On September 20th, 2023, the impact meeting of the Erasmus+ project ASPIRE was held. The meeting brought together unemployed and employed people, employers, soft skills trainers and representatives of the labour market institution and institution related to e-infrastructure and digital services and information and communication technologies for the needs of the academic and scientific community in Croatia.
In the first part of the meeting, the results of the project activities were presented, especially those related to research on the importance of soft skills in Croatia from the perspective of employers, employees, unemployed persons, and soft skills trainers. In this sense, the participants concluded that in Croatia soft skills are not acquired through formal education but are crucial for personal and professional development and career advancement.
In the second part of the meeting, the ASPIRE prototype platform was presented, as innovative approach to harmonizing adult learning outcomes with the changing dynamics of the labour market and culture within different organizations. The prototype also has the function of empowering individuals with the necessary soft skills and helps them understand how these skills fit into the labour market and specific organizations.
The ASPIRE prototype links learning outcomes from soft skills training with a recommendation mechanism for the most important skills in the labour market. This is made possible by:
- creating a list of marketable skills by extracting relevant information from people’s CVs,
- researching career areas that are in line with the person’s skill profile and identifying skill gaps,
- by mapping educational paths in accordance with a person’s skills profile, goals, and employers’ requirements,
- by browsing current job postings that match the person’s skills.
The prototype also applies open digital badges as proof of acquired skills in non-formal education and acts as a ‘skills passport’, enabling individuals to demonstrate their learning journey, identify their strengths and areas for improvement. The application can be used even after the training phase, fostering a culture of continuous learning. Bridging the gap between learning outcomes and demand on the labour market increases employability and contributes to the personal and social development of individuals, especially among vulnerable groups.
Given the fact that the platform should award digital badges upon completion of training, their meaning, application, and experiences were shared by Sandra Kučina Softić, phD, assistant director of the The University Computing Centre (SRCE), a central infrastructure institution that plans, develops, and improves e-infrastructure and digital services for the needs of the academic and scientific community in Croatia and provides support in their usage. SRCE is also the competence centre for information and communication technologies as well as the centre for education and support in ICT application, which has been successfully applying digital badges for various educational activities for several years.
The participants of the meeting agreed that the ASPIRE prototype is relevant and very easy to use, and that it needs to be promoted in Croatia so that it becomes visible and recognizable to all stakeholders. Most of the participants also agreed that the prototype can contribute to better alignment of personal skills with the skills culture of the organization or team, education and training with further career development opportunities, employee skills (soft skills) with career development opportunities; more effective professional guidance and training. They also agreed that it can provide employers with more opportunities to hire and retain people, and ultimately contribute to reducing discrimination in the labour market and increasing social inclusion.