The capacity to learn, resilience, mental agility, the ability to collaborate, communication, empathy, creativity, problem-solving and negotiating skills, the ability to use technology: there is no management or recruitment article that does not prioritise these skills in its list of decisive factors for identifying the ideal candidate. Without, of course, neglecting the technical skills acquired through studies, certified through a qualification such as a degree, or consolidated by work experience. In short, a textbook combination of soft skills and hard skills. Against this background, for just under a year, just over 1,800 people with disabilities have been meeting and interviewing with dozens of large companies looking for people (and skills) to be included in their organisations through the Inclusion Job Day.
This meeting gave rise to many opportunities and created a privileged workshop for sharing experiences that enable the development of increasingly pervasive labour inclusion initiatives. A crossroads of the stories and skills of people who have always had to face everyday difficulties and, in spite of this, have worked even harder to build for themselves a wealth of skills that can be used in the labour market. The existence and application of Law 68/99 for the so-called protected categories and targeted employment alone are not enough to redress the imbalance created by obstacles and difficulties, and there is often a risk that it could generate distorting effects. An example of this is how, in conjunction with Italian demographics, there is a sort of propensity to delay workers under the age of 40 who have disabilities joining the workforce because the older age groups, which are larger, fill all the available spaces. The prevalence of open-ended contracts and the stagnation of the labour market make it mathematically unlikely for people who have finished high school or university to enter the labour market.
The observations provided by the Inclusion Job Day are clear: 56% of all candidates who participate in the events have a university background (22% of them in engineering, 19% in economics, 11% in law) and in many cases have been looking for work for some time. Often this prolonged waiting phase can contribute to losing a sense of familiarity with the world of work and can affect both soft and hard skills. This is because it is undeniable that casual work outside one’s area of study or vocation, interspersed with periods of inactivity, are certainly not good for people’s skills and often cause these skills to atrophy over time. For this reason, contact and cooperation between schools, universities and companies must continue to be intensified, in an attempt to create as little discontinuity as possible and to further fine-tune the matching of the supply and demand of skills.
Skills that are all too often not protected, because there is almost no structured system for verifying and certifying them. This lack deprives many candidates of the opportunity to have their skills objectively recognised, and at the same time hampers companies in recording and enhancing them internally. This inefficiency adds further delay to those who, as we have seen, have to deal with delays linked to demography and regulations. This is why it is so important to unleash the potential of skills and give people with disabilities the opportunity to gain more solid credentials than just belonging to protected categories and being recognised as being 46% disabled.
A solid lifelong learning mindset, a certification system for skills and intersecting with a labour market that is increasingly rich in companies that are culturally and structurally equipped for inclusion: these are some of the ingredients needed to achieve some social innovations that can bring us closer to the coveted equal opportunities in every field.