02 SES 09 B, New Technology Development in VET
The paper focuses on how to optimize working and learning capacities and educational provisions in organisations through technology-supported provisions of adult education. The aim is to explore the decision-making behind a choice for a particular technology solution over others, and to identify and understand goals and motives in enterprises for taking them in use.
The study is part of a large research project, Skills development for realizing the workforce competence reserve (2014-2017) (SkillsREAL), financed by the Norwegian Research Council. The locus of this study is western Norway, a region highly dependent on oil and gas industry, with long history of full employment – indeed, labour shortage – albeit with education level significantly lower than the national average. The drop in oil price and consequent downturn in the sub-contracting industry has started to affect also other industries and sectors in the region. Hence, unemployment in the region is increasing rapidly, and both public and private sector are facing big, “new” challenges. The situation well known in most other European countries, with much more tight economies for a long time, has reached in particular this region in Norway: there is a simultaneous pressure in enterprises to be more effective at a lower cost and continually update and develop the competence of their workforce to be able to meet new standards and demands. New measures are called for and high hopes are set on harnessing new technology to this end.
While the use of advanced technology in the enterprises is already high, also for skills development, in this paper we are interested in their goals and motives for innovative use of technology-enhanced lifelong learning (TELL). Competence needs and challenges vary in organisations. We seek to understand the decision making process in terms of goals and motives for TELL and to identify arguments for choosing one specific technology solution over others. There is an abundance of literature on the role of learning and competence development in promoting innovation in enterprises, carried out in particular by economists (e.g. “learning economy” and doing-using-interacting (DUI-model) - e.g. Johnson, 2012; Lundvall & Lorenz, 2012; Nielsen & Lundvall, 2007). A recent review by Sutherland-Olsen (2015) revealed four central characteristics related to learning in innovative firms. The first one draws on Argyris and Schön (1978) and March (1991) and emphasise the importance of creating a learning environment where there is an acceptance for trial and error. There should also be room for exchange of feedback related to performance and this requires a culture open to experimentation. The second characteristic is dynamism and refers to the continuous individual and collective willingness to develop and adapt, whilst the third focuses on communication. In this context, it is important to work with communication equally between all the departments and levels in an organisation . The last characteristic is the continuous renewal of sector and firm specific knowledge. Accordingly, innovative firms find themselves in a continuous state of learning and development. The framework of learning and innovations will guide our study in regards technology-supported skills development in enterprises.
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