Occupational training and further education for sustainable economizing 

Research report 1/2010

The specific forms in the area of »vocational training« were examined in a research project of HILL-AMC Management based on an inventory of the institutional framework conditions concerning the topic »education for sustainable development«. This was done on the one hand via statements of important national experts as representatives of sustainable missions as well as also the educational system in a further sense (therefore their target groups) and on the other hand via a company survey (representatives of consumers after training and qualifications, »the economy«).  

In the change of time  

In this philosophical term (content) propedeutic there is a wide range from a (latent) sustainability term of the Ancient world as homoeostatic world model over the political, ecological etc. slumps and eruptions of a history of ideas of the late antiquity, the intellectual and social consolidation function of Christianity up to the high Middle Ages, the formation of dialectics of subjective freedom and the constraints of the political  order authority in the spheres of capitalistic economy and modern state up to the destruction of the  connotation of labour and sustainability in H. Arendts transition from the »Homo faber« to the »Animal laborans« as a figure that bursts all »human« thresholds of linear productive processes and consumption; in order to ultimately – after uncovering the various approaches of eco-ethics – flow into a recourse founded by the system theory of Luhmann and the cybernetics to sustainability as new knowledge modus, in which »labour« as such is no longer categorised, but systems of self regularization of network points related to each other could replace the antagonistic charges within the society and between society and nature.  

In this new knowledge modus the acquisition of knowledge, education, and the application of this could constitute human occupation in a possibly completely modified political economic framework.  

In the empirical field  

Increasing need tendencies and priorities for social competences can also be found in the occupational training and further education towards inherence and technological market primate in »green-job-qualifications«. Accordingly there is actually – this is the core result of our work – sufficient proof in the empiricism elaborated here that seems to follow the inevitable progression of humanities and knowledge society: approaches to an elaborate cataloguing respectively offer-based enforcing and promotion of particular occupations with technical sustainability implications are regarded more sceptical in company surveys and the expert interviews.  

Green Job Attribute   

The formation of a »green labour army« (as this poses to be policy claim in international examples e.g. Great Britain) or also ideas of an area-encompassing supplement of occupation all qualification on profiles with green job attributes seem to remain with our respondents* with the ideas and requirements of »sustainability« on the outside, or said differently: explicable qualification attributes of occupational application of eco-technologies are inherently expected by the primary educational systems and technological market mechanisms apparently generated over their self control powers to sufficient measure (nothing can be found in the way of the otherwise common complaint about the lack of technicians).  

Enforced thinking in such a direction apparently would remain linked to a linear model of industrial increase of work attributes in the sense of »knowledge and know how quantities« to an excessive extent (which then are subject to a fast obsolescence anyway). The conclusion is that in a serious recourse to the job-related implications of sustainability in economy and society the curricular particularization is lost in the longer term perspective respectively will decrease strongly and »offers of flexible orientation« in content and method will pose to be the mode of occupational formation adequate for the knowledge society (which is not equal to loss or abandonment of depth of disciplinary competences respectively their control, particularly in the educational levels after secondary school). The issue is more build up and maintenance of »knowledge ability« and less the increase of »knowledge quanta« – and this also especially in the domains of further education and requalification.  

In both empirical fields of our studies significantly more emphasis is laid on the acquisition and expansion of practical abilities under summarization »social competencies« in connection with the occupational requirements for the goals of „sustainable economizing“. This includes communication and team ability, cooperative decision making abilities, systemic thinking, the ability to learn from mistakes, prevention and risk estimation skills and other things.  

Education with sustainability  

In some in-depth interviews, »sustainable thinking« and values in connection with vocational training are perceived less functional in correct consequence, but also as personality-inherent ethical opinions and attitudes to be mediated, which must appear and prove themselves in concrete situations and interpersonal relations in work process. The topic of »credibility«, »modelling« in work relationships is frequently emphasized.  

Regarding the above mentioned social competencies shortcomings are located especially in the area of the dual system of the vocational training in Austria, respectively in the vocational schools, which involves the curriculum structures as well as the qualification of the vocational school teachers. This could be eliminated through purposeful measures of quality assurance and supervision by a system »teach the teachers«.  


*especially the company representatives from the greatly technologically characterized industry field of the sample