Education and business
Pressure on employment in the current international business climate can be eased if the worlds of work and education work together more closely to prepare citizens and societies for the labour challenges of tomorrow.
This was the key premise of an ETF conference on education and business cooperation held in December 2009. It explored new solutions in this key field for the ETF and neatly pulled together previous activities, which have been as varied as the subject itself.
Partnership between the worlds of work and education is not just a matter of employers and school principals discussing a curriculum that fits the needs of local entrepreneurs. Rather it is an all encompassing process that is set to become an integral part of how we go about developing education. This is because, in a lifelong learning environment, such strategic alliances between companies and education can respond to changes in the labour market much faster than schools working on their own. This is critical for companies and countries to maintain their competitiveness and critical for individuals to maintain their employability in a working environment that changes at a bewildering rate.
But it is not a straightforward process. It calls for school actors to become aware of the agenda of companies who want to work with them and employers to take onboard both the limitations of the long-term planning environment that characterises education and the need to develop key competences rather than narrow skills. A 2008 ETF - European Learning Industry Group study on commercially developed technology-based learning solutions in North Africa and the Middle East revealed the added value, but also the challenges, that public-private partnerships bring to the classroom.
In many ETF partner countries, it also calls for employers to be organised in representative fora so they can fully participate in the process. In recent years the ETF has actively pursued such representation by way of sector involvement in the development of education and training, in particular in work on qualification frameworks.
Education and business partnership also concerns the transition from education to work, a true Achilles heel in countries where education and the labour market are often poorly matched. This has been the subject of some thorough ETF research between 2006 and 2008 in Egypt, Serbia and Ukraine, the results of which are now being fed into other activities.