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Develop, Evaluate and Safe Knowledge - Knowledge Continuity in Vocational Education
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Aug 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The new workplace of VET-teachers has changed their roles and their relationships with learners. As a consequence their professional identity has shifted from institute-based and teaching-focused to a much more learner-oriented delivery of topics in diverse environments. Initiatives to improve nat. VET-systems have occurred in the light of globalization of economy and culture and the shift in balance from blue- to white-collar work. Research indicates changes in employment patterns; the way organizations work together; and the working knowledge and capacities required by knowledge workers. At the same time ageing has become a matter for policy debate as impacts of demographic change will be significant when they happen in times when labour shortages are emerging. Thus it’s not surprising that governments are encouraging a reversal of early retirement trends and are looking for strategies to increase participation of older workers. The benefits of keeping them in the workforce are obvious. They have critical knowledge developed by experience and are a primary resource in organisations. Studies show that “mature workers are highly productive, familiar with the organization’s products and the way in which the systems work. In contrast, younger employees have less experience and more effort must be expended on training and then retaining them” (see BMBF, Auswirkungen des dem. Wandels auf die berufl.Ausbildung, 2009). This drive to extend working life and retain the knowledge to support competitiveness has grown globally and is reflected in reports emanating from agencies such as the OECD, the EU (Commission Communication, 2012) as well as almost all 27 national EU governments. Future competitiveness will rest partly on the abilities and productivity of ageing workforce and, as a consequence, on the effective utilisation of older workers and the retention of their knowledge. From EU-labour force data it is clear that the education industry itself is one which is quite affected by the ageing phenomenon. The median age for workers in European VET-education is 44 and the proportion of them over 50 is just over 30%; but some have higher proportion, i.e. Germany with 47% of teachers over 50 (see European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2013). Thus VET-organisations soon will face a staffing crisis. Especially in times of great demand for highly skilled teachers, there is a risk that the stock of knowledge in learning principles and educational theory will be lost as teachers with good industry and teaching experience resign. Talented staff with both industry credibility and teaching experience are difficult to recruit and even harder to retain. With the confidence and experience gained in the VET-system they are attracted by opportunities in the private sector and tend not to stay. Nevertheless there exist no processes or tools exist for VET-institutions to retain knowledge and many VET-organisations are about to experience knowledge loss as a result of employee retirement or change. The DESK project increases the awareness educational managers need to determine what critical knowledge is and that they are likely to lose it in the near future. As the DESK project is intended to produce not only results feasible for one specific national VET-System the consortium was created with the idea to assemble a mix of complementary organisations with profiles, experience and expertise to deliver concepts and tools that can be applied to a variety of European VET-systems. Therefore partners were selected from 4 different national VET-systems (Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Bulgaria) with different concepts of vocational education and different economic situations. Additionally not only vocational schools were incorporated as partners but also teacher-training organizations with contacts to local ministries to safeguard scientific method and potential implementation in national policy initiatives. As a result of the project strategies, and handbook and tools-box will be developed to ensure that organizations are able to retain knowledge, can set up environments and activities to facilitate the active exchange of knowledge from those who are willing to share it with those who are eager to apply it.

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