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All-round competences

A book edited by the Agnelli Foundation provides an updated and detailed snapshot of the meaning of one of the fundamental components of manufacturing culture and the good life

 

A prudent company looks after the skills of its workers. It is a question of balance but also of the environment, of production efficiency and mental cleanliness. A mandatory passage toward effective management of production organisation, the competences passage is a far from obvious and clear passage. To start with the very definition of competence, moving on to its application and implementation in work environments. “Le competenze. Un mappa per orientarsi” (Competences. A guidebook), abook which was recently published by the Agnelli Foundation, precisely helps understand this part of business management and culture.

The team of researchers who addresses the topic of competence started their work with the observation that “competence” is a recurring concept in everyday language as well as in scientific, political, and professional debates, yet one which so far has not undergone any precise semantic coding. The book – approximately two hundred pages long – explores not only the concept itself but also the uses and the meanings of the term in different disciplinary sectors, in school systems, in the field of management and of human resource management.

The volume – edited by Luciano Benadusi (formerly full professor of Sociology at La Sapienza University) and by Stefano Molina (research director at the Agnelli Foundation in Turin) –, thus begins with the answer to a simple question: “What are we talking about when we talk of competences?”. It then continues with a second chapter which addresses more closely the definitions of competences, then moves on to investigate first the concept in its applications linked to the labour market and then in the context of educational systems and training. From the middle of the book onwards, on the other hand, the approach changes from a national to an international level and returns to a specific point: the relationship between competences and schooling in Italy. Indeed the focus – a commendable one – on the links between growth of competences and training-schooling system, then constitutes the actual heart of the conclusions of the book.

The research work by the Agnelli Foundation work group sometimes does not make for easy reading but it is certainly worth reading for anyone who wants to understand more about the fate of people in businesses and in society. The message which is given at the end of the book is loud and clear: “The topic of competences is destined to accompany us for a long time yet. Whether it is to provide adequate responses to concerns about employability in the medium-long term expressed by families and by businesses, or to build a solid foundation for a truly active and responsible citizenship, or for a development based on sustainability criteria, they will continue to be the subject of a dutiful attention on the part of the educational systems. This is because thinking about competence means, ultimately, asking ourselves which direction we want the future of work and the future of democracy to take”.

Le competenze. Una mappa per orientarsi (Competences. A guidebook)

Luciano Benadusi, Stefano Molina (edited by)

Il Mulino, 2018