Friday, March 14, 2008

Increasing need for lifelong learning

My main task - since a couple of months - has been to manage a strategic OUNL project that aims at designing, developing and prototyping technical support services for lifelong learning in the Dutch-speaking market. The OUNL is positioning itself more and more as the Lifelong Learning University of the Netherlands, and a number of initiatives have been started to achieve this aim.
The main scenario we foresee for the future is that people will want to have support for
  • constantly updating their competences,
  • upgrading their competences (new job demands, new position), or
  • acquiring new competences (different career path, different job).
Today I stumbled across a European report that gives support for this claim: Cedefop: Future skills need in Europe. The report summary states:

Between 2006 and 2015, Europe will gain 12.5 million additional jobs at the highest qualification level and 9.5 million at the medium level (especially vocational qualifications). But jobs for workers with low qualifications will decline by 8.5 million. Even jobs for unskilled manual workers are demanding more qualifications, while skilled manual workers will increasingly need medium-level qualifications.

This has serious implications for employment. A shrinking population implies a continuing need to replace workers, even in declining sectors and occupations. But with skill requirements increasing dramatically, the new workers will need higher qualifications to perform “the same job”.

A discussion meeting with some external stakeholders from the Limburg region last week supported the case for the OUNL. These organisations are actually "begging" for an independent and reputed institution such as the OUNL to assist them in assessing and developing the competences and qualifications of the regional workforce, especially with regard to workforce mobility.
There is a clear need in society for a lifelong learning infrastructure, but it seems to me that the initiatives are still rather fragmented, and that educational institutions are trying to pick up the challenge, but are not ready for it yet.

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