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Thematic and methodological aspects of the relationship between HRD and VET research in the light of recent EU projects

Contribution to the CEDEFOP supported project on “Promoting European Perspective in VET and HRD Research”

M’Hamed Dif 
BETA/Céreq Alsace; University Louis Pasteur of Strasbourg, France

April 2007

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As increasingly observed by recent research work especially through the European projects and related dissemination conferences and publications, HRD and VET are extending in scope and role and converging, thematically and methodically, towards more interfacing and complementary activities within the enterprises. In the context of this development, this paper is a contribution to the second phase of CEDEFOP supported project on “Promoting European Perspectives in VET and HRD Research”. It will be basically concentrating on the “thematic and methodological aspects of the relationship between HRD and VET” in connection with the research question of “mapping HRD and VET research across Europe”. It is undertaken by drawing basically on the research work and the results of the investigations conducted within some of the most recent European projects through three main sections and an overall conclusion. 

The first section provides an overview concerning the observed recent “VET and HRD developments through work learning partnership networking”, based on a sample of the effective practices observed through the results of the Leonardo project (WLP: 2004-2006) on “Improving Quality of Informal Learning through Tools and Instruments for Workplace Learning Partnerships”. The overall aim of the project was to develop tools for VET teachers, trainers and HRD managers with which sectoral informal learning opportunities can be fully exploited and work learning partnerships (WLPs) can be initiated and managed. It involved three categories of regional and sectoral actors (research institutions in charge, multiplier organisations such chambers of commerce and industry and SMEs as implementing partners) from each of the 6 basic partner countries (Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and UK). The WLP developed tools included basically: Learning Potential Analysis (LPA tool), workplace learning partnerships management platform (WLP Web tool) and a manual for regional or sectoral WLP Brokers (WLP Manual).

The second section gives an insight into the “structural developments in the enterprises training market for HRD in Europe”. It is based on Eurostat quantitative database on CVTS2 Survey (1999) conducted with about 76,000 enterprises in 25 EU countries. It was completed by the quantitative and qualitative results of an investigation conducted with training providers and enterprises in seven partner countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Lithuania) within the framework of the Leonardo project on “Country Specific Analysis of CVT Survey in Europe: Benchmarks and Best Practices” (CVTS2-Revisited: 2004-2007). 

The third section of the paper deals with the observed “concomitant impact of the emerging flexibility/mobility-based mode of HRD and management on the development of vocational identities and the concept of work”. It draws basically upon the background research work and results of FAME Project (2000-2003) on “Vocational Identity, Flexibility and mobility in the European Labour Market”. The overall guiding research question in this EU 5FP Project investigation was focussed on how the individuals identify themselves within their work and learning contexts when they are continuously challenged to respond to increasing demands for flexibility, mobility, changing market settings and shifting skill and competence requirements in three basic sectors: metal transformation industry, IT/telecommunication and healthcare. The consortium of 7 partner countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and the UK) conducted about 100 in-depth interviews with HRD mangers and over 500 interviews with employees about how employees cope with changes at work and how this might affect their work identity, their attitude towards work, their learning and career orientations and development.

On the basis of this sample of recent European research projects and related dissemination workshops and conferences, the concluding section underlines the following overall tendencies in VET and HRD interfacing and converging developments within the enterprises in Europe:

  • There is an increasing tendency within the enterprises in Europe to consider human resource development through investment in VET promotion as a strategic means for improving their performance, competitiveness and their ability to keep pace with requirements of change.
  • There is also an emerging move towards the development of formal and informal work learning partnership networking practices between the enterprises themselves, their VET suppliers and other institutional, economic and social actors on regional, national, European and international levels.
  • Vocational identities have progressively undergone important structural changes during the last decades, leading to two basic developments:

  • – The decline the traditional vocational identities (“fusion/corporatist” or “promotional corporate” type of identities) rooted in the tradition of the classical model of HRD and related formal educational and qualification systems inherited from the Fordist era. They are decomposing into clusters of “blocked, retreat or even exclusion” identities, unable to cope with the requirements of change, especially in connection with the dominantly emerging flexibility/mobility based mode of HR management and development;
    – The emergence of new generation of flexible vocational identities (of negotiator, network or mobility type) with a relatively high access to socio-professional promotion by means of their continuous access to VET, formal and informal work-based learning. They are more able to internalise the requirements of change, especially those connected with the new flexibility-mobility based mode of HR management and development.
Set up: 22/05/2007
Update: 22/05/2007
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO