Workplace Learning in Context

Workplace Learning in Context

Workplace Learning in Context

Workplace Learning in Context

Synopsis

The contributors to this volume combine a critical analysis of the organizational and employment context of workplace learning with an understanding of theories of learning.

Excerpt

Policy-makers preoccupied with finding ways of strengthening the relationship between education systems and the economy are increasingly focusing on workplace learning as a way of improving organizational performance and, at the aggregate level, national economic success. From a human capital perspective, the skills and qualifications of the workforce are believed to be central to productivity. Investing in their (or one's own development) is assumed to result in economic dividends. As Garrick argues, 'The idea of investing in human beings as a form of capital has, since then [the emergence of human capital theory], fuelled a very powerful discourse of workplace learning' (1999:217).

From the perspective of workplace learning, there are three main problems with the assumptions associated with human capital theory. First, it is incorrect to assume that investment in human capital is the only source of competitive success. An examination of the way companies and, in particular, multinational companies, generate profit suggests that there are a range of strategies they can adopt. As the Industrial Relations Research Unit points out, 'Competitive success based on quality and upskilling is only one of a number of strategies available to organizations. Others include seeking protected or monopoly markets; growth through take-over and joint venture; shifting operations overseas; cost-cutting and new forms of "Fordism"' (1997:7). Second, research evidence suggests that although workforce qualifications have been increasing in recent decades, there have not been corresponding changes in the use of these qualifications in the workplace. Indeed, the 2001 Skills Survey shows that for the uk 'the overall supply of qualifications outstrips demand by a comfortable margin' (Ashton et al. 2002:63). Although increasing educational participation may contribute to the stock of skills and qualifications in the workforce, increasing employer demand and utilization of more highly skilled and qualified employees involves changes in job design and the organization of production. Strategic decisions and decisions relating to the quality of the work environment are normally arenas of management prerogative. Politically it is more difficult for governments

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