Workforce development, higher education and productive systems

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Workforce development partnerships between higher education institutions and employers involve distinctive social and technical dynamics that differ from dominant higher education practices in the UK. The New Labour government encouraged such partnerships in England, including through the use of funding that aimed to stimulate reform to institutional processes and build capacity. In the broader policy context, greater workforce development activity had the objective of supporting national skills policy targets and increasing industrial productivity. In this article, the notion of the productive system is used to identify factors influencing the outcomes of this policy, using three models of the production of higher education provision. Attention is paid both to the structure in which these productive processes are situated, and the stages that result in new higher education programmes. To evaluate the sustainability of the productive systems, the development of mutual interests between participants is examined, in addition to the norms that structure culture and relationships and the distribution of power and influence. The role of the institution in respect of the employer and the student is also addressed, with reference to uncertainty regarding the value of workforce development provision in economic and political contexts of perpetual change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-431
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • higher education
  • productive systems
  • skills
  • workforce development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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