An increasing part of adult learning happens at the workplace. The Nordic network of learning at work LiA refers to the workplace as “the new classroom”. Since almost 80% of the Nordic population participate in working life, this is no small classroom. The idea of Nordic workplaces as a large learning arena, along with the rapid changes taking place in work, working life and the workplace, create significant challenges.
Some basic questions arise: How do we include people with low educational qualifications and those outside working life in the process? Who is responsible for organising cooperation between society, working life and the individual? Who will create a common learning culture for the education system and working life, and who can guarantee that the workplace will be seen as a natural learning arena? How can the “education system” and the “working life system” be made more compatible? How can resources allocated to learning and competence development be steered to the workplaces and to the people who need them most? How can ageing workers be included in competence development, and their competencies turned into a resource accessible to younger workers and the unemployed?
This issue of DialogWeb demonstrates with commendable clarity that answers to these questions can be found through close cooperation between the Nordic and Baltic countries. The entire geographical region might in a way be seen as a new, shared classroom, where our countries can learn from each other by presenting practical examples, research, and legislation.
One of the articles in this issue of DialogWeb tells us how immigrants are encouraged to study Swedish by combining language studies with practice placements: “these basic language skills acquired at an early stage form a springboard to future vocational studies and practical language use situations”, Erica Sahlin writes. Through a Danish example we learn that coaching at the workplace supports the development and learning process in ways that differ from mentoring and guidance. We also find out that coaching has at least one downside: instead of refusing a growing workload, the employee can hire a coach. A Finnish example deals with how silent knowledge can be made use of, while an Icelandic study shows that the population’s reading and writing habits are changing rapidly – both for the better and for the worse.
The articles about the Åland archipelago, Estonia and Lithuania show that learning at work should not be taken for granted. Many workplaces in sparsely populated areas only have one employee. This means that entrepreneurs and employees themselves have to see that they get the training they need – this is vital not only for the employee’s competence but also socially.
In the Baltic countries economic factors are a hinder to learning at work. How can you motivate employees to engage in teamwork and personal growth if they are uncertain about whether they will still have a job in a few months’ time? This is perhaps where the biggest challenge of all lies: How to encourage an individual to aspire to self-improvement, competence development and teamwork in spite of – and because of – an uncertain future and a constantly changing world?