Work and the life of work are rapidly changing as we are encountering a new economy. An economy where capital becomes more and more depending on education and research. The development of the economy relies on competence and on brain power. Hence, capital is in our competencies and the structure of competencies; and not the least in our ability to identify, develop and use competence. In that endeavour vocational education is a key investment in future development.
During the century passed has the production radically changed, which has created new demands on competencies in the working force. In its turn this has accentuated the importance of education and training for economic and social development.
Three basic direction of the production has drifted from an agrarian economy over an industrial towards a knowledge economy. These changes give the background according to which the forming, reforming and expansion of vocational education are to be understood.
We are now entering what has been called a new industrial revolution. The terms we use to label this new economy can be disputed. What is harder to dispute is that we are entering a new type of production and economy, which demand new knowledge and new competencies. At the same time, we must realise that this change is not sweeping in or flooding in as a wave. History tells us that changes in economy and social life run parallel with stability, irrespective of how dramatic a specific change is. When entering the 20th century, the then modern society was an urban industrialised society, but for a long time there still was a rural, not industrialised, society running in parallel with it.
What can be called “knowledge workers”, that is, those that work with development, administration and mediate knowledge, have increased in number since the sixties. The dominating part of salary costs in industrial enterprises tends to be costs for knowledge intensive investments and marketing. The direct costs for the basic production become a lesser part of the total economy in industry. Within the OECD-nations in 2002 were 40 percent of all employed in the manufacturing industry working with service and management, and the knowledge intensive markets counted for 20% of the gross surplus value. These tendencies have been special visible for the economically strong nations.
From the Introduction in “Vocational Education. The case of Sweden in a historical and international context” by Ulf P. Lundgren. Department of Education 07/10/2007, Uppsala University
Pictures from Keyle Bean and Simplified Building