Interview with Enric Gracia, published on November 21, 2021 in CRONICA.
Enric Gracia: “We cannot take two or three master’s degrees before starting to work.”
Enric Gracia founded with Adrià González the recruitment company Talentea in Lleida a few months ago, which now has two other partners. The objective of this boutique consulting firm is to go beyond a simple head hunter service due to market needs, as he explains. Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the professional profiles that corporations need, they are betting on on-site training to meet the real needs of companies.
— Question: What profiles are most in demand by companies?
— Answer: There are specific sectors that need new job profiles more related to innovation, so we understand that this is the opportunity for certain professionals to retrain.
— What do you mean by “retraining”?
— Current training, whether university degrees or vocational training, is at a different level to the job opportunities that exist. We are finding more and more that large companies need qualified profiles that do not exist among job seekers.
— What kind of professions?
— In the wake of the pandemic, the need for e-commerce and crowdfunding managers has intensified. Different levels of specialization are also being sought for professionals linked to Smart cities, which is a sector that is on the rise. But we find that current training is specialized in subjects that cannot meet the requirements of these profiles.
— The university has always claimed that it should have its own entity beyond the labor market.
— We must be critical, since the professions have changed. What we are asking for is for training to be more unique. Vocational training is more up to date in technological and IT matters, but not in university degrees. That’s why we are finalizing a department [at Talenta] to provide the specialization required for a specific job.
— I understand that the company will have to take responsibility for that.
— Right. This is a change of culture that we should implement throughout Europe, but especially in Spain. Companies should be the ones to propose the courses to be given by trainers and business schools. The problem here is that one of the most common mistakes companies make is that they fail to define the workplace.
— What does this mean?
— We come across many companies that know, broadly speaking, what functions they want the new worker to perform. But without being more precise about it, it will be difficult to find the profile.
— Do companies not know what professional profiles they need to incorporate?
— They do not know the 360 degrees of the workplace. The specific department knows what needs to cover, but we are in a very global and dynamic world in constant evolution. Covid has given us great examples of this, such as the obligation of small companies or stores to adapt to cutting-edge sales tools. In other words, even village establishments have developed their own e-commerce and online sales mechanisms in a more or less artisanal way. These were positions that companies had not foreseen and they have adapted.
— Are there workers with these profiles?
— It is important to adapt training. And not only for new professionals, but also for workers over 50 years old who are a bit out of date due to their initial training. And here we are facing a double problem, the need for retraining that we were talking about for these employees and the problem that the younger ones have no experience. And companies value experience more highly than training.
— A recurring complaint of those who are starting out in the job market is that they have problems finding their first opportunity.
— I am 33 years old, so I would also be in the young label, and I studied a university degree because the market told us that without a university degree and three master’s degrees we would not have a place in the labor market.
— Did the market or the university itself tell you that?
— I think both. When I was studying it was considered that if you didn’t go to university you were relegated to more operational jobs, so we went to university. After several generations with this message we find the paradox that the tables have turned. Now we see young people with university degrees and several master’s degrees entering the labor market at the age of 24, 25 or 26, who are overqualified, and who do not have the experience required of them. On the other hand, there is a lack of professionals for operational jobs.
— Are salaries the big barrier to employment?
— It is true that in recent years we have super-qualified professionals for whom the market does not provide an outlet. And if it does, it does so with very low salary ranges and almost zero competence. Currently, operational profiles are the most highly paid because there is a shortage of electricians, electromechanical engineers, refrigeration technicians, etc. There are none because young people have been inculcated that we should have that university degree. In addition, many of the overqualified students are out of date with their training or are required to have previous experience that they do not have.
— Is talent going to other countries?
— It’s a problem, because they go to places that value them and remunerate them, and they lose competitiveness. We see in the young people we interviewed the frustration that they have fulfilled what was demanded of them and their counterparts do not do the same.
— What proposals do you have to solve this problem?
— We are in favor of the idea that a master’s degree should be studied at the same time as work. It should be a complement that helps us. When a young person starts a university degree or a vocational training program, what he or she studies and what he or she ends up working on is often completely different. I insist on something that is very important, we cannot study two or three specific masters before starting to work.
— This is the model that many universities have opted for in order to increase their revenue.
— Surely, yes.
— How do you change this trend?
— It is difficult to change the model right away. We must make small inroads, such as betting on new business schools that want to invest in specific courses that allow for internships in which the new professional or the recycled professional can see if the skills acquired are what he or she really wants to work on. Because we also find a lot of job dissatisfaction and a lot of accommodation, of people who have been in a job that does not satisfy them for 10 years and continue because they are not looking for anything else. And it is essential to instill that retraining must be continuous and must be encouraged.
— By whom?
— By the government. We cannot ask professionals to study initial training and then have to invest themselves in specializations. They must work.
— In VET, for example, there are already political battles to define training programs.
— We must make a public appeal. We are drowning in bureaucracy, there are too many obstacles for people who can offer solutions and are not listened to. Of course there are good business schools with very good ideas, but I think that all the actors are aware of the reality and the current problems in training and nobody remedies this.
— What is wrong with business schools?
— Communication with the company. For example, sustainability is booming, we all know the current problems and we know that companies will create new positions based on it. Courses have already been launched to train the new generations, but they are based on issues that we believe will be challenging. We don’t even know if they will be able to provide real solutions to the new SMEs or companies that are created in the sector.
— Where do we find the talent we are lacking?
— Big question. In Spain we have 3.4 million unemployed, the companies tell us that there is a lack of workers and the consulting firms find it difficult to find professional profiles to cover them. We are doing something wrong. That is why we must focus on defining job positions very well and launching specific training programs to provide solutions. The talent is in universities, business schools and vocational training institutes.
— Do the new generations have a distorted view of the labor market?
— We cannot blame them in this sense. Young people do what society asks them to do, study. I am in favor of the fact that all professionals must be trained and initial training is not enough, it must be constant until the end of their working life. And we don’t know when it will be.
— The only thing that is certain is that it will not be at 65 years of age as it is now.
— They are already proposing to work until the age of 70. Another very interesting debate is that of pensions and, without going into it, I think that all young people are clear that they will have to work for many years and face many changes. Our parents’ generation was the one that spent 40 years in a company; now that is no longer the case.
— Why is that?
— Because of plurality, free trade and professional concerns. It’s not that they weren’t there in the past, it’s just that there were fewer of them. Without being misunderstood, people were more conformist.
— Are we moving towards a labor model of professionals selling their services?
— I am very much in favor of this model and I encourage this to be done if it seems appropriate, that the new generations start working even as freelancers.
— As entrepreneurs?
— Do we romanticize the figure of the entrepreneur to ‘hide’ the shortcomings of a self-employed person?
— In the U.S., entrepreneurship is highly valued. If you start a business and fail, society sees you as a hero for having tried. Since in this attempt the professional has seen the reality. In Spain it is different, since not only the competition, but the professionals themselves are the ones who expect you to fail. I am in favor of anyone who has a concrete idea or a singular talent to exercise it themselves or try it… with a good market study and a good project. But don’t be afraid.
— As a formula to learn quickly what the market is?
— Sure. I am self-employed and I know first-hand the irregularity of the self-employed quota and other inconveniences that we should not forget. But this cannot be a barrier to move forward with what we believe the market needs. It is a change of concept that is not taught in universities.
— Is this change of concept assumed by the other part of the labor market?
— I think so. We see many professionals who are encouraged to take the plunge simply because the market, depending on the sector, does not treat them well.
— What do you mean, it doesn’t treat them well?
— Part of society does not understand that the labor market is changing very fast, that of the demand for new professions. Here I launch a challenge to the Government, since the proposal to overcome this must come from the Public Administrations. They must encourage young people to start up their own businesses. The existing aids are very few and if a young person wants to create a company, does not have family resources and has never worked, he/she cannot.
— Do we leave entrepreneurship in the hands of families with possibilities?
— Fortunately, the talent of young people does not depend on their family’s pocket, but I agree with you on one thing. Many of the good ideas we see come to nothing because they do not have the economic capacity to carry them out. Especially those that are part of the so-called industrial entrepreneurship, which requires facilities and machines and increases the initial investment.
— Are we losing opportunities?
— We are losing talent and very good projects for Catalonia and Spain. We hope that part of the Next Generation funds will also go to this field. We need more economic aid for the entrepreneurial fabric, because behind talent there is progress. If we talk about promoting great innovations, technology and that we want a plural and innovative society, we cannot leave it only in the hands of big capital. We must listen to talent and provide it with facilities.