Where is the next generation of craftsmen in Switzerland? (And elsewhere?)

According to the latest Nahtstellenbarometers – Education Decisions after Compulsory Schooling, published by Innovation SBFI and State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the most desired professions for vocational training in Switzerland are commercial employees, followed by healthcare assistants and information technologists. This means that none of the professions in handicraft are among the top 5. Compared to boys, there are 15% less girls aspiring to follow the vocational training, and not one single girl reports to be interested in choosing an apprenticeship as electrician, as a car mechanic or as a polytechnical technician. [1]

There is currently a deficit of 42,778 handicraftsmen in Switzerland. This figure was published by a job search website that also pointed out that craftsmen jobs form one of the most advertised job category in years: currently, there is a total number of 198,097 vacancies advertised. Companies in construction, and building and dwelling services are struggling to hire skilled workers. Stefan Danev, Managing Director of an electrical and safety engineering company in Winterthur, ZH, says that “finding personnel to fill our vacancies in the long term is not easy under the current market situation”. [2]

 Growing interest in the academic route

What causes this shortage of craftsmen in Switzerland? The increasing popularity of the academic route is mentioned as a contributing factor for this development. Between the ages of 12 and 14, Swiss adolescents have to decide on going to pre-university baccalaureate schools or searching for apprenticeships offered by companies (this is known as the dual-track system).

Having a long tradition, the dual-track system was well received by parents, by adolescents and by society at large, as it has largely contributed to a very low youth unemployment rate and high levels of workers’ competency and of quality in all kinds of skilled trades in Switzerland.

However, a growing number of parents hold the perception that the vocational system has a lower quality and that students who enter vocational schools are less capable or have lower aspirations compared to students with four-year university degrees. This is especially the case among parents with migration background. International companies, too, add pressure by not recognizing graduates from vocational training as equal to graduates with a bachelor’s degree. This, in turn, forces a lot of young people to hesitate about pursuing vocational training.

Recently, there has been an increase in adolescents choosing the baccalaureate track, especially in the French and Italian parts of Switzerland. This poses a direct challenge for some of the professions in skilled trades. SERI noted in a statement that “across Switzerland, the baccalaureate has gained more interest and the desire for a general education is stronger than last year” [3].

Misconceptions in skilled trades

When looking at the media, one could think that the only prosperous professions in the future are computer-science-related, and that most skilled-trade jobs—especially handicraft—will be replaced by automation and robots. But under certain circumstances, machines do not yet have enough dexterity and fine motor skills to compete with human hands. For example, to grind bearings that has accuracy within a 100th of millimeter needs years of practice and only experienced skilled craftsman can do that and sometimes other than experience, it also required intuition which machines will never have.

One tends to have the misconception of skilled trades as providing little chance of climbing up the career ladder, and, hence, of offering a small salary. But the reality is that there are many top executives in big companies, as well as well-known government figures in Switzerland who have worked their way up from apprenticeship. Highly qualified craftsmen are particularly in demand today and their salary is likely to increase in the near future.

Moreover, the job provides the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, there are many people in the skilled trades business who intend to pass on their very successful and lucrative business but cannot find a willing successor. Apart from the fact that few young people are trained in such business, it is also reported in various surveys that Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1980-1995) are seeking more security and flexibility in work and prefer having a good, stable salary in an international company, instead of taking on the responsibility of entrepreneurship.

Are young people getting too lazy?

In addition to Switzerland, many other countries like Germany, Belgium, Austria and the United States are facing similar shortages of craftsmen. It is an undeniable fact that the nature of many skilled trades jobs is hard, and that there is a general trend among parents who were in those professions to push their children towards more comfortable jobs. For example, in an apprenticeship at a bakery, one has to start the job at 2am, a tough job that many are unwilling to take up nowadays.

One hardly hears about a child saying that his/her dream job is to become a boilermaker, a metal worker or a welder, because few of them have the opportunity to get introduced to such professions at an early age. With no understanding of or even misconceptions about such jobs, more and more young people are likely to be discouraged from starting an apprenticeship in such professions.

Christoph Thomann, president of the Central Board of Vocational Education and Training Switzerland, believes that the skilled trades are outshined by an increased focus on computers and robots among young people [1]. However, digitalization should not only be regarded as a barrier from choosing vocational training. In fact, vocational training should embrace digitalization and promote an image of the digitalized craftsman, a modern and less traditionally masculine image that attracts more young people, even young girls, to the field.

A collaborative effort

As in the other economic sectors, digitalization has also made its way into skilled trades and is having a profound impact by increasing the productivity and reducing business costs. For example, by using data analysis, roofers can now measure a house with a 3D scanner to order the exact number of roof tiles needed.

Building information modeling (BIM) helps to realize the integration of building information, which ranges from the design, construction and operation of the building to the end of the whole life cycle of the project. A lot of different information is integrated into a three-dimensional model information database for the stakeholders. There are of course many more examples, including virtual reality, drones, 3D mapping and 3D printing.

Despite great efforts in raising awareness of the importance of the professions in skilled trades communities, reality is disappointing. Matthias Engel from the Swiss Building Association appeals to the federal government in Bern by saying: “It is important that politicians do not send the wrong signals. It is important that the government not only promotes secondary and university education, but also vocational training”.

Indeed, a greater effort to actively promote vocational training, diminishing the gap between young men and women and encouraging more young women to take apprenticeships in certain professions ought to be made by the government. Furthermore, it needs to be considered to bring in young people from other countries than Switzerland, if necessary.

What can AI and big data do for contractors, headhunting firms specializing in skilled trades jobs and government agencies planning to promote vocational training?  How can you use digital platforms to hire the people with the skills you need? Write now to sales@janzz.technology and let JANZZ.technology help you with our intelligent data.

 

[1] gfs.bern. 2019. Nahtstellenbarometer 2019. URL: https://cockpit.gfsbern.ch/de/cockpit/nahtstellenbarometer-2019/ [2019.07.25]

[2] Ulrich Rotzinger and Julia Fritsche. 2019. In der Schweiz fehlen 42’778 Handwerker. URL: https://www.blick.ch/news/wirtschaft/in-der-schweiz-fehlen-42778-handwerker-schreiner-sanitaere-und-elektroinstallateure-verzweifelt-gesucht-id15399544.html?fbclid=IwAR0TU2tUpeSmljN23gLwK5S09DOpvURnFdNqBNoR6nRSfLo_Z3ChojKrVYE [2019.07.25]

[3] Isobel Leybold-Johnson. 2019. What careers did Switzerland’s students choose this year? URL: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/continuing-education_what-careers-did-switzerland-s-students-choose-this-year-/45035674 [2019.07.25]

NRK shows success stories from Norway’s new job matching platform

JANZZ.technology is the provider of the technology behind the semantic search and matching engine of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s (NAV) new job matching platform.

NAV’s digital job search platform, Arbeidsplassen.no, is now launched and endorsed by both job seekers and employers. NAV hopes it will now be easier for job seekers to find a new position.

Yusuf became a call center agent within a week. For him, taking a year off after high school also meant a gap in the CV, which turned out to be problematic when he was applying for a job again. Through NAV, he started work training, which would actively help open the door to the labor market. Arbeidsplassen.no was the solution for Yusuf. He got an interview and started as a call center agent the following week. For the recruitment company “Maskineriet”, NAV’s website has made it easier to find new employees. The recruiters search through NAV’s CV-database, find candidates and make further relations. The candidates may then be employed in a permanent position.

The managing director of Virke, the Enterprise Federation of Norway, praises the job search platform. Arbeidsplassen.no is seen as very important, as it connects companies’ needs and good candidates more efficiently. The fact that NAV is investing in digitization simplifies the recruitment process for companies.

On the job seeker side, the CV service has been significantly improved, thus candidates can more conveniently find the right job by using NAV’s platform. Candidates can now define and target the job search profile, and simultaneously apply to a wider range of available positions. The employers demonstrate positive feedback on both the candidate matching process and the platform Arbeidsplassen.no – which ultimately is important to NAV.

Learn more on NRK.no: https://tv.nrk.no/serie/distriktsnyheter-oestfold/201907/DKOS99070519/avspiller

 

 

Middle-skilled workers to be hit hardest by digitization

While low-skilled workers are going to suffer the most from the consequences of digital transformation long-term (with some exceptions), opportunities for middle-skilled jobs are shrinking the most, according to recent observations in OECD countries.

We used to talk about digitalization and automatization only as processes that will change our working environment in the future, for example through the replacement of humans by robots. Meanwhile, the situation has changed: many of us already feel the effects of digitization and automation. These effects are likely to be amplified even further in future.

Due to the energy revolution that digitalization induced, many companies in the energy business, blindsided by the speed of this revolution, are faced with overcapacity. In Switzerland, General Electric (GE) has just announced a major workforce reduction, which causes 450 employees in Baden and Birr to lose their job. In order to compete with international online providers Migros, one of Switzerland’s biggest retail companies, too, undergoes such transformation. In June, the Genossenschaft Migros Ostschweiz released the dismissal of 90 employees in Gossau. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicts difficult times for Swiss employees: 700,000 jobs are associated with a “high risk of automation.” [1] Moreover, this is only a small, partial reflection of the whole, global labor market.

It is difficult to account for the full impact of digitalization since it bears both positive and negative effects for the job market. Statistical evidence however indicates that digitalization affects the distribution of work, income and wages. [2] With skills like problem-solving, creative thinking and complex communication that are complementary to digitization, high-skilled workers tend to benefit the most from digitalization. As a result, we can observe an increase in high-skilled jobs in most OECD countries. Likewise, the share of low-skilled jobs grew while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased. [3]

Why are middle-skilled workers at greatest risk to be disadvantaged under digitalization? Martin Wörter, Professor of Innovation Economics at ETH Zurich explains that “repetitive activities in the office or in industrial production can be replaced more easily by computers or robots.” Federal employment statistics for Switzerland back up this statement. Within 20 years the number of office workers decreased by 150,000 while the number of craftsmen fell by 90,000. Conversely, the number of academic professions grew by 470,000. [1]

However, it is short-sighted for companies to simply lay off unqualified workers and to replace them with employees who fit the demanded skills profile. Since skill requirements are changing faster than ever, even if companies could replace their unqualified workers today, what about tomorrow? The only way to solve this problem is to enable reskilling of the existing workforce. Further training could largely reduce redundancies and benefit the company at large. As Bruno Staffelbach, Professor of Human Resource Management and President of the University of Lucerne, says: “Company-specific know-how will become even more important in the future. However, employees can only acquire these skills on the job in their company.” [1]

Many companies have realized this and adopted effective skills development programs.  However, as we have written before on this site, workforce reskilling requires an ecosystem approach that involves individuals, companies, industries, as well as governments. Based on calculations by the World Economic Forum, in the US 45% of workers at risk could be collectively reskilled through businesses working together. If combined with governmental efforts, this number could increase to even 77%. [4]

For almost a decade, JANZZ.technology has been watching and collaborating in many labor markets worldwide. We offer our know-how and the right data on skills and specializations to tackle general challenges in the job market. Our latest product, Labor Market Dashboard uses real time data in order to establish important labor market indexes such as the most required skills, the most searched for positions or the female/male ratio. Should we have caught your interest and should you wish to learn more about JANZZ.technology’s offers, please write now to sales@janzz.technology

 

 

[1] Albert Steck. 2019.Digitalisierung gefährdet Jobs von Mittelqualifizierten am stärksten. URL: https://nzzas.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/digitalisierung-gefaehrdet-jobs-von-mittelqualifizierten-am-staerksten-ld.1492570#swglogin [2019.07.02]

[2] OECD. 2015. OECD skills outlook 2015: youth, skills and employability, OECD Publishing, Paris, URL: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264234178-en [2019.07.02]

[3] OECD. 2019. OECD skills outlook 2019: thriving in a digital world, OECD Publishing, Paris, URL: https://doi.org/10.1787/df80bc12-en [2019.07.02]

[4] Borge Brende. 2019. We need a reskilling revolution. Here’s how to make it happen. URL: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/skills-jobs-investing-in-people-inclusive-growth/ [2019.07.02]

Occupational classification systems in the digital age

People have long been monitoring the economic activities of our society. It is said that during the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907) there were 36 different job types. Fittingly, the period marks the origin of the famous Chinese saying that ‘every trade has its master’ (san shi liu hang, hang hang chu zhuang yuan).

Today, jobs are changing at such a speed that it is almost impossible to give an exact number of the occupations that affect our daily life. Compiling statistical records of occupations is also becoming complicated since jobs are changing, disappearing and emerging. There used to be only ‘the’ manager, but now there is a PI manager, an IT manager, a project manager, an intergenerational engagement manager, you name it.

Thus, other than listing simply all occupations for statistical purposes, job descriptions, skill and experience requirements, education levels and more aspects are integrated, too, in occupation-related databases. That way, we can not only better understand the jobs of today but also develop more sophisticated systems that are able to perform more complex services with occupation data. For example, this enables performing the tasks of career planning, job searching, identifying trends or guiding policy design.

US-based classification systems

The United States Department of Commerce released the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) in 1977. Back then, many programs by the US government began collecting statistics which is why the federal government needed a unified occupational classification system. SOC entails a short description and illustrative examples for each job. It is classified based on the type of work performed, but rarely on the level of skills and education needed for a specific position [1]. The latest version of SOC was published in 2018.

 The online database O*Net is an expansion of SOC and was created during the mid-1990s by the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. O*Net can be freely accessed and downloaded by job seekers, students, businesses researchers and workforce development professionals alike. Compared to SOC, it is a much more sophisticated system with more detailed information such as tasks, technology skills, knowledge, abilities, education level and work style.

 Europe-based classification systems

The international Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) is maintained and managed by the International Labour Office (ILO). ISCO is the main international classification of occupation-related data and used for international exchange, reporting and comparison. It also serves countries and regions that want to either further develop their own occupational classifications or directly adapt one from ISCO-08. Examples include Ö-ISCO in Austria, Styrk-08 in Norway, COCR-2011 in Costa Rica, NOC 2016 in Canada and most national occupational classifications in Asia.

In July 2017, the European Union launched the first version of a European multilingual classification of skills, competencies, qualifications and occupations (ESCO) that is also based on ISCO-08. ESCO aims to create a common understanding of occupations, skills, knowledge and qualifications across the EU’s official 24 languages that enables employers, employees and educational institutions to better understand needs and requirements. Under freedom of movement ESCO could aid in making up for skill gaps and unemployment in the different member states, as the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker states [2].

Industry classifications

Industry classifications or industry taxonomies group companies by industry and in terms of production processes, products or job positions. They serve national and international statistical agencies for the analysis, comparison and summarization of economic conditions. Well-known industry taxonomies include NAICS, ISIC, GICS, NAF 2015 and MUPCS.

Furthermore, a shift from occupational classifications towards skills classification has been observed. This shift is linked to an attempt of improving classifications’ ability to aid in career guidance and the conduction of upskilling and reskilling. The United Kingdom and the innovation foundation Nesta have built the UK’s first data-driven skills taxonomy. It allows for measuring the country’s supply and demand of skills and for preventing skill shortages. The social media platform LinkedIn has also built a skills taxonomy for its users.

Chinese classification systems

China started to create its occupational classification in 1995. After four years, the country released its first version. Currently in use is a version from 2015 that aims to keep pace with the fast-changing employment sector. The Chinese classification has 4 digits with 1838 professions in total.

Compared to O*Net, which was created during about the same time period, there is still much room for improvement in the Chinese occupational classification. Specifically, it could be improved with regard to accessibility, continuous data updating and the provision of guidance for students and job seekers [3]. However, the problem of lacking in updated data is not unique to the Chinese occupational classification. This issue is shared with many other classifications, including O*Net.

A new concept for occupational classification systems

The creation of a traditional expert consultation taxonomy is time-consuming, costly and, most importantly, will lack the ability to continuously adapt to the world’s fast-changing working environment.  Therefore, a new solution is needed. One that can inform the labor market constantly and make job seekers, students, education providers, employers and policy-makers alert for change and empowered to react.

With digitalization, a data-based information collection methodology can revolutionize the way classification systems are created. At JANZZ.technology, we have mapped all international occupational classification systems and others in our ontology. (If you would like to learn about the difference between taxonomy and ontology, please check https://janzz.technology/ontology-and-taxonomy-stop-comparing-things-that-are-incomparable/).

This mapping allows us to analyze complex sets of occupational data and to annotate it with intelligent and standardized meta-data, which makes the data comparable in further processes like benchmarking, matching or statistical analyses. Our JANZZclassifier! is a product for everyone who has large volumes of (unstandardized) occupation-related data such as job titles, hard and soft skills and, particularly, training/qualifications. It enables you to simply run your data through our API and will return more meaningful data and, if desired, one of the standard classifications.

Above all, we are using real-time data, both from our users, our partners and the labor market in order to constantly update our database. It is the new way to develop classification systems in the digital age. Please write now to sales@janzz.technology if you wish to learn how our ontology may assist you.

[1] Jeffrey H. Greenhaus and Gerard A. Encyclopedia of career development.

[2] ESCO (2015). ESCO strategic framework. Vision, mission, position, added value and guiding principles. Brüssel.

[3] LI Wen – Dong and SHI Kan. 2006. A brief introduction to the development of the U.S. national standard occupational classification system and its implications to China. URL: https://www.docin.com/p-1479318301.html [2019.06.24]

Examples of NLP applications in talent acquisition

JANZZ’s ontology-JANZZon! fits the description of a natural-language processing application for talent acquisition and can be placed alongside Google’s Cloud Jobs API. Gartner’s article Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on Human Capital Management summarizes that both AI and machine learning applications actively transform the ways in which HR processes are done today. To read the full report please go to: https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3778864/impacts-of-artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning-