News | July 21, 2020

Dedicate one day every three months to learn a new skill

Knowledge development after Covid-19

Read the Dutch version of this news item here.

While we innovate for the future, the current crisis today presents major challenges for everyone. In the last Industrie in Gesprek before the summer, Onno de Vreede (Top Sector Chemistry), Arjen Verkaik (HCA Climate Statement Flevoland / North Holland) and Frans van den Akker (ISPT) discussed the consequences of the corona crisis for the development of knowledge and skills within the process industry.

Earlier this year, offices shutdown and children and young people could no longer go to school. As a result, the use of digital techniques suddenly accelerated. Measures were taken to work, meet and learn online. The corona crisis made us use technologies that had been available on a large scale for a long time, and smart working suddenly became more important than ever.

Smart skills

“Digitization is an important element in making the process industry more sustainable and we have seen an increase in interest for some time now,” says Frans van den Akker, Cluster Director of Industry 4.0 at ISPT. “But the corona crisis has acted as an incentive to accelerate the wider discussion of innovation in digitization in industry”.

Onno de Vreede sees a similar acceleration in education: “I am amazed at how the pace of digital and blended learning has increased in recent months. An enormous acceleration has been established in this area. All the resistances that existed until recently have completely evaporated within two weeks”.

That digital innovation is not just about developing digital skills, is argued by Arjen Verkaik: “You also have to apply technologies such as sensoring and data analytics. It is precisely the use of these technologies that you need less specialist trained people for and thus you can recruit people who are more broadly trained”.

Lifelong Learning

Verkaik goes further and indicates that in the transition to a circular economy, that we are currently experiencing, organizations should focus on Lifelong Learning for their employees: “Employees should focus on skills that they might need when they switch jobs or sectors”. In addition, Verkaik believes that a skill is faster to learn than a new profession and fits better in the perception of employees because they don’t need a training that takes years to finish. “You should actually spend one day every three months on learning a new skill. This increases labor market mobility and the development in the workplace itself”.

Learning Communities as a knowledge accelerator

But how can we combine working, learning and innovating? Onno de Vreede indicates that joining a so-called Learning Community offers many possibilities. Learning Communities are a new initiative from the collected top sectors, on the border of vocational education and business. Frans van den Akker: “Traditionally, you can acquire knowledge and skills in courses and studies. But the Learning Communities offer a whole new approach, namely: learning, wherever work and innovation takes place. Take, for example, a field lab, which can be used as an internship or as a place to teach. Learning Communities are real innovation accelerators. And ISPT is busy establishing a number for the process industry”.

Learning in Learning Communities and giving behavioral competences more attention: these are the main conclusions that follow from the question of how we can prepare the post-corona process industry for the transition to a circular and CO2-neutral economy. Verkaik adds: “Beta people always have a form of limited focus, that is not a disqualification because that is also a quality, but that broadening is necessary”.

About this series

During the Industrie in Gesprek online event series, the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) discusses current topics such as innovation, AI and infrastructure with industry partners. The next edition is about circular plastics and takes place in September. Stay up-to-date and subscribe for our newsletter.

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