Whilst human capital has gained a central position within political and scientific debates over time, more recently a critical importance has been acquired by the discourse on workers’ competencies. The central tenet is that what is truly crucial in today’s labour market is workers’ know-how-to-perform that requires knowledge, abilities and attitudes. A number of implications arise for workers, who are encouraged to gain especially transversal competencies, and for policy makers alike, who consider employability as the new job security. Starting from the empirical evidence arising from a large-scale survey carried out on Apulian small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the article critically discusses questions concerning the rhetoric of competencies. In contrast to prevailing individualized accounts of competencies and skill requirements, focusing on workers rather on workers in organizations and in labour markets, it first points attention to their social construction and, then, it engages with the debate on employability in knowledge-based economies.
Keywords: Competencies, employability, innovation, Apulian companies