Accueil » 54-1 ( 1999) » Mutations du travail et nouveau modèle de qualification/formation

Mutations du travail et nouveau modèle de qualification/formation

Colette Bernier

Résumé

Ce texte questionne la thèse aujourd'hui dominante d'une tendance à la requalification du travail. Il resitue d'abord le débat théorique entre la thèse de la déqualification et celle de la requalification du travail en montrant comment toutes deux présentent le même problème à savoir une vision linéaire et uniforme de l'évolution des qualifications. Il démontre ensuite qu'actuellement, la question ne se pose plus tant en termes d'évolution qu'en termes de rupture par rapport au modèle taylorien/fordien d'organisation du travail et appelle donc un changement de paradigme. Sur cette base, l'auteure reprend des données d'études de cas effectuées sur une quinzaine d'années dans le secteur tertiaire pour se demander si se met en place un nouveau modèle de qualification/formation. Les données récentes permettent de voir un nouveau modèle en train d'émerger dans certains secteurs. Ce modèle met de l'avant une organisation basée sur la polyvalence des emplois faisant appel à de nouveaux savoirs et donnant une importance certaine à la formation. Pourtant, ce modèle n'est pas synonyme d'une requalification générale dans ces secteurs où se dessinent plutôt des mouvements opposés de déqualification/requalification qui s'appliquent différemment aux personnels en place. En conclusion, l'auteure appelle à sortir de l'entreprise pour analyser les restructurations actuelles du travail à la lumière des mutations tout aussi importantes du marché de l'emploi qui ont nom l'exclusion et la précarisation.

Abstract

The 1990s saw a proliferation of studies on "workplace innovations." This article seeks to examine the implications of these innovations. Indeed, although it is now undeniable that workplaces are changing at a breathtaking pace, thereby calling into question the principles of Taylorist work organization, can it therefore be concluded that there is a trend towards generalized job reskilling? This paper takes up the debate around this issue. More particularly, is it legitimate to speak of a general evolutionary trend, either towards job reskilling or job deskilling?

This question leads us to challenge "optimistic" and "pessimistic" arguments, both of which presume a linear trend in the evolution of skills, by putting forward the idea of a change in the model of qualification. We show that there was a paradigm shift in the early 1990s. In fact, the 1970s and 1980s debate on the evolution of skills in terms of deskilling and reskilling was replaced, in the early 1990s, by a debate about the change in the model of qualification. Rather than approaching the question in terms of evolution, it is now addressed in terms of a break, that is, a break between the Taylorist model of qualification and a new model for which there is no shortage of names. But whether we call it a "competences" model or an "occupational skills" model, most studies stress a range of aspects that might make it possible to define the emerging new model of qualification as post-Taylorist. However, is it really the case that there is a general trend towards job reskilling?

In the first part of this article, the theoretical debate on qualification is set out. It is shown that the terms of this debate shifted from a discussion of the "evolution" to that of a "break" in the model of qualification. We will see how a certain number of theories or arguments have recently contributed to broadening the debate about this concept. Thus, the article is constructed around the hypothesis that a new model of qualification and training is emerging in some job sectors in Quebec. This new model contrasts with the Taylorist model which, on the basis of fragmented jobs, produced an artificial System of seniority-based promotion. The new model promotes work organization based on multiskilling, which requires new knowledge and gives new importance to training ; in some cases, classifications and promotions are based on skills rather than the position held.

After defining this "new model," a number of studies carried out over the last fifteen years by the author on skills and training in firms in the Quebec service sector will be presented, and the ongoing trends in this sector will be described. Although a new model of qualification and training emerged from the case studies, we show that, instead of a general process of reskilling, what is occurring is a dual process of deskilling/reskilling, depending on the personnel involved. For example, a detalled study of the training courses given by firms in the financial sector leads us to question what is behind the term "innovation," as it applies to training. Although it can be maintained that the training courses currently being implemented are really "innovations" compared to the traditional "Taylorist" model of training, it is still not clear that all jobs can be restructured to the point where they would truly qualify as reskilled and enriched positions. Thus, bringing the deskilling/reskilling processes to the fore allows us to challenge the currently prevalling thesis about job reskilling. However, the way in which these processes are established remains to be specified. Do we revert to the theory of a polarization of skills, which widens the gap between skilled and unskilled jobs? To conclude, we argue that the evolution of the labour market needs to be considered in the analysis of the evolution of skills. In fact, although a process of reskilling is clearly occurring in some areas of employment, it must be linked to other processes in the job market which are just as important. Indeed, alongside the process of reskilling, a process of deskilling is also occurring, a process that might eventually just throw part of the workforce out of the job market, disqualifying them. Thus, the analysis of trends in qualification can no longer be limited to the analysis of workplace transformations only. If sociological analysis is to focus on the transformations of work and skills as a total « break » from the Fordist model of regulation, it must go beyond the firm and make the link with labour market transformations in order to take into account the growing part of the population who are unemployed or have precarious jobs. Only then will sociologists be able to provide a realistic picture of the current transformation of work and evolution of skills which, we believe, cannot be characterized as a simple process of job reskilling.

In fact, job security, which was at the core of the Fordist model, is being increasingly challenged in the current period. This is occurring first in firms, through job restructuring. Sociological research should therefore concentrate more on what we call "the hidden face of multiskilling," i.e., the redistribution of skills among different groups of workers. Analysis should never conflate multiskilling, or even the new forms of work organization, with job reskilling. In fact, in the end, multiskilling often translates into a deskilling for less qualified employees, resulting in a pure and simple rejection by the labour market. This suggests that the current situation of the labour market requires us to return to and deepen earlier analyses of skill polarization (Braverman, 1976; Freyssenet, 1977) and labour market segmentation (Piore and Doeringer, 1980; Edwards, Reich and Gordon, 1975). To this end, it seems that we should go beyond analyses that seek to juxtapose case studies focused on restructuring solely at the level of the firm. Research needs to be undertaken that situates case studies in the broader context of industry-level analyses which take job market transformations into account. We also need to begin longitudinal studies that take long-term transformations into account, which is the only way we will ever be in a position to fully understand the wider implications of the current restructuring of work and skills.

Resumen

Este texto mete en duda la tesis actualmente popular de la tendencia a la recalificaciòn del trabajo. Situa en primer piano el debate teòrico en cuanto a la descalificaciòn del trabajo y a la recalificaciòn del trabajo demostrando que ambas representan la misma problemâtica, una vision linear y uniforme de la evaluaciòn de las calificaciones. Después demuestra que actualmente, la situaciòn no se présenta en términos de evoluciòn sino en términos de una ruptura del modelo tayloriano / fordiano de la organizaciòn del trabajo y llamado un cambio de paradigma. Sobre esta base, el autor toma los datos de estudios efectuados sobre quince anos en el sector terciario para analizar la posibilidad del establecimiento de una nueva estructura de calificaciòn / formaciòn. Los datos recientes permiten de ver un nuevo modelo que esta surgiendo en ciertos sectores. Este modelo ponen en primer piano una organizaciòn basada sobre la polivalencia de los empleos que requieren nuevos conocimientos y que traen como consecuencia una importancia marcada sobre la formaciòn. Sin embrago este modelo no es sinònimo de recalificaciòn gènerai en estos sectores en donde movimientos opuestos de recalificaciòn y descalificaciòn se encuentran y se aplican a el personal de los dichos sectores. En conclusion, el autor recomienda salir de la empresa para analizar las reestructuraciones actuales del trabajo a la luz de las mutaciones tan importantes del mercado del trabajo, la exclusion y la precarisaciòn.