First research project completed

Prof Ulrich Kaiser and his team investigated the importance of IT skills for professional success. It is the first of a total of 46 research projects on the topic of "digital transformation" that has now been completed.

IT skills influence success in professional life; in terms of salary or how easily someone finds a job. But how exactly these IT skills are linked to success on the labour market, was investigated by Prof Ulrich Kaiser from the Institute of Business Administration at the University of Zurich and his research team as part of NRP 77.

Their focus was on the trainees. In other words, the researchers analysed the curricula of various professions and extracted cross-occupational IT skills and skills bundles that influence the long-term success of graduates on the labour market.

The most important finding

During their research, the Zurich based team realised that it is very relevant to distinguish between two different types of IT skills: Generic IT skills, for example handling data, and expert IT skills, such as programming languages.

The impact of these two types of IT skills on success on the labour market depends on how specialised the employees are. Specific professionals have skills bundles that only overlap with those of a few other occupations.

Read also: How occupation-specific should vocational training be? (German)External Link Icon

Specific employees are very valuable, but in the event of a shock (such as a externally influenced job loss), they are also less adaptable and therefore try longer to find a new job. However, if specific professionals have generic IT skills, they can find a new job more quickly after a shock.

Importance for politics and practice

When designing vocational training, it was previously assumed that all types of IT skills are valuable for improving the adaptability of employees. Based on the project results, however, the researchers recommend differentiating between generic and expert IT skills and promoting them differently. For example, it could make sense for specific professionals to learn how to handle data (generic IT skill).

As the research of Prof Ulrich Kaiser and his team focused in particular on vocational training, the most important advice relates to the design of workforce training. For specific professions and workers, it may make sense to include generic IT skills in the curricula in order to increase their flexibility on the labour market.

Three main messages

  1. There are two different types of IT skills: generic and expert IT skills. These two types have different effects on labour market outcomes.
  2. General IT skills increase the adaptability of specific employees.
  3. For the training of specific professionals, decision-makers should discuss the inclusion of general IT skills in the curricula.

Find out exactly how the researchers proceeded methodically and gain further background information on the research project on the NRP 77 project website:

How important are IT Skills for professional success?

Further research projects on the topic of "Digital Transformation" as part of the National Research Programme NRP 77 can be found here:

Project overview