In-service qualification: How the DEGREE project addresses competence gaps in companies

2022-01-31 The trend towards a digital and sustainably oriented society and economy is turning our working world upside down: many of the current professions will be eliminated in the future as a result of the digital transformation, functions will change and activities will either be greatly simplified or more complex - the major challenges of society require demanding new skills. This is where the recently launched DEGREE project comes in and develops educational programmes that can be studied digitally. An interview with the scientific director Prof. Dr. Jörg Terhechte.

Why is it so important for companies to recognise this paradigm shift?
As a result of the Corona pandemic, key sectors such as trade and tourism have been severely affected - to this day with unforeseeable consequences for the regional economy. It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies that do not act sustainably to survive in the market. The pressure to act is now further intensified by the ongoing Corona crisis. Because the pace of digital developments has also picked up wind once again. Just how important digital skills are for education and work is particularly evident where they are lacking. Before the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, 35 per cent of what was offered was available digitally; today it is 54 per cent. This rapid change of the past years places new demands on skills that will be needed in the future.
How do you assess the situation here in the Lüneburg district?
Particularly in Lüneburg, with its immediate vicinity to the economic metropolis of Hamburg, continuing education programmes that promote digital and sustainability skills among employees can become an important competitive and employment factor. The pressure to change is constantly increasing, but for many companies the strategic reorientation is faltering. Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular often have major deficits in this area, and it is a great challenge to identify the concrete need for competences and thus to adopt a suitable qualification strategy.
What competences and skills can these be?
It is not possible to be so specific. Every company should identify the future skills that are particularly important for them and compare them with the existing competences of their employees. Any competence gaps must be closed. This means not only through new personnel, but above all through the qualification of employees. This is the only way companies can remain competitive. The future topics of digitalisation and sustainability are of cross-sectoral relevance, so that further training in these areas will become more important for every company in the near future. Companies should not have to act alone - the continuing education system can be expanded through cooperation with universities and other actors. Of course, politics also plays a major role. I was very pleased when Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated in his first government survey that the topic of education and continuing education is also of central importance to him.
How is Leuphana Professional responding to these changes in the world of work?
This is an ongoing process. We also have to keep up, recognise trends and create appropriate offers for part-time students. For example: According to a survey, more than 780,000 experts will be needed by 2026 in fields ranging from data analytics and AI to hardware/robotics development. At Leuphana Professional School, we offer appropriate formats with new degree programmes and certificates, such as Data Science and Data Analytics, to counter this rapidly growing demand for people with technological skills. In addition to these technological competences, the need for other future skills is also growing. These can be classic competences, digital key competences or transformative competences. Transformative competences in particular are increasingly coming into focus in order to be able to shape social changes such as climate change, digitalisation and sustainability.
So continuing education is an offensive?
More than ever, work will be based on knowledge rather than performance. In order to take advantage of the opportunities of digitalisation, a long-term, sustainable qualification and further education strategy is needed. We at Leuphana Professional School are very grateful that we receive funding from the European Social Fund and the state of Lower Saxony and that we are able to help companies with suitable training programmes and accompany them through this change. For example, in our recently launched project "DEGREE - Digital Economical Green", digital certificate studies in the future field of "Green Economy" will be developed and closely interlinked with predominantly digital service offers. Networking and knowledge transfer, dialogue and exchange, but also ecological competences and social responsibility are the new, formative future skills.
The interview was conducted by Marie Sophie Sentker.