Framing 'competencies' for a 'New Work Order': the textual practice of 'competence' in times of change

Year: 1996

Author: Farrell, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper tells a story about the framing of 'competence', 'competencies', and the performance indicators which are taken to be realisations of these competencies, in one industrial context. It explores two questions:

1. What textual practices are taken to signify 'competence' in this industry?
2. How have they been shaped?

The focus of this paper is on the textile, clothing and footwear industry, an industry reeling under massive tariff cuts and under pressure to use training programs to facilitate a profound and wide ranging restructure. The industry faces a clear dilemma in attempting to derive relevant 'competencies' from outdated work practices when new work practices are yet to emerge. This dilemma is complicated by the historically diverse workforce drawn primarily from two groups: new migrants and women. The textual practices used by these groups to accomplish their work are not necessarily understood by those developing 'competencies' and performance indicators. In addition, in an industry where 'restructuring' inevitably leads to significant job losses, everyone has an interest in decisions about which textual practices are reified as 'competencies' and which are defined as deficits. The paper draws on 'work in progress'- an ARC funded project on the Textual Practice of 'competence' in the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry.