A major milestone in the project to establish the municipal vehicle technology training network was the definition of current and future relevant competencies within our partner companies. Seven companies have already created 17 competency models from a wide range of business areas. The focus was mostly on research and development, production, and the workshop and service areas.
Competency models are highly individualized in terms of content in every company, because they show concretely what a person has to do in order to be able to successfully carry out his or her daily work – and this can differ significantly even within the same business units, different companies. Nevertheless, when analyzed closely, many similarities and patterns can be found, which could give us an outlook on which competencies will become more relevant in the future. This is a qualitative analysis and makes no claim to scientific quantitative quality criteria or representativeness. We now present the results of this analysis within this blog article.
Areas of competence
Competency models serve to illustrate a highly complex issue. In order to make this clear, competencies are often first divided into competency categories. We distinguish between professional competencies, action competencies, personal competencies and social-communicative competencies.
Expertise refers to the specific knowledge, skills, and experience a person possesses in a particular field. It includes an understanding of theoretical concepts, methods and techniques relevant to the field and the ability to apply this knowledge in practice. But which specialist skills will be relevant for companies in the municipal sector in the future? What knowledge should companies and their employees have? Here is the overview:
Technical knowledge in the areas of…
- Sustainable technologies
- IT Infrastructure & Cloud
- Sensor Technology & IoT
- Alternative drive technologies
- Assisted & autonomous driving
- Basic IT knowledge
Structural knowledge of the company…
- Internal process knowledge
- Safety/compliance/legal knowledge in the specific work environment
The first thing that stands out is that the topic of sustainability is omnipresent and will become even more relevant in the future. For employees, topics such as environmental management / environmental compliance (ISO 14001), green technology (green IT) and circular economy should no longer be foreign words. Furthermore, knowledge must be built up in the areas of alternative drive technologies so that these vehicles can be developed, produced and repaired. High-voltage training and advanced training in hydrogen vehicles can contribute to the transformation here.
But the world is not only becoming more sustainable, it is also becoming more digital. This is also reflected in the result of our analysis. Employees must be able to organize their daily work digitally and gain an understanding of how cloud systems and IT infrastructures work. In the field of AI and autonomous driving, too, the main thing is to create an understanding of how things work so that any doubts and fears about new technologies can be dispelled.
Although technical expertise is important, it is not sufficient to be able to successfully manage one’s day-to-day work to the full extent. Internal structural knowledge is also essential. Employees need to know the company’s structures, processes and decision-making channels in order to work as efficiently as possible. They also need to know the legal framework within which they are allowed to operate and which regulations apply in the workplace. A comprehensive onboarding program can be a useful tool for companies to familiarize new employees with the company’s realities.
Action competencies go beyond mere technical knowledge and refer to the ability to apply this knowledge in different contexts, to overcome challenges, to act appropriately and to achieve positive results. Within the competency models of our partner companies, we were able to determine that action competencies change primarily when people hold management positions. The following competencies are primarily required here:
- Agile project planning
- Business process control
- Process optimization
- Analysis capability
- Data Management
Managers are primarily responsible for achieving corporate goals or project completions. Accordingly, being able to optimize, analyze and control processes is one of the core competencies. Modern and agile forms of project design, such as SCRUM, should therefore be familiar to every manager.
However, even people without management responsibility need to have certain action competencies:
- Organizational skills
- Paying attention to high quality work results
- Administrative competence
- Electrical Engineering
- Digital collaboration / interaction
People need to be able to organize their everyday work and also themselves. They must be able to organize their area of responsibility so that they can work efficiently, systematically and reliably. The accuracy and conscientiousness with which they complete tasks also play a major role. These competencies are essential both within administrative activities and in the service and workshop areas.
In the field of development / repair, electrical skills currently play a major role. Engineers / mechatronics technicians must be well versed in digital electronics, performance optimization and microtechnology in order to meet current requirements and develop or repair vehicles using the latest technology. This aspect, as well as within the technical competencies, is driven by the transformation of the drives and an urge for more sustainability.
Personal competencies refer to the skills, attributes, and behaviors that enable a person to deal effectively with self and others. These competencies are closely linked to a person’s personality and individual behavior. Personal competencies therefore relate more to soft skills. The following personal competencies were most relevant according to our evaluation:
- Problem solving skills
- Self-initiative / independent working method
- Holistic / entrepreneurial thinking
- Willingness to learn
- Target orientation
The current world of work is slipping from crisis to crisis. Skills shortages, inflation and supply chain difficulties are just a small selection of what companies are currently struggling with. So it’s no surprise that problem-solving skills are at the top of the list of required competencies. People increasingly need to be able to solve problems in a solution-oriented and structured way, according to a specific concept. At the same time, this requires the person to be able to work independently and keep a cool head even in stressful situations(resilience). In order to ensure that the workforce can also exploit its personal potential, the appropriate environment must be created for this. If the corporate culture does not allow mistakes to be made or does not allow people to work in a trusting, independent manner, an existing competence cannot be lived out either. Whether a personal competence is effective thus depends not only on the person himself, but also on his working environment or his superiors.
But it’s not just crises that are shaping our everyday lives; rapid technological change is also sweeping across the working world. Artificial intelligence, digitization and decarbonization are rapidly changing the working environment and content of many people. This change also leads to changes in the demands that employers place on their workforce. Thus, the competencies of willingness to learn and flexibility are extremely important. People must be prepared to acquire new knowledge and new skills and abilities on a regular basis. Again, it is important that the corporate culture actively supports these competencies, because if there is no learning culture in the company, where time and resources are created for further training, the personal competencies of the workforce cannot contribute to the successful development of the company.
Social-communicative competencies refer to a person’s skills and abilities to interact effectively with others, communicate, and build social relationships. These competencies are essential for interpersonal interaction, professional collaboration, and network building. We were able to define the following competencies as particularly relevant:
- Leadership skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Communication skills
- Customer orientation
- Teaching/explanatory skills
Leadership skills should first be considered separately. Firstly, because they are only relevant to a certain group of people (managers) and secondly, because this competence is extremely multi-faceted. The goal of every manager is to manage his or her workforce so that it performs at its best. To achieve this goal, a manager must be able to motivate, delegate and coach his or her employees. She must be able to give appreciative feedback, but also take criticism. In addition, she must be able to lead individually or situationally, since each employee needs an individual leadership style depending on the position / rank he or she holds. Leaders should be able to recognize this and respond empathetically to their workforce.
The competencies of teamwork, communication skills and customer orientation have long been among the most relevant competencies within the professional world. In most professions, people need to be able to communicate and work openly with others. They must be able to discuss different approaches and agree on a compromise. In addition, the needs of the customers should always be in the foreground.
The importance of explanatory competence lies in the fact that progressive technological and structural changes in the company lead to changes in the requirements of the workforce. Changes in requirements usually result in qualification needs, which are often to be reduced by internal training. Here it is important that people who conduct training have a basic didactic understanding so that teaching and explanation processes can be carried out efficiently. A certain ability to explain is also highly relevant in the area of onboarding new employees.
The definition of relevant competencies within the continuing education network for municipal vehicle technology was a significant milestone. By creating 17 competence models in seven companies, it was possible to cover various specialist areas such as research and development, production, and workshop and service areas. Although competency models are individually shaped, close analysis identified similarities and patterns that provide clues to competencies that will be relevant in the future. Particular focus is placed on technical knowledge of sustainable technologies, IT infrastructure, alternative drive technologies and basic IT skills. In addition, an increasing importance of action competencies such as agile project planning, control of business processes and analytical skills is expected. Personal competencies such as problem-solving skills, initiative, flexibility and holistic thinking are just as important as social-communicative competencies such as leadership skills, teamwork skills, communication skills and customer orientation. Companies should use these findings to provide their employees with targeted training and prepare for future requirements.