The purpose of the SkillsREAL-project was to explore, how to best optimize the learning and competence potential of groups of adults at risk of marginalization from the labor market. The three target groups were young workers in school-work transition, migrants and older workers. The study was structured into four work-packages (WP2-WP5), each seeking to answer to the one of the four research questions underpinning it.
Goal 1 (WP2) was to explore relations between skills and participation in working life in Norway based on PIAAC-data analyses (register data was planned to be included, but was not available at the end). The main findings of the articles published so far are as follows:
-While older Norwegians scored in PIAAC well over the OECD average for their age group, younger Norwegians scored around the OECD average. Comparing these findings to ALL 2003, suggested a downward trend in numeracy proficiency for the younger generation, 16-34 years: in 2003 also this age group lay over the OECD average.
- The proportion of adults displaying poor basic skills has increased significantly between 2003 (ALL) and 2012 (PIAAC), both in the native-born population, and almost doubled in the foreign-born population. The increase had taken place in almost all age groups. Gender differences were significant in the foreign-born population. The relatively large investment in improving basic skills in Norway seems so far to have reaped negative returns.
Goal 2 (WP3) was to explore the role of skills in participation in learning, education and training in the Nordic countries (DK, FI, NO, SE). The analyses based on existing theories in adult education and human resources development on participation in lifelong learning (LLL) and were targeted to four groups of adults: low- and high-educated mature adults aged 45-65 years and young adults aged 25-44 years. Splitting the sample by education level, was made in order to control the effect of prior education, which commonly explains most of the variation in participation in LLL. The main preliminary findings so far are as follows:
-There were surprisingly large differences in the factors explaining the participation in LLL both in the in the four groups and across the Nordic countries.
-Basic skills were generally of little importance for participation, when other predictors were controlled for.
-Systematic differences were found across the countries in the four separate analyses and when comparing the explanatory power of the models in the four groups. The theories explained clearly better participation among low-educated than among high-educated. This was the case for both older and younger adults, but especially among younger, and significantly more so in Denmark and Finland than in Norway and Sweden.
- More nuanced hypotheses are called for to better understand participation in LLL of the four subpopulations of adults.
Goal 3 (WP4) was to investigate organization and enactment of learning experiences within workplaces. A qualitative study was carried out of 12 workplaces situated in a region of southwestern Norway, chosen based on their received recognition as offering ?best practice? regarding inclusion of vulnerable groups (challenged youth, immigrants, older workers). The theoretical approach built on perspectives in diversity management, sociology, pedagogy and critical theory. The main findings were as follows:
-?Best practice? workplaces are steered by strongly held perspectives and values. Tensions between business aims and more personal altruistic motives are resolved in various ways. The core activity of the workplace is upheld but enhanced by employment of vulnerable groups. For individuals, particularly immigrants, personal struggles within the national macro context influence their assimilation into the Norwegian model of workplace organization.
- The concept of equality was a key value in all workplaces, yet practices and discourses were inclusive, assimilating, and exclusive. The broad concept of equality allows for both essentializing and empowering approaches to diversity, which in turn gives legitimacy to a variation of practices. We still find that some workers are more equal than others.
-Seven values were identified in workplaces valuing work with diversity. In order to create cultures of learning for all groups of employees in workplaces, a persistent work with values and an effort to challenge cultural stereotypes will be needed.
Goal 4 (WP5) was to identify and analyze best practice and innovative solutions for optimizing the working and learning capacities through technology-supported provisions of adult education. The qualitative data was collected from public and private enterprises. Preliminary findings suggest that the role of technology in enhancing adult learning in the workplace is still overrated, learning efforts being poorly managed by people, who do not have the pedagogical knowledge of how to promote adult learning.
The point of departure for the project Skills development for realizing the workforce competence reserve (SkillsREAL)(2014-2017) is the situation in which shortage of labour and competence reserve not in use exist in parallel. The purpose of the study is to explore, how to best optimize the learning and competence potential of groups of adults at risk of labor exclusion, outside the labour force or underemployed. Complex relationships between adult skills, characteristics and attitudes (as measured by OEC D's PIAAC study), adult participation in learning activities and in the labour market (register data) will be explored. The project objectives are: (i) to investigate the relationships between adult skills, characteristics and attitudes and participation /non-participation in working life; (ii) to investigate and compare the relationships between adult skills, characteristics and attitudes in regards their participation/non-participation in learning activities in different contexts across the Nordic count ries; (iii) to investigate how organization and enactment of (non-formal, informal, formal) learning experiences within workplaces, can optimally promote learning and working potential among adults; (iv) to identify, develop, implement, and analyze best practice and innovative solutions for optimizing the working and learning capacities in the target groups through innovative pedagogical use of new technology in adult education provisions. SkillsREAL employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. The project leader is the University College Stord/Haugesund (HSH) (project management). Partners are the University of Stavanger (UiS), and the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), supported by an international Scientific Advisory Board wit h experts in research adult education from Sweden, Finland and Australia.