Academic journal article Education

The Need for Relevant Workforce Education for the 21st Century

Academic journal article Education

The Need for Relevant Workforce Education for the 21st Century

Article excerpt


The new millenium brings with it an inevitable sense of change and instability and impose new demands. Political, technological, economic and social change is taking pace in South Africa as elsewhere in the world. Already in 1971 Toffler (p 20) averred:

   "Change is avalanching upon our heads, and most people are grotesquely
   unprepared to cope with it".

In this new age, the ordinary person and his or her particular understanding of the world will be the focus of attention in educational institutions. This is already observable in the shift from formal education toward less formal education, training people to be able to use their knowledge constructively in order to find or create worthwhile employment in a world where large-scale unemployment has become endemic.

Knowledge and skills for the future that does not yet exist is of imperative importance. In these last days of the millenium two forces are at work re-shaping the 1950's world of learning (so Godsell, 1993:1):

* The rapidity of change in knowledge as well as technology. Not only is just additional new knowledge of importance, but also fundamentally different knowledge.

* The collapse of the classical caste boundaries is reshaping learning. Learning has become holistic, or generic, or interconnected and a lifelong, a continious endeavour.

Rosenstock (1991:434) maintains that:

   "... given the speed of technological change, a focus on narrow training
   provides students with soon-to-be-obsolete skills. Throwaway skills for
   throwaway workers come at the expense of academic skills and problem-posing
   skills for the new workplace - an environment that requires self-learning".

Therefore new skills for the prospective employees of the future workplace needs to be created. Educators in all educational institutions should recognize the need for such an immensely important professional undertaking which influences the economy of a country and the lives, opportunities and dreams of many job seekers.

In this article it is advocated that workforce education for the 21st century is of cardinal importance for developing of skills, equipping people to fulfill their place in society, thus stemming the tide of many social ills. This signals longterm and more permanent solutions to counter the malaise caused by unemployment, exacerbated by unskilled citizens. The following assumptions apply: The better trained citizens are: (a) the stronger a nation could be economically; (b) and therefore the more competitive; (c) this leads to more employment opportunities, and (d) results less susceptible resort to crime and riots to improve a desperate situation.

The Characteristics of Work in the 21st Century

The rigorous demarcation of occupations is collapsing

According to Godsell (1993:2) the rigid demarcation between occupations is crumbling, and due to this broader base that the rigid boundaries are collapsing a broader base from which to work is necessary.


Work is culturally induced. According to Misumi and Yamori (1991:143) "The meaning a given society attaches to working has generally been considered to be deeply based on that society's value system and socio-economic system (capitalistic, socialistic, etc.). In other words, it was thought that the value system had a universally undeniable effect on the person's attitude and behaviour, regardless of differences in working conditions and features". According to Misumi and Yamori (1991:135) it is well known that Japannese people attach a high value to work. They (p144) are of the opinion that

   "... it is possible to apply this training to other countries that share
   the same work values and ethical heritage. Other societies, characterised
   by different value systems, can also benefit from this training under the
   work climate that they intentionally develop, or one which features the
   Japanese work-places. … 
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