Canadian Center for UNESCO's International Network on Technical
and Vocational Education
Centre canadien du réseau international pour l'enseignement technique et professionnel de l'UNESCO
Dr. Chris Chinien, Director, UNEVOC - Canada
Adult Learners' Week in Technical and Vocational Education and Training
The 1997 Fifth International Conference on Adult Education recommended to UNESCO's Member States that the annual International Literacy Day (September 8) henceforth be extended to a full week celebrating all adult learning. The International Adult Learners' Week (ALW) focuses on the full range of subjects related to adult education and learning, notably those concerning on the job and skills training, civics education, health and environment education. Such a celebration is intended to highlight learners and their learning as each State sees fit. The pride of learning and the challenges of learning are in the spotlight in the different regions through activities and publicity around the world. In 2002, Canada will for the first time be joining more than 40 countries in celebrating ALW.
The Context: The New Economy
The future world work will be increasingly knowledge-based and technology driven. In the emerging knowledge-intensive economy the proletariat is being replaced by a cognetariat where work is increasingly shifting away from manual tasks toward symbolic processing. The application of knowledge replaces capital, raw materials, and labour as the main means of production. The concept of "mind workers" or knowledge workers has emerged from this transformation of work and it appears to be the fastest growing type of workers.
The synergy of combining new information and communication technologies with human skills has dramatically altered job content and skill requirements at the workplace. The perception of the role of human interventions in the economic transactions has also changed. The potential contribution that an individual can make in acquiring and applying knowledge for improving processes, products and services is becoming more important than the physical labour. The knowledge embodied in a product has become a key element of production.
This trend was confirmed by research conducted in Quebec, which indicated that ITC has dramatically altered skill requirements at the workplace. The findings showed that, in the reengineered workplaces the manual content of work is decreasing and that work is becoming increasingly abstract and knowledge-intensive. Work is becoming less repetitive, more interesting and offering employees more freedom to take initiatives. The findings also indicated that ICT rich workplaces require employees with general competencies who can adapt to changes and possess a solid grounding in basic academic skills supplemented by specific technical and vocational training.
In today's work environment, which is characterized by uncertainties and where the adaptability to change cannot cope with fast track technological developments, fifty per cent of technical workers' skills become obsolete within three to seven years. In this context TVET has a crucial role to play in the periodic updating of the workforce. The need for recurrent education and the changing labour market conditions calls for flexible access to TVET. Continuing education models that will meet workers lifelong learning needs must be relevant and flexible to provide just-in-time learning.
The Conference Board of Canada (2001) notes: "more than ever, employers depend on knowledgeable and skilful employees to create value-added products and services, efficiently and effectively, so that they can compete successfully" (p.3). Canada's economic prosperity in the global economy is becoming highly dependent on its ability to develop, attract and maintain a well-educated workforce. The recent federal government strategic initiative SKILL MATTERS highlight the importance of lifelong learning to the Canadian economy:
Countries that succeed in the 21st century will be those with citizens who are creative, adaptable and skilled. Our people - their skills, talents, knowledge and creativity - are the key to our future success. By providing opportunities for all Canadians to learn and to develop their skills and abilities, we can achieve our commitment to economic growth and prosperity and demonstrate our social values of inclusion and equality.
As a result of these changes, three million Canadians are changing jobs annually and the demands for skilled workers exceed the supply in many sectors of the economy. The need for closing Canada's skills gaps, coupled with continuous updating of workplace skills has created an increased demand for adult education and training. Recent research indicates that two-thirds of Canadians were spending an average of six hours of informal learning per week acquiring employment-related knowledge and skills.
The Canadian Government, Human Resources Development Canada described its strategy in adult education in its recent report on Innovation 2002. This strategy includes three major elements:
UNEVOC-Canada, the Canadian Centre for UNESCO's International Project on Technical and Vocational Education is proposing to hold activities in all jurisdictions for celebrating the ALW in TVET and to initiate a discussion regarding the Canadian Government's innovation strategy in adult education in the context of workplace learning and formal TVET. The celebration of the ALW will provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate the importance of lifelong learning for Canadians as well as the resources and the facilities available to the adult learners.
If you are interested in participating in this exciting event, please complete and submit the form below.