Labour competence: emergence, analytical frameworks and institutional models

The concept of labour competence emerged in the 1980s in certain industrialized countries, particularly in those which were finding it difficult to link the training system to the needs of manufacturing industry. The problems experienced in these countries were not only quantitative; in fact they were mainly qualitative. The traditional systems of education and training did not correspond to the times. The response was the notion of labour competence, which takes an integral view of training, designing programmes to connect the world of work and society in general with the world of education and training. The same problems also arise in developing countries, where they are probably more serious and persistent, and where fewer resources are available for education. In these countries a system of labour competence would appear to be an attractive way of moving training and education in a direction that will achieve a better balance between the needs of individuals, firms and society in general. Before presenting it as a possible solution to the problems and challenges that developing countries, particularly in Latin America, face in terms of training, it is worth asking how labour competence is linked to world trends in competitivity, productivity and innovation, as well as to workers' expectations at enterprise level. Other fundamental questions are: what methodological and institutional models of competence are already being applied and what are their respective advantages and disadvantages? Without pretending to an exhaustive analysis of the subject nor the presentation of definite conclusions, the aim of the present study is to contribute to the debate by commenting on the characteristics of labour competence and evaluating its effect on the labour market.

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