Many of my clients deal with qualification measures in the course of a professional reorientation or an upcoming job change to make themselves fit for the job market and as applicants attractive for a new employer. But which qualifications will really be in demand in the future, which further training makes sense, which funding opportunities exist, and how do you find a suitable provider? I spoke about these and other questions with Lars Hahn, Managing Director of LVQ Further Education and an expert in digitization, the labor market, and social media.
Lars Hahn: I studied pedagogy with the subject of adult education. Started as an intern, today I am in charge of LVQ further education gGmbH in Mülheim. I have been working in educational counseling for 30 years, advising people on where their professional journey can take them and which further training courses make sense. I once described myself as a “professional trend sniffer” because I am interested in other people’s careers. In the LVQ we advise everyone who wants to reposition themselves professionally, including many academics and managers.
The world of work is changing, we’re talking about VUCA. In your opinion, what are the major trends that are moving our job market?
VUCA stands for fluctuating, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The world of work is becoming more and more complicated and complex. Today nobody knows exactly where it will go. Is it artificial intelligence that will shape us in the next few years and will we soon be ruled by Alexa? Many talk about the shortage of skilled workers, but the next day we read that half of all jobs will be lost. What is certain is that digitization will continue to gain relevance and take over human work. But at the same time creative, creative work will increase. Many standard processes will also run automatically in the future in professional fields in which is not yet the case today. The question is which creative activities and functions in these fields and beyond will define human work in the future.
LVQ further education has been on the market for over 30 years. What do you observe in contact with companies, how this change is noticeable in everyday work?
Here we observe two partly contradicting tendencies: On the one hand, many craftsmen, care workers, and technical “specialist nerds” are being sought, on the other hand, meta-skills are increasingly coming to the fore. Soft skills are the new hard skills. Therefore, I believe that although there is already an awareness in many companies that employees have to be more creative and think outside the box, at the moment nobody knows exactly how to do this balancing act as an organization in both recruiting and talent- Management can do it. This is the phase of upheaval we are currently in.
Soft skills are the new hard skills. What does that mean exactly?
Often these are project management, process management, and communication topics. The subject is taken for granted, but the meta-skills are becoming increasingly important for employees between two jobs and especially for managers. Today we are all knowledge workers – and this is not about knowledge itself, but about how we deal with knowledge. To research, research, imparting knowledge and the new interpretation of contexts.
So what skills do employees need to have to be well-equipped in the working world of tomorrow?
No longer managing data, but rather the ability to analyze data becomes the decisive factor. The ability to rearrange relationships and communicate them well. Employees who can anticipate future developments and draw the right conclusions from them will also be in particular demand.
Another increasingly important skill is the ability to properly deal with digital communication channels and media. Our further training to become a social media manager is in great demand. We communicate a lot internally via messenger. We notice that communication is faster, more up-to-date, more creative, and more networked. As the boss, I am amazed at the normality with which our employees use messenger communication, but it is also important to me to deal with this responsibly. I watch out for news after work.
You offer different qualification measures. What is in high demand, and what are the topics that are becoming less relevant?
Many of our advanced training courses are under the heading “Management Methods”. The all-purpose weapon is still project management. Working in networked teams and in project teams that are limited in time has increased enormously in recent years and will continue to do so in the future. The ability to manage complex projects and their interdisciplinary teams is based primarily on work experience, but proof of these competencies through further training and certificates is becoming increasingly important when changing employers, for example.
And what will become less relevant?
All things that the computer can do better in the future. With office courses, I no longer get a flower pot today. An employer who asks a manager whether she can speak Excel has missed the topic. Expecting standard processes such as bookkeeping, DATEV or SAP knowledge from a business manager is no longer up-to-date. The relevance of mastering standard software is decreasing, rather it will be more and more about being able to dig into programs and IT systems – and I don’t need to have attended a software course for that. Scurrying around is again one of these meta-competencies.
How do employees find out which qualifications make sense?
First of all, I would like to warn you: Education in advance can go wrong! Some start a multi-year advanced training course or do some Master of So-and-so and after two years wondering when they are exhausted that they cannot position themselves with it at all. That is why I always consider long-term, extra-occupational qualifications to be tricky when someone does not know what they are trying to achieve with them. If you are still in the job, you should first consider what the next professional step should be and choose the right qualification measures.
Ideally, knowing the direction should also apply between two unemployed jobs. If this is not the case, the training should not be too subject-specific. In many companies, as already mentioned, topics related to project management, digital communication, process or quality management are in demand.
We often see that participants in the seminar discover interesting new professional fields for themselves and come up with ideas that have not yet been the focus of their future considerations. This means that further training itself can contribute to the repositioning.
What should you pay attention to when choosing a provider of qualification measures?
Word of mouth and recommendations are always a good criterion. My tip: Research how educational institutions are rated on the internet and ask people who have taken courses there. There are also public training advice centers in every major city. Use the XING or LinkedIn business networks to research people who are where you want to go professionally and see what educational background they have. Perhaps you can even recognize a pattern in the biographies and deduce from this which competencies are required in your target position and thus which further training makes sense for you personally
At LVQ you focus on face-to-face teaching. What is a good learning environment?
Anyone who wants to do something at different times and independent of location is probably better off with e-learning offers. For those who find the exchange within a course important, face-to-face lessons, like ours, are more suitable. We find that in addition to the technical issues, personal contact among the participants is very important to overcome this phase of life, which is difficult for many people personally.
What funding opportunities can employees and job seekers take advantage of?
If there is one blessing from unemployment, it is that this is the time when the best opportunities for further training are available. From course costs to exam fees and travel expenses. It is the best time after training or studying to concentrate on your own education. Actually, it shouldn’t mean unemployment, but educational time, especially since there is the possibility to have education financed 100 percent by the employment agency.
For working people, these possibilities – except short-term seminars – are not available to this extent. There is the education check, which is usually capped at 500 euros of further training costs. Anyone who completes further training that lasts for several years, such as the classic IHK master, then there is the so-called Aufstiegs-Bafög, with which a large part of the further training costs is funded.
Job seekers should first discuss the funding options with their employment agency. What is important here is the need for further training. The further training measure must directly promote a new job in an employment relationship subject to social security.
Whether you are looking for a job or employed, the time you are looking for a job is always the chance to reposition yourself and develop yourself further. Time to bring your own topics in life and work up to date and to address those topics through research and discussions that will be important for your own future in the job market of tomorrow.