COMPETE – Competences for effective labour market entry

Skills gaps and methodologies to tackle these through gamified online tools. 
COMPETE preparatory research paved the way for the design of a serious game boosting soft skills


Soft skills are considered by an increasing number of employers from different sectors a fundamental asset employees should bring along. A number of studies, however, certify a skills gap in this regard among young graduates.

COMPETE!, co-funded by the European Union, brings together researchers and (online) universities, VET organisations, players from the IT sector and organisations representing (social economy) enterprises to tackle this challenge. Project partners will explore more in depth the potential of gamification and serious online games. The objective is to develop a gamified tool helping students and graduates to improve their soft skills. Partners used the first months of the project, which started in November 2019, for preparatory research consisting of: 

  1. an analysis on skills gaps, including a survey among employers and students as well as interviews with the former and
  2. research on education and training methodologies – such as they have been/are applied also in other online games – and how they could be integrated together with other game features.

At the outset of the project and after a comparison of three soft skills frameworks (the eLene4Work soft skills framework, the competence model used by UNIR and the MODES’ soft skill framework), COMPETE partners, under coordination of VIVES University, had agreed on 20 soft skills:

  • Social soft skills: team work, communication, negotiation, customer orientation and networking.
  • Personal soft skills: emotional intelligence, adaptability, tolerance to stress, life balance, leadership and cultural adaptability
  • Methodological soft skills: creativity, problem-solving, learning skills, project management skills, continuous improvement and result orientation
  • Digital soft skills: digital information management, digital communication and digital content creation.

After further research, including a survey and sixty-nine interviews with employers from different sectors and (graduate) students, COMPETE partners decided to focus their gamified tools on the following soft skills: tolerance to stress, problem-solving and communication. The game will also include, even though to a lesser extent, elements related to teamwork, emotional intelligence and creativity-related skills.

In the framework of research phase II, COMPETE partners SCS and UNIR carried out desk research based on (case) studies regarding existing serious game experiences and platforms (approximately 100), such as Orient, Sim Venture, Merchants or Let’s Team!. Referring to more than 100 scientific papers and 52 case studies, researchers analysed and compared different (online) education&training methodologies to identify those most fit to be applied in the framework of a serious game aimed to stimulate the improvement of soft skills. Game characteristics discussed included, for example, aspects such as immersivity or factors shaping game dynamics, among them trial&error, interaction/communication, curiosity and surprise, cooperation vs. competition, etc.

Results of this analysis then led researchers to formulate a set of recommendations for the design of a COMPETE serious game that would effectively respond to learning needs while also being able to attract and entertain graduates and students.

Drawing on the results of both research phases, as well as on discussions within the wider COMPETE project consortium, partners have now started to design the serious game.

Results of COMPETE preparatory research (Working Paper 1 – “Research on Soft Skills for Employability”/Working Paper 2 – Study on gamification and serious gaming for education and training) can be found here.


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