Convergence and fragmentation? vocational training within the European Union

Peter Scott, M. Kelleher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed renewed debate over the applicability of theories concerning what, if any, general developmental trends exist within and between national economies. This article analyses this resurgence, utilising the example of trends within European vocational education and training (VET) systems as a microcosm. There has been considerable discussion in the near past about whether and to what extent convergence is detectable within European VET. Much of this debate has been dominated by ducationalists and others, most of whom have tended-not unnaturally-to focus on issues connected with the supply of trained labour, to perceive a common need across Europe for an increased quantity of qualified labour, and to investigate the degree to which similarity can be detected in different systems' responses to this need. By contrast, writers working within two other academic disciplines, geography and industrial sociology (and the latter discipline's acolytes within management studies) have tended to place greater emphasis on factors concerned with the demand throughout Europe for trained labour. These disciplines have been more concerned to stress the importance of patterns of industrial location, technology usage, and the organisation of work on the need for personnel of different levels of skill and qualification. Geographers have highlighted the role of spatial variations, while industrial sociologists have drawn attention to the importance of organisational and cross-national variations affecting the organisation of work and, thus, demand for qualified labour of assorted types. Integration of the latter two 'demand side' perspectives was given a considerable boost by the publication of Piore and Sabel's (1984) influential The Second Industrial Divide, which attempted to combine such standpoints in an explanation of the sources feeding the strength of so called subnational 'industrial districts'. This article is written from the perspective of industrial sociology and aims to begin to integrate the varying perspectives of educationalists, geography and industrial sociology in a critical evaluation of pan-European trends in VET systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-481
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Education
Volume31
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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