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Skills – a resource for the future
Executive Education / 7 April, 2020
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Michelle Neumann is Marketing & Sales Coordinator Professional & Executive Education at Frankfurt School.

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As ever, fierce competition for skilled workers and talent continues to rage on the world’s labour markets. To recruit and, above all, retain employees, companies’ ability to offer opportunities for continuing personal and professional development is becoming an increasingly significant factor. Any company that encourages new talents and existing employees to further develop their skills at work is positioning itself as a highly attractive employer. But the trend goes way beyond simply offering opportunities for continuing education. Today’s employees want bespoke training programmes instead of the one-size-fits-all approach typical of traditional staff development. They are looking for agile learning programmes that take their existing knowledge and skills into account.

So what is skills-focused continuing education?

Skills-focused CPD takes precisely this approach, because it is preceded by an in-depth analysis to determine which skills employees have already acquired in their previous work, the full scope of those skills, and which of them need to be upgraded to meet new challenges.

To perform this analysis, the term “skill”, or more accurately, “competency”, must first be defined as a new, cutting-edge educational concept. Contrary to what is often assumed, the term does not simply refer to formally acquired, work-related knowledge and abilities (qualifications). Competencies are “personal prerequisites for self-organisation when tackling new, non-routine tasks in particular” (cf. Heyse/Erpenbeck 2007, p. 14), hence comprise the sum total of all the capabilities that enable individuals to act autonomously in specific situations. Competencies can be subdivided into four categories: professional skills, methodological skills, social and communication skills, and personal skills. When classifying competencies, a clear distinction is made between theoretical knowledge and the ability to put that knowledge into practice. The key question is: Will the CPD programme enable participants to actively initiate and implement change?

Delivering skills-focused continuing education

Once the precise meaning of “competency” has been clearly defined, it becomes possible to assess the ACTUAL vs. TARGET status of an individual’s personal strengths using, for example, a questionnaire. The individual is then given detailed feedback in a private, one-to-one interview; individual strengths are highlighted and possible opportunities for improvement analysed. Based on this analysis, and in close consultation with the individual, learning objectives are established for the training course. The innovative aspect of this educational approach lies in the fact that individuals must no longer work through content with which they are already familiar and consequently adds zero value. This is the major advantage of skills-focused continuing education: it accelerates onboarding processes, motivates participants, and is more sustainable thanks to the good learning outcomes achieved.

Once an individual completes a training course, the preceding analysis is updated so that the individual can view and appreciate his or her progress. Close collaboration with course participants’ line managers is the cornerstone for the long-term success and ongoing evaluation of the training course.

Companies such as Bosch and Siemens are already successfully using this skills-focused model for vocational training purposes. The German education system represents a particularly good example of the importance of a skills-focused approach to (continuing) education: Especially during our years at school, we are taught a great many facts that have absolutely nothing to do with the highly desirable goal of a skills-based society (resulting in the kind of remark fathers love to make: “Kid, you’ll never need to know that again!”).

To avoid this unfortunate scenario, Frankfurt School offers in-house training courses that are individually tailored to your business-specific requirements. One good example is the successful implementation of a global training programme for project and process management implemented in a joint project with NORMA Group.

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