01-04 DECEMBER 1999
Joensuu / Finland

18th eucen Conference | Changing Work and Education Needs
The 18th eucen European Conference was hosted by Continuing Education Centre University of Joensuu (FI) in December 1999.

The main theme of the seminar was: What kind of work-related social change is in progress, and what does it mean for education?

The changing requirements for skills in occupations nowadays pose a constant challenge to continuing education. The nature of employment has become increasingly project-like in its nature, and work contracts are now frequently either short-term or part-time. Such changes are continuous, and the acquisition of new knowledge and new skills is continuously necessary. A major breakthrough in information technology has occurred, which in the course of the next few decades will mean changes in most occupations. Such changes are also becoming visible in terms of the impact of such developments on actual workplaces and in the growing number of new applications of the new technology. At the same time, the efficient use of automation has reduced the labour-force needed to perform routine tasks, and in the future new jobs will continuously emerge especially in the sectors of high technology and specialised skills.

It is clear that unemployment has become a long-term feature of Western societies, though the nature of unemployment itself has also changed. Although it has affected the academically-educated sector of the population less than others, in some academic fields unemployment has been alarming and occasionally at a very high level. It can further be noted that the employment of the older population group has also weakened considerably.

Work-related change has made a significant impact on the structure of society. The large question remains still open as to what institutions and what kind of culture can be developed to respond to the present social structure (Allardt 1997). An important part of this problem is the question of the relationship that should exist between basic education and the requirements of society, though the same searching question also needs to be applied to the role to be played by continuing education. To what extent can education—and especially continuing education—serve the needs of working life, and what kind of force for change should education itself be in society?

As far as continuing education is concerned, we have to be fully aware of the changes in the workplace. So how can educational institutions remain aware of ongoing changes and conditions, and how can such changes be properly responded to in educational terms?