Current affairs

Wednesday, 24 de July, 2019

REDFUE is conducting a study in collaboration with the CCS (Social Council Conference) to analyse the challenges faced by Spanish universities in relation to digital transformation. The ultimate objective is for universities to improve their students’ employability, adapt to the new models and become more competitive.

After holding sessions in locations such as Almería, the Basque Country, Tenerife and Zaragoza, among other places, with contributions from over 180 people, the fifteenth session of the discussion panel was held at EAE’s Joaquín Costa Campus, with the participation of members of the academic community, representatives from private companies and public institutions. Raúl Bravo, the Director of EAE in the Spanish capital, gave the institutional welcome to the participants in the discussion panel chaired by Pilar Llácer, the Director of Curricular Internships at the School.

The participants on the discussion included Alezeia González, the Director of Innovation at Naturgy; Carolina Menor, the Director of Employability en AECOC; Enrique Collell, the Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretariat for Universities of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities; Eva Gómez, a Digital Advisor at Repsol; Javier Rainer, the Director of the Industrial Organization and Electronics Department at the UNIR; Marta López, the Talent Acquisition Lead for Iberia at Accenture; Raúl Sánchez, the Director of the Public Administration Department at Opinno; and Tona Rubio, the Project Director at REDFUE.

Universities and digitization

Technology has given rise to new learning methodologies. Information has been democratized and universities have to adapt in terms of time, format and methodologies. Marta López from Accenture sees the digital transformation as a means to an end. In the past, university learning has been one-directional and too rigid. She emphasized that changes are needed because students are challenging methodologies and they must be formed with a purpose.

In Carolina Menor’s opinion, digital transformation must enhance everybody’s employability, teaching teams and companies, and must be internalized by both old and new workers. Raúl Sánchez sees an opportunity in digitization. “People are at the centre. We have to generate a cultural transformation and integrate it within the decision-making process. The question is how much capacity does the world of education have to respond to the challenges”. Eva Gómez also believes that people are the driving force of change. “The connection between people and companies must be an ecosystem that identifies objectives and educational needs”.

In Alezeia González’s opinion, the real challenge for universities is adapting to the technological advances that people really need. “We have to embrace the transformation as a continuous process over time and learn to adapt constantly, focusing on lifelong learning for professionals”.

The Gap between Universities and Business

Raúl Bravo emphasized EAE’s links to the business world, explaining that the digitization of universities is not a choice, but rather an obligation. With respect to the partnership between education and the employment market, Carolina Menor proposed the development applied knowledge models: teaching and practising within the framework of a collaborative model, working alongside companies. Alezeia sees universities as the ideal opportunity to turn learning methodologies around.

Pilar Llácer added that companies continue demanding the same profiles. The talent acquisition expert emphasized that, in Spain, the same old moulds exist in universities, but also in companies. “The four-speed world still exists, and also in the classroom. Students come to EAE to find a job or improve their position in a company and, in  that environment, the same profiles as always are needed”. With this in mind, she explained that we have to work based on cultural change right from the beginning.

In Enrique Collel’s opinion, the problem in not so much a matter of adaptability than of the origin of the structure itself. “The adaptation process is evident and we are working along those lines”. Moreover, he highlighted the importance of generating cultural change. The expert suggested developing more standardized criteria similar to those used in the Anglo-Saxon model.

In the end, this is not just a challenge for companies or for educational institutions, but rather it is a challenge for everybody, explained Pilar Llácer. Raúl Bravo emphasized EAE’s commitment to being an agent of educational change in our country. “The collaborative approach is not exclusively reserved for companies”, added Raúl. Marta López advocated cultural transformation based on including women, highlighting the shift in mindset required from the traditional view originated from the nuclear family.

The skills of the new profiles  

Companies sometimes look for profiles professionals that they cannot find among the candidates. Therefore, the last part of the discussion focused on the skills and needs of new professionals. At Repsol, the organization is structured into hubs, working on very varied projects that do not require a high degree of specialization for certain topics. Marta Gómez explained that they are looking for a profile with an open mindset, who can work in a collaborative setting, with the capacity to adapt to the circumstances that arise. The also value aspects such as motivation, passion and a restless drive.

Marta López explained that, at the consultancy Accenture, there is a lack of personal competences in relation to communication, negotiation and public speaking. She also mentioned the wealth of generational diversity, adding that transmitting their purpose to new generations is a challenge that is yet to be fulfilled by companies. “Different generations work alongside each other in companies in dynamic environments, but teams are still managed in the same way as before in many cases”, explained Marta. She then highlighted new challenges faced by HR departments, such as the fact that the average length of employment in companies has dropped to 18 months.

Alezeia González emphasized that digital skills are now a cross-profile requirement in terms of competences, which poses several challenges for companies. Carolina Menor highlighted the lack of commitment of new professionals, mentioning the lifelong learning and professional development programs implemented at AECOC.

Tona Rubio concluded the session by underlining the need for efforts to be made by universities in relation to everything involved in digital transformation. The system has to become more flexible, while processes have to be streamlined and restructured. As such, there is a lot of work to be done in this respect.