Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

The Political Economy of Training in Canada and England: Politics, Pragmatism and Public Opinion in a Post-Industrial age/L'économie Politique De la Formation Au Canada et En Angleterre: La Politique, le Pragmatisme et L'opinion Publique Dans Une èRe Post-Industrielle

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

The Political Economy of Training in Canada and England: Politics, Pragmatism and Public Opinion in a Post-Industrial age/L'économie Politique De la Formation Au Canada et En Angleterre: La Politique, le Pragmatisme et L'opinion Publique Dans Une èRe Post-Industrielle

Article excerpt

Introduction

The re-training of displaced workers is a common governmental response to industrial decline, increased unemployment and community depopulation. This article reports on a study of the place of re-training in economic development programs. The research examined two programs implemented to combat industrial decline in Canada and England. Following the closure of the northern cod fishery in Atlantic Canada, the federal government implemented The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy that encompassed the re-training of former fisheries workers as well as economic development and industry restructuring measures. Around the same time, the Labour government, then in power in the United Kingdom, implemented the Coalfields Regeneration Program designed to restructure former coalfields communities following the decline of the mining industry. The program targeted a number of areas including economic and social development, environmental regeneration, education and training.

The research focused specifically on the variables that influenced the inclusion of re-training for displaced workers from both industries within these programs. Regardless of the extent to which re-training, training and education was the focus of either program in the end, one of the key findings of this research was that to understand the continued emphasis on re-training as the key to economic development, despite mixed success, we must understand the broader political economy into which these economic development programs are introduced. And regardless of the emphasis on re-training, an analysis of economic, policy, and training literature reveals that training often remains unconnected to either economic development or broader policy discussions.

Politics, regionalism, and public opinion all played a pivotal role in how these programs were developed and implemented. The role that re-training played in both programs was heavily dependent on political strategizing and the public perception of the value of regional programs and, indeed, of the industries themselves. The research used an interdisciplinary framework encompassing post-industrialism, economic and regional development theories and theories on adult education to analyse these programs and the role of re-training within them. This article draws on interviews conducted with individuals involved in developing and implementing various elements of these programs in Canada and England.

Education and training - a panacea?

The extent to which education and training are seen as the key to successful economic development and participation in the global economy is amply evident in even a cursory glance at the documentation of many national and sub-national level governments as well as international organizations and the literature. Discussions of the 'knowledge' economy are rife with reference to training and education as the key to participation in the global economy. Both the literature and policy documentation found in England and Canada emphasizes the need for a highly educated, skilled, flexible and autonomous workforce (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2014a and 2014b; Livingstone 2010; Brown, Lauder and Ashton, 2008; Fenwick, 2006; Fenwick, T., Gao, Shibao, Sawchuck, Valentin, C., and Wheelahan, L. 2005; Livingstone and Sawchuck, 2003; Lloyd and Payne, 2003). Notably, Grubb and Lazerson (2005) refer to this as the "Education Gospel", (p. 1) Canadian government documentation, especially around the time of program implementation, confirms, "Countries that succeed in the 21st century will be those with citizens who are creative, adaptable and skilled" (HRDC, 2002, p. p. 5). The belief in the relationship between education, training and economic development is pervasive. "In some cases, this link is conceived in quite simple terms: conventional wisdom has emerged, wherein "better" education or training is assumed to lead automatically to improved economic performance" (Ashton & Green, 1996, 11). …

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