Innovation in technology and a fast-changing labour market are imposing a comprehensive rethinking of professional training programmes. What is being questioned is not only the performance of whole categories of workers, but also the way that universities and research centres design their study programmes to prepare young people for the future. In the context of the current technological revolution and race to the 4.0 industry model, some jobs are being made redundant, others are becoming more relevant. Digitalisation and robotics are calling for specialisation and high-profile skills that can respond to the demands and challenges posed by complex scenarios.

We’ve discussed the topic with Maria Stella Giannetti, who is in charge of the External Relations and Promotion Office at the Sophia University Institute.

Sophia, too, is paying close attention to how the labour market is changing.

This is a very relevant subject: it seems that the whole debate on education is centred around the hyper-specialisation that young people are supposed to bring into the market. And yet, research has shown that companies’ demands often go in a different direction. Be it in the private or in the public sector, what is expected of a candidate is much more than that, and it is precisely that ‘much more’ that makes the difference. It is all about being able to account for a number of intangible and non-technical skills: wide-ranging creativity, flexibility, autonomy and spirit of initiative, the ability to work as a team, the ability to plan and to respond to unexpected events. Of course, companies also expect young people to be able to carry out specific jobs using specific skillsets, but over the long term this becomes less important than, say, the ability to take on a new role, to integrate in a different context, to handle and resolve conflict and to face difficult situations.

You’re talking about the so-called soft skills. How does Sophia develop those?

At Sophia, crossing the threshold of the job market does not mean learning about specific roles or techniques. The technical aspects and professional skills that are passed on to students in the classroom have a firm foundation in the quality and strength of human relations: that is why the final outcome looks different. Problem-solving strategies that value the contribution of each team member, resilience in the face of unexpected events, respect for people even in the middle of critical situations… all of those abilities can only be acquired through an authentic relational life.

I’m not saying that the challenge isn’t a tough one, but that is precisely where we enter the debate on the role of university today. We believe that university is faced with the crucial task of contributing to educate people, to prepare men and women to be the protagonists of today. That is why studying at Sophia means not only learning intellectually, but also learning in a way that serves life. Living and studying not just with others, but in relation with others.

What has been the outcome of the first ten years, in your opinion?

I think the idea works! Of course, if we think of the deep and pervasive crisis our society is going through, one may ask what impact a place like Sophia can really make. Here, we use thinking to study the basis of civic and social life in order to regenerate it. But in fact, we’re making a very concrete impact on the challenging reality that is the job market. At Sophia, it is not rare to find students who already have work experience but wish to acquire more comprehensive knowledge: take the engineers who went on leave to study Economic and Political Sciences, or the young managers who enroll in our Philosophy or Theology programmes.

Many young Sophia graduates also use this website to share the first accomplishments of their working life with other students and co-workers. Their stories are truly remarkable!

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