Got an education, why work?

educación para el trabajo

In recent days, I found a writing —quite interesting, by the way— that proposed the need to train students in business cooperation projects from basic educational levels and to provide them with the respective assistance and monitoring in this process at higher levels. Thus I have come up with the following reflection.

Wage labor —as we knew it in past decades, where the factory or company was the main source of employment and development in territories— is a phenomenon tending to disappear globally. This does not mean that this type of work has ceased to exist, but technological development and the economy’s financial mechanisms reshaped the geopolitical and socioeconomic map of labor in general and work training in particular. This map makes us critically review educational paths at all levels, with special emphasis on higher education, regarding training for self-management work, association, cooperative work, employee ownership or companies in the social economy sector, as suggested by Myriam Matray and Jacques Poisat, Howard Richards, Pablo Guerra, Paul Singer, José Luis Coraggio, René Ramírez, Manfred Max Neff, among many others.

From universities, students and faculty should be involved in theoretical and practical educational processes from the field of renewable energies —such as the Universidad Nacional de San Luis, in Argentina—, community medicine, family farming, sustainable buildings or professional cooperatives —such as the Cooperative of Veterinary Doctors and Zootechnicians of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry at the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia—. Declarative knowledge should always be complemented by procedural knowledge and know-how, from a holistic view of knowledge and wholeness, in addition to being embodied in real collective projects that fall within social economy and demand skills for responsible production, equitable distribution and ethical consumption.

Here lies the importance of self-management, entrepreneurship, employee ownership and other cooperation and dialogue-based initiatives that aim at job creation, community benefits, income for members and, therefore, territorial development. In this regard, I agree with the proposals of the researchers of the article called “Entrepreneurship as a basis for the creation of employee-owned companies: An instrument for social innovation”, published in Cooperativismo & Desarrollo journal, especially because they promote the creation of cooperatives and employee-owned companies at the state level by organizing virtual networks as a platform for teachers at all levels.

These instruments of social innovation certainly require new thoughts, various challenges, and transforming learnings that we will be experiencing with advances and setbacks in the new paradigms of knowledge, where participation and self-management are much more than concepts of a program: they are the necessary components for a fairer, more social and more supportive world.

Claudia Álvarez

Educator and researcher. Master’s in Social Economy from the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento and PhD Candidate in Geography at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina.