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Training and workforce transformation in the European steel industry: questions for public policy

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The Lisbon process is aimed at laying the foundation for a dynamic, flexible and inclusive European Union (EU) economy. It is within this context, amid wider processes of restructuring and 'modernization', that traditional industries, such as steel, are engaged in transforming their skill base and creating a more diverse workforce. In this process, corporate management has a decisive role in reshaping the steel workforce, in the process exploiting the intersections between different aspects of policy. Our contention in this article is that EU policy prescriptions for transformation, aimed at fostering social cohesion and inclusion, are undone by corporate management strategies. In turn, national policy (on vocational education and training, for example) struggles to influence historically entrenched practices that operate at the sector level (such as on training and learning), which leaves some workers vulnerable to industry restructuring processes and at risk of social exclusion. Hence companies are able to restructure on their own terms, with workers' representatives seemingly unable to intervene in effective ways. The analysis that follows thus focuses on the tensions between national and supra-national policy making in the EU, and, within this context, sector policy and practice and the role of corporate management in shaping work and employment.
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Keywords: European Union; European steel industry; Europeanization; employment policy; social exclusion; vocational education and training; workforce transformation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Cardiff University, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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