The meeting agenda drew in part on the Mondragon cooperative experience as the world’s largest workers cooperative and experiment in collective ownership and democratic governance. Situated in the northern Basque region, Mondragon, in its present embodiment of Fr. José María Arizmendiarrieta’s pioneering ideas of the 1950s, exemplifies the ethical conduct that businesses can choose to adopt when their ultimate rationale is not determined by shareholders external to the company for whom profit is the bottom line, but by their own employees-owners, all of whom have a stake in the success of the company.
IFCU participated in the seminar with a presentation titled The Technological Transformation in Work and Higher Education: A New Era and focused on how artificial intelligence and other developing technologies are transforming the demand for skills on the part of companies and employers. One of the crucial questions highlighted was that of whether the world will adapt to the 4th industrial revolution and mainly progress as a result, as it has with the previous three, or the unprecedented pace of change that characterizes this upheaval will prove irreparably disruptive for the lives of countless unskilled and skilled workers. At stake mainly are jobs that will be lost to automation and robotization, and the increasingly unforeseeable changes in the demand for skills on the labor markets of tomorrow. This broad landscape raises daunting challenges for institutions of higher education, which may well have to renounce their time-old institutional identity to become mere dispensers of whatever training is needed in the workplace at a given moment.