Survey Project results related to HRD in Europe

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Changing working life and training of older workers
Concept Trends Findings Practice Challenge
Synopsis Demographic change the ageing of the population together with decreased birth rates and mortality (increased longevity) - will continue to drastically alter the structure of the workforce in coming decades. This development will impact on working life directly through a diminishing supply of labour and indirectly through its implications for productivity and competitiveness (competence maintenance and development among the workforce). Consequently, there is a need for a better understanding of how the labour market and working life itself could adapt to an ageing workforce.

The continuous changes in working life, exacerbated by technological development and an increasingly global economy, will continue to impact on general competence requirements. As a result, the value of traditional training systems has been challenged and there is an emerging need to adjust educational systems to the requirements of working life (economy). Related to this, the focus on competence development has changed from training to learning and with emphasis on a much broader range of learning environments; in particular, the workplace is now acknowledged as of considerable importance, sometimes more so than other formal settings.

In combination, these two trends of workforce ageing and a rapidly changing working life have contributed to the development of a highly ambiguous view of the competence of older workers. This changing working life and demands for new and renewed skills and knowledge, has resulted, on the one hand, in their competencies becoming labelled as obsolete and lacking. Together with difficult employment situations and early pension policies, the latter has contributed to increasing age discrimination and an exclusion of older workers from the labour market during the 1990s. On the other hand, as the knowledge and skills, based on formal training, have been judged inadequate in working life, the value of experience-based 'real competence' or cross curricula competencies has increased in importance. Whilst, in principle, this could allow for greater value being placed on the competence of mature employees, in practice this value varies considerably depending on the nature of the expertise and thus of the job tasks and context in which it has developed.

In recent years, a shift has taken place from a national and European concern with early exit from the work force and soaring expenditures on pension schemes, to a focus on older workers as productive and innovative members of the labour market. This change has been accompanied with a more general political focus on work environments, on workplace well being and on active employee (citizenship) participation concerning all the workers, as well as on possible measures that could be taken to enhance and support positive development in workplaces in this regard. One of the central areas were these measures are being developed is human resource development (HRD) and management (HRM) through the practice of learning and training interventions, under the ideology of lifelong learning (Tikkanen et al. 2001, pp. 1f., 110). 

Reference The developments affecting the working life and training of older workers are further discussed in the survey on SMEs and the conclusions presented in the final project report (Tikkanen et al. 2001, pp. 135-49, 99-117).
See also project info on WORKTOW.
Descriptors D-CVT  D-LO  D-WBL  EP04      E13b
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO