(Doctorate, Azteca University, México) [2022]

Title of the thesis

Digital transformation and skills of the unemployed. An approach from Economics to prevent social exclusion

Transformación digital y competencias de los desempleados. Un enfoque desde la Economía para evitar la exclusión social


Digital Transformation is a means for social inclusion and there are uncountable marginalised groups without proper access to devices, resources, knowledge or digital competences (namely, unemployed, elder, youngsters, disabled and migrants). In this context, Digital Transformation has implications on the social participation that has been the area of interest to most industries, designers, researchers, and communities to change modern society. It aims at creating a more inclusive process that accepts all the varieties of the demography. Moreover, digitization aims at higher economic efficiency and better-quality life through digital economic and social information representation. To this extent, Digital Transformation becomes digital inclusion and, in turn, social inclusion, since in our digital society, whoever is not skilled enough to manage properly on the digital layer, is at high risk of exclusion. However, despite aiming at a more inclusive digital economy, digitalization still faces challenges, threats, and possible negative implications for the economy. One of the significant challenges is the unemployment rate due to the inappropriate competencies ans skills of the available workforce. This presents a labor market paradox on the high unemployment rate and, on the other side, the inability of workers to have competency, skills and demands of the modern workplace.

In addition, competence effective achievement in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths, known as STE(A)M, has become a challenge, worldwide. STE(A)M are a key step to digital competences and skills that prevent unemployment. Competences and skills are used to build academic programmes in alignment with the needs from the labour market, so that the graduate acquires and provides the required knowledge and skills in a proper context. However, there is usually a gap between achieving the competences and making their right application in the market; the usual training itinerary does not provide with the required competences in a proper time, to be successfully used by the labour market. Sometimes, there is a disparity between what to match and how to match it. Further, normally, both layers in that transfer process, from the academic setting to the labour setting, suffer a discrepancy where the competences do not match from one side to the other. Although these competences and skills are the key for a full development in a labour implementation, research on the topic shows that they are not properly assessed or implemented, either on the definition, on the acquisition or on the transfer to the market. Further, there is not a clear, normalised framework to check the achievement of these competences properly.

Additionally, in the case of STE(A)M competences, with the combination of technical skills, problem solving techniques, and applied creativity and creative thinking (coming from the A in Arts), they demand extensive hours for training and assimilation, before a proper integration into an embedded behaviour by the learner. The challenge becomes double then, with a real concern about the learning curve and the resources spent to master the specific competences. These two challenges miss addressing the relation to the labour market and the impact of the right inclusion of the creativity contribution (Arts) and related soft skills. Research on the topic usually highlights the lack of an appropriate, effective and normalised way to integrate the soft-skills component into the technical components, when achieving the competences.

Further, social economy enterprises have a great potential to promote labour market inclusion of disadvantaged persons. Not every person belonging to this group might be a potential entrepreneur. Yet, for those that might have interest in and capacities for setting up their own undertaking social economy might be a precious alternative to other type of enterprises, as it might better be able to reduce or even eliminate barriers disadvantaged persons face in developing their entrepreneurial project and project of life.

However, in order to fully develop and benefit from the added value of social economy entrepreneurship, (potential) entrepreneurs need to have appropriate competences, skills and capacities. The unemployed (long-term and recent graduates) might have different needs when seeking to acquire the latter. This thesis explores and analyzes the exclusion presented by the lack of digital and soft skills, and how these skills can be used to prevent the exclusion of marginalized citizens for better integration in society. Chapter 1 provides the foundations for this research; chapter 2 provides the theoretical and social background to the main topics, based on a thorough literature review that includes technical reports for significant international bodies; chapter 3 presents a tool to support the achievement of the required competences and skills in the form of a framework focused on social entrepreneurship; chapter 4 presents a thorough research on soft skills based on the previous competence framework as a way to support the digitalisation of the unemployment youth, taking that potential marginalised group as an exampled case study. In doing so, this thesis shows a specific framework of competences and skills that support the unemployed and it validates that very framework in a specific target group with the final aim of finding a structured path of competences and soft skills that support the digitalisation process of the unemployed.


Universidad Azteca de México

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