The Knowledge Revolution

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Never before in world history has increasing personal knowledge assumed such importance for most members of the workforce. Why? Because even as you read this, rapid technological changes are making more jobs obsolete.

In 1970, the personal computer (PC) did not exist. By 1995, 100 million PCs were in use worldwide. The rise of quality, teams, empowerment, critical thinking, and an endless list of new training perspectives is being relentlessly pushed forward. As old occupations fade, new jobs are being created by this all pervasive technological revolution.

Brains over brawn means that lifelong education is here to stay for United States workers. Many of them will experience job obsolescence throughout their careers no matter what occupation they choose. How United States business and educational institutions address this phenomenon will be a critical factor in determining whether the year 2000 and beyond will also be another "American century."



How will future trainers and educators of adults in the workplace address this great challenge? To begin finding answers to this question, it is helpful to review how training and development evolved in the United States and is now shaping the future of work-force education.

THE EVOLUTION OF TRAINING Early Craft Training-European Origins (Before 1820)

Early America did not invent the concept of specific training for each individual craft or trade. In ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, and Rome the astounding architectural and masonry works of craftspeople were embodied in their pyramids, temples, forums, aqueducts, and amphitheaters.

Because literacy was limited, the skills and knowledge of stone-masons, brick masons, and carpenters were transmitted mainly through direct instruction. However, from surviving records we know that scribes (writers) and priests were trained in temple schools that used written instruction.

During the European high Middle Ages (twelfth to fifteenth centuries) craft, trade, merchant, and university professor guilds established specific training experiences. This helped ensure that individual work met established standards of quality. The great cathedrals of medieval Europe stand as a dramatic testimony to the success of this early training system. Over a period of only several hundred years (1100-1350), the majority of these enormous buildings were constructed by these craftspeople using the most primitive tools and machinery.

The early universities of Europe (Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, Bologna, Florence) also trained teachers through a specific apprenticeship program. Each guild (arts, medicine, law, philosophy) established the criteria for specific levels of scholarship. The B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. signified a license to teach as a "master" or a "doctor" as detailed by the regulations established by each discipline's guild. These were the early origins of the modern university.

Colonial America adapted this apprenticeship system from Europe. This guild system was a precursor of the modern union movement. It carefully regulated members' conditions, tools, wages, and, most importantly, the training process of each student.

At the top of this work hierarchy was the fully trained master. He had many years of experience. Through the local guild, he enforced professional craft quality standards and regulated the training of new workers. He supplied the tools and materials and managed his shop. Apprentices, who lived with the master, learned their trade by passing through prescribed stages of training. If successful, they became journeymen traveling from town to town, receiving a fixed wage for their labors. Some remained in their master's shop to gain the requisite knowledge and take their final craft examination. If the journeyman passed the guild's examination, he became a master craftsman and was entitled to set up his own shop. Modern Germany continues to use a formal craft training program as part of its "dual educational system."

The apprenticeship system never worked well in early America because of a severe shortage of skilled labor. Colonial America was largely an agrarian economy based on small farms. There were few large cities. Most manufactured goods were imported from Europe. As a result the majority of potential workers were never employed as tradesmen but were either farmers or associated with the shipping trade.

The characteristics of the master-apprentice-journeyman craft system made it a very close-knit work team (see Figure 1.1). Apprentices were often viewed by masters as sons. Though the technologies employed were meager and simple, this working-by-doing learning approach required a very long-term commitment. The training program was geared to the individual artisan's craft needs and expectations. Employee motivation was critical to the success or failure of the entire training system.

The Industrial Revolution (1820-1914)

By 1820 the Industrial Revolution was well under way in America. An average of seventy-seven patents was issued each year prior to 1810. By 1860 Yankee ingenuity had raised the annual average to more than 4,500.

Industrialization required training for specific tasks. The pattern of stable, lifelong occupations began to change. Work was not home-based but became focused on larger, depersonalized organizations that were usually established in growing urban areas.

Between 1820 and the outbreak of World War I (1914), factory schools were established to supplant the apprenticeship system. Hoe and Company, a manufacturer of printing presses founded in 1872, established one of the first factory schools to train machinists. As the nineteenth century advanced, available machinists often proved incapable of operating more complex technology. Until that time most machinists had relied on rule-of-thumb methods and had neither the mathematical nor the technical knowledge required to make precision parts.

Factory schools were established by Westinghouse (1888), General Electric (1901), International Harvester (1907), Western Electric (then part of AT&T), Ford, National Cash Register, and many other manufacturers. They provided specific task education within the emerging modern business organization.

This early industrial period was driven by a workforce of largely unskilled machine operators. Both unskilled and skilled workers were viewed as a variable cost. Worker employment fluctuated with market demands. The overall educational opportunities available to most Americans were extremely limited. Private schools were dominant until the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1910 Henry Ford introduced assembly line manufacturing based on Frederick Taylor's principles of scientific management. The assembly line system consisted of small divisions of labor and machine work, thus reducing the need for skilled workers. An individual tightened a specific bolt rather than assembling a complete product. Workers were not required to think, learn, adapt, or solve problems-only to endlessly perform mechanically simple tasks.
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