Are Skills the Answer?
This study of the problems confronting institutions for the creation of occupational skills in seven advanced industrialized countries contributes to two different areas of debate. The first is the study of the diversity of institutional forms taken by modern capitalism, and the difficulties currently surrounding the survival of that diversity. Most discussions of this theme analyse economic institutions and governance in general. The authors of this book are more specific, focusing on the key area of skill creation. The second theme is that of vocational education and training in its own right. While sharing the consensus that the advanced countries must secure competitive advantage in a global economy by developing highly skilled work-forces, the authors draw attention to certain awkward aspects of this approach that are often glossed over in general debate: The employment-generating power of improvements in skill levels is limited: employment policy cannot depend fully on education policies While the acquisition of skills has become a major public need, there is increasing dependence for their provision on individual firms, which can have no responsibility for general needs, with government action being restricted to residual care for the unemployed rather than contributing at the leading edge of advanced skills policy. The authors argue that public agencies must find new ways of working with the business sector, acquiring expertise and authority through such means as supporting skills standards and taking the lead in the certification of employers as trainers. There must also be reconsideration of the former role of public-service employment as a provider of secure if poorly paid employment for low-productivity workers. The countries covered are France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the USA.