Rapidly changing labour markets, linked to accelerating global change, affect our views on learning, learning contents, and ways of transmitting knowledge. It is encouraging that a large number of adult education experts in the Nordic region and Estonia are pondering the question of how working life and education can benefit each other maximally without compromising individual employees’ rights. No-one needs to resort to guesswork to find out what has been and is being done to make employees feel competent and ready to face a “new world”.
At an international seminar recently held in Jyväskylä, renowned researchers concluded that traditional, classroom-based continuing education is no longer sufficient. What we need now is training that combines theory and practice, takes place mainly at the workplace, and involves information-sharing among colleagues. This may sound self-evident, but experience has shown that many workplaces do not support learning.
In Denmark, critical voices are urging for a thorough reassessment of whether adult and continuing education really is profitable from the viewpoint of the national economy.
According to Lars Skipper, Senior Research Fellow at AFK, Denmark should rather invest in improving the folkeskole (comprehensive primary and lower secondary education) and providing adequate support to children at risk of marginalisation.
Iceland has the lowest unemployment rate in the Nordic region, but also the lowest proportion of working-age adults with formal qualifications. This is why the Education and Training Service Centre (FA) feels that it is important to offer adults different paths towards professional qualifications, such as short courses and tools for recognition of skills and competencies.
In Estonia, a pilot project offers construction workers an opportunity to gain formal qualifications free of charge, as lack of financing is often the greatest obstacle for Estonians wishing to participate in education. Course instructors offer practical advice to participants even after the course has finished.
This issue’s Norwegian article shows that quality of life is connected to learning. This may be one of the most important links to keep in mind when examining the relationship between profession and education – not least from the economist’s point of view.
Adapting to rapid changes in working life is what lies behind the great reform of the Swedish vocational education system currently waiting to be adopted by the parliament. The goal is a system that would enable tailoring post-secondary vocational education to the needs of labour markets without being restricted by institutional boundaries. Co-operation with the other Nordic countries is a major ingredient in the reform. “We must make a concerted contribution to vocational education”, says Jan Zakrisson from the Association of Local Authorities in the County of Jämtland.
Another example of Nordic initiatives is NVL’s network “Effects of Guidance”, which is carrying out a comprehensive survey of research on guidance and the effects of guidance. One of the questions posed by the network feels particularly relevant in this context: Are guidance counsellors giving people what they want – or what governments think they should be given?