Project - Competencies for the Future

Characteristics of the project entitled

„Competencies for the Future”

The project is realised by the Careers Service of UMK from October 2009 until the end of September 2013 under the Operational Programme Human Capital OPHC (Submeasure 4.1.1) and co-financed by the European Union and European Social Fund [ESF].

The superior aim of the project is to enhance and develop a didactic potential of the university. Activities undertaken under the project are aimed at extending the educational offer of faculties of exact sciences by an opportunity to develop “soft” competencies and making the University a more friendly place for disabled students.

The Model of Vocational Competencies was created as part of the project and students of the Faculty of Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science, Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science will participate gratuitously in courses and training improving their soft competencies necessary in the labour market.

Competencies are resultants of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Adequately shaped competencies make employees able to realise vocational tasks at required levels.

The Model of Vocational Competencies (MKZ) was created in order to enhance spreading information between the Careers Service of UMK, employers (labour market) and students/graduates. The model made it possible to collect job offers according to a key of competencies in order to ensure better orientation for candidates and employers as regards their mutual needs and requirements, expected skills, attitudes and levels of knowledge..

Definitions of soft competences

QUALIFICATIONS OR COMPETENCIES? QUALIFICATIONS OR COMPETENCIES?

Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. "
SAMUEL JOHNSON

Samuel Johnson’s quote depicts well one of the most fundamental dichotomies, which is significant for contemporary specialists in human resources management, namely the one of qualifications – competencies.

QUALIFICATIONS

 “To know a subject” is to be an expert in the subject and possess knowledge, which can be verified, measured and evaluated and, in this aspect, it may be referred to as qualifications. A qualified worker is a one with comprehensive education, knowledge and practice in a given field and qualifications for practising a given profession.

Qualifications may be reflected formally in the form of school completion diplomas, vocational title diplomas, certificates, licenses, internship diplomas etc. Thus, qualifications are measurable (e.g. by years of tenure) and because their quality is based upon a common institutionalised denominator, they may be compared in a group of units and evaluated.

Qualifications often exist as zero-one or factographic forms and they can be found or not, which means that they have a static character – they are structures of knowledge, which, once acquired, will always remain unchanged (disregarding the influence of incrementing experience, which may extend the structures, but, generally, will not change the core).

QUALIFICATIONS VS. INFORMATION SOCIETY

However, the information society with its almost unlimited resources of information extended by further data every day, does not have a static, but a dynamic character. It changes constantly and creates reality of the market and economy. Success in conducting one’s business activities involves adjustment to such changes and anticipation of the same.

Static knowledge and physical activity routine are not so desired as ability to learn, readiness for changes and openness to the new. Modern technologies and informatization mean a constant progress and an employee has to keep pace with the progress. Nowadays production means operating more and more complicated automatic machines, which require specified cognitive abilities for operation and maintenance of the same.

Technology eliminates simple and reiterative tasks. This entails decrease of a number of jobs for employees with low qualifications or without any qualifications at all. Management, which is so important for a company’s success, mostly involves concept, study and organisational work.

COMPETENCIES

Qualifications understood as skills mastered and a factographic knowledge are still important, however, they are more desired, if accompanied by competencies – individual skills and psychical, social and cognitive skills.

Due to the trend of departing from the vertical hierarchical structure of enterprise organisation in favour of a flat “networking” type of organisation, social competencies referred to as soft competencies become more and more important. The soft competencies may be simply defined as interpersonal skills such as teamwork skills (working in groups), communicative skills, persuasion and negotiation skills, authority building skills, flexibility, ability to adapt to changes and propensity to take risks. As personal counsellors confirm:

"one gets a job in 70 % owing to one’s professional knowledge and in 30 % owing to one’s social skills. However, 70 % may lose it due to lack of social skills and 30 % due to lack of given qualifications"

Presently, a job is not only perceived from the angle of qualifications, i.e. skills necessary to work, but, most of all, from the angle of competencies – the way, in which a given job becomes a part of the internal network of relations in a company as well as personal and cognitive predispositions as required in such relations. A proverb saying “the right man in the right place” emphasises the word “man”. Jobs are strictly connected with personal, psychical and social characteristics.

EMPLOYER’S REQUIREMENTS

Employers more and more often resign from placing their demand for qualifications and need workers with specified competencies.

  • What competencies are presently most desired in the labour market?

In order to determine a demand for soft competencies among graduates with particular consideration of  faculties of exact sciences, the Careers Office of UMK in cooperation with Schenk Institute Consulting worked out a Model of Vocational Competencies. The Model of Vocational Competencies for the Faculty of Chemistry, Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science as well as the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science was built on the basis of the following research: “The demand of employers of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province for so-called soft competencies of graduates of faculties of exact sciences".

You can find out more in Model of Vocational Competencies

COMPETENCIES VS. QUALIFICATIONS

The dichotomous depiction of qualifications and competencies was applied for better presentation of the shift of emphasis in the labour market as regards requirements imposed by employers. However, one may not treat the categories as fully separable and opposite.

In order to gain and master qualifications depicted in this text as a measurable level of knowledge and skills, specified competencies are required – you will not learn to speak a foreign language without any language competencies and you will not become a good solicitor without any communicative, persuasion and analytical skills etc.

In other words, qualifications may be understood as learning process results (e.g. a master’s degree, military rank, crocheting skills etc.), however, in order to gain any knowledge/skills, specified competencies are required such as cognitive and physical competencies etc.

Simply speaking, it may be stated that qualifications are acquired, whereas competencies are inherent. However, the simplification goes very far, as competencies and qualifications are in a feedback relation to each other – the qualifications acquired contribute to improvement of competencies, on the basis of which they were originally built. We understand the feedback in colloquial terms, when we refer to someone, who is “competent in a given field” and, in fact, we mean one’s high qualifications.

Qualifications and competencies understood as two sides of the same coin, where the coin is a specified level of education, are defined in this way in the system of the European Qualifications Framework prepared by the European Parliament. My definitions of competencies and qualifications generally do not challenge perceiving of the same as “the coin”. Presentation of qualifications and competencies as opposite to each other in this text is a simplified presentation of the current “trend of competencies” in the labour market and human resources management.

MORE INFORMATION

You can find out more about competencies in:

What competencies can you as a future employee present to your employer? Check your competencies and do the test of competencies:

Katarzyna Świtling