Globalization, technological innovations and organisational development have a deep influence on the labour market. The need for professionalism in modern society means that the traditional roles of education are altered. On the job-training is no longer enough for those who want to improve their competence.
Workers are expected to be highly skilled. Not only with regard to basic literacy and numeric competencies, but at all levels they are expected to be able to solve problems and create ways to improve their performance in a flexible, adaptive, innovative, self-directed and self-motivated way, and take responsibility for their decisions.
Learning in work may be put in perspective of the new production of knowledge and the new work order; this deals with a contextualized trouble-shooting capacity. The locally produced and negotiated knowledge has a greater validity than the commonly adopted and accepted knowledge of science. The contextualized trouble-shooting capacity implies that two different forms of knowledge are interacting. On one hand the general and generative knowledge, on the other hand the practical, unique and individual.
A central concept in the debate about vocational and professional education on one hand, and learning at work on the other, is competence. With regard to the assessment of individual competence development, the concept implies a distinction between two approaches: (a) competence as a potential for application in different situations and under different circumstances, and (b) competent behaviour in a specific situation. A contextualized learning is a critical component in the development of competence.