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.
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.
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.
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).