Training Models for
by Karl Dehli
When we discuss training and education for women, a focus is often to imagine how women can obtain qualifications for access to non-traditional, professional or managerial occupations. A lot of effort has gone into changing the conditions that exclude women from such jobs, or that make it almost impossible for women to do non-traditional work with integrity and dignity.
The Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees (NKF) has tried for the past ten years to incorporate apprenticeship training models and apprenticeship regulations as a way of improving the working conditions, wages and opportunities for women at the lowest levels of public sector employment. The union's double agenda is to improve the wages and working conditions of women, and to make traditionally female occupations more attractive to young women. The union argues that the terms and conditions of employment must change to recognize jobs in health, education and social services as skilled work. Such recognition would require women to go through a more extensive and organized training and education program, which will so the union predicts provide them with a broader base of skills and knowledge's, and hence greater security and portability in the labor market.
The union's initiatives have met with mixed responses and varying successes among women who work in these sectors, among different unions and professional organizations that organize women workers, and among employers, most of whom are municipal or federal government agencies.
For those interested in the conditions, organization, and recognition of women's paid and unpaid work in Canada, the Norwegian apprenticeship proposals raise some provocative questions. Can a change in training programs and training requirements enhance the status, pay, and working conditions of a group confined to a segregated area of employment? What are the implications for the social relations among workers in these sectors as a whole, especially with regard to professional and occupational boundaries? Is an apprenticeship model suitable as training and education for so-called feminine occupations? And finally, what is a skill, what should count as skilled labour?