In today’s fasting changing world, every country needs to be sure that its workforce has the right skills for the market; every employer needs to be sure that its employees have the right set of skills to remain competitive; and every adult needs to keep updating and expanding his or her skills in order to remain employable and to play a full part in society[1].

These are the words of the Education and Training Working Group on Adult Learning which has published its survey on adult learning in the workplace; an interesting report full of tips for thought the changes in the work system.

“There is no one-size-fits-all formula for promoting and developing adult learning in the workplace,” the document goes on to say, “as this is an area that involves various types of policies with different objectives. Each national context is different, insofar as the division of responsibilities between education providers, employers and employees are different or the providers of funding for adult learning in the workplace are different. Needs also change from country to country: is there a need for informal skills upgrading or learning to lead to a formal qualification? Are there specific target groups with specific skills needs? Or is there a need to offer training that is generally accessible to everyone?”

These words made me think of two things belonging to two different worlds: Jurij Gagarin and YouTubers.

It is certainly a risky comparison, but Jurij Gagarin graduated as a metalworker, not as an astrophysicist; he did not follow a structured course of study aimed at what he would later become: the first man in history to orbit our planet. Yet, unlike his fellow adventurers, Gagarin acquired a degree from Zhukovsky’s Academy of Aeronautical Engineering in the field throuth the experience and pratice.

And the same, with all due reshuffling, also applies for example to YouTubers.

The Youtuber does not attend a specific school to learn the skills and abilities to do his ‘job’, but s/he needs to understand video-audio editing, he must know the market, navigate between riech, like and followers (words unknown only 15 years ago, but daily bread for today’s kids), s/he has to set up stories and know the secrets of persuasion … s/he must have communication skills, have something beautiful and – perhaps – useful to tell, knowing how to do it. These are all things that s/he doesn’t learn directly at school but rapresent essential skills for navigating this working world.

This is generally true for all jobs, especially those in the ’emerging ‘ Cultural and Creative Industries sector; a sector that I define as ’emerging ‘ only because it is still struggling to find its formal place in the vocational training repertoires, but whose core activities generated more than €55 billion in direct revenue in 2018 and €160 billion in indirect revenue due to tourism and other services (cfr.i.e. report IO1 P4CA project).

I ask to myself if this is  thanks to Work-Based Learning, and I answer that there is no university or school that completely prepares someone for a job that does not yet exist, a job that you may create yourself, a profession that you will not know how to define until it has gone out.

I wonder if there is a place where you can learn what Butera called – paraphrasing his text Il castello e la rete[2] – the pro-activity in work contexts, that ability to engage and feel involved in a process that is constantly changing under our hands; to develop that confidence in one’s “meta-cognitions” that can make us face with courage and creativity any challenge the times put before us. As I write these words, I am thinking about how artists, creatives, musicians and museums have had to rethink themselves over the past year, how new solutions have been found and experimented with.

Adult learning in the workplace that responds to the demands of individuals, employers and society must therefore become a strategic priority, as demonstrated by the two European projects Learn to Create (L2C) and Partnership for Creative Apprenticeship (P4CA), which look at the world of Work-Based Learning while focusing on the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) sector, which still struggles to fully experience this dimension due to a number of limitations that the projects investigate and attempt to overcome through targeted products and actions.

Two projects that represent two interesting point of view on this topic and, in part, anticipate the indications given by the ET 2020 working group, including:

  • encouraging employers to adopt a culture of lifelong learning
  • ensuring that adult workplace learning leads learners to a lifelong learning pathway (and is supported by systems of guidance and validation of prior learning); and
  • ensure effective coordination between all stakeholders and agree on roles and responsibilities;
  • inform about adult learning in the workplace using the language of those who need to be encouraged;
  • Ensure that adult learning in the workplace meets the needs of employers;
  • Ensure the quality of adult learning in the workplace.

In addition, these partnerships look to European indications to encourage apprenticeships in the sector that needs them most – the arts – but which struggles more than others to achieve them because of the very characteristics highlighted in the reports:

  • individual and micro enterprise dimension,
  • job insecurity
  • the passionate as well as technical dimension of work
  • propensity for seasonality
  • difficulties in economic sustainability

Moreover, the projects show that the connections between apprenticeship/WBL and entrepreneurship are often minimal or non-existent. Being an employee/intern for a certain number of years (characteristic of the apprenticeship contract) is a critical factor for the “conscious” start-up of a business: this type of contract, generally, does not foster an entrepreneurial mindset. But, the turning point for a new and more professional apprenticeship could come from the Cultural and Creative Industries: these are small companies with a small number of employees, the apprentice/steward will necessarily have to work alongside the entrepreneur in almost all their professional tasks, thus acquiring a more entrepreneurial approach and less of an employee in the workplace, thus becoming that ‘proactive’ professional described and hoped for by Butera for the future of our labour market.

[1], p. 6.

[2] F.Butera, Il castello e la rete. Impresa, organizzazioni e professioni nell’Europa degli anni ’90, 1990.