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Highlight Round table: Theory, policy and practice in lifelong learning

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Subject Interface between policy and practice of lifelong learning (Winfried Heidemann)*
Outline I would like to make some remarks about the interface between policy and practice of lifelong learning. As we have heard at this conference, lifelong learning has become a European subject, and HRD as well, in the course of the European employment strategy, especially as a follow-up of the Lisbon process. The social partners are also very deeply committed to this process, and the presentations at the opening session showed that both organisations (the European Trade Union Confederation and the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) are engaged in this process to promote lifelong learning in the context of HRD strategies in Europe. 
    My special point is the strategic role of the enterprise. The implementation of European lifelong learning strategies lies at enterprise and workplace level. It is not enough only to look at schools and universities, although they can and have to do a lot in this context, but for implementing the strategy of the EU to make Europe until 2010 the most competitive space in the world in a knowledge based society, it is not only important but crucial that enterprises at workplace level contribute to what they can do for the implementation of lifelong learning.
In the context of the European social model this means, as Barry Nyhan pointed out this morning, progressing from HRM to HRD. I am very happy that this conference has not the title HRM but HRD, because I think this is a different perspective. It is the perspective leading from unilateral management models to models including all stakeholders, not only management but also the workers and the employees. Lifelong learning as a strategy of the enterprises is not only a matter of the management who has to manage processes, but also of the workers and employees. 
    This chart (1) will show you some recent access routes to lifelong learning at company level. In my organisation Hans Böckler Stiftung we have a documentation on company based works agreements (local agreements), between works councils and management. Two or three years ago we evaluated some 200 of such works agreements on continuous vocational training and lifelong learning. What we can see from these agreements, I think, is not restricted to the German experience, but can be found in most of the other European countries. On the one hand you see the traditional route to lifelong learning via the further training programmes in the large enterprises. On the other hand you find very recent routes: the assessment of training needs both of the enterprise and the individual, which is part of HRM and HRD strategies, of personnel development; also, the introduction of group work, of team work, of project organisation, and last but not least, learning in the workplace. All these processes open new gateways to lifelong learning. Learning is no longer only formal classroom learning, but happens at the single workplace, and this workplace learning must be promoted and linked to formal ways of learning and training.
    A new approach might be seen in what I call flexicurity, which means the connection between flexibility and security (see chart 2). HRD aims at greater flexibility of the enterprise and of the workforce. This is based and has to be based on individual commitment to the knowledge society. If you miss this important point of commitment in the long run you cannot succeed with HRD. The individual commitment to the knowledge society is deeply rooted in culture, and culture also means trust. Without some kind of security and trust you cannot motivate people to commit themselves to the knowledge society, and without this, HRD aiming at flexibility cannot succeed. 
    One example of the development of flexicurity can be seen in the framework agreement in the German metal industry of 2001, which shows that shift of paradigm. In this framework agreement we do not find collective rights in traditional terms of time and money resources, nor traditional rights of access to training in time. Instead, there is an individual right to regular personnel review on further industrial training needs once a year at least. This means involvement of the individual workers in the assessment of their training needs, which leads to individual agreements between the management and employees on the necessary training measures. The second individual right laid down in this framework agreement is the leave of absence for personal further training with a right to return. This means that the training measure has to be paid by the individual, but he or she has the right to return to the enterprise. This is the case, in enterprises of more than 50 employees, after seniority of at least five years.
    The shift of paradigm described here consists in individualising the procedures, the rights and obligations. This individualised model is based on trust, and this trust is guaranteed in a collective agreement. We do not have much experience with this framework agreement yet, because it was agreed in summer 2001 and started at the beginning of 2002, and now is under implementation. However, I think this framework agreement can be one example for the new policy of flexicurity to which at least some social partner organisations all over Europe have committed themselves to.
Note *Hans Böckler Stiftung, Düsseldorf, Germany
Source Recording of the presentation made at the final session (plenary round table) of the HRD conference in Toulouse, May 2003 (see proceedings).
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO