The systematic development of human resources has for some time been an important consideration for national policy-makers throughout much of the developed world. It is reflected in the increased emphasis that is nowadays given to issues such as lifelong learning, equal opportunities, social inclusion, employability and what has come to be known as the knowledge economy. A recent White Paper published by the UK government is typical of the approach to human resource development that is now taken by policy-makers at a national level:
‘Successful modern economies are built on the abilities oftheir people. People are at the heart of the knowledge-driven economy. Their knowledge and skills are critical to the success of British business. People are the ultimate source of new ideas. In a fast moving world economy, skills must be continually upgraded or our competitiveness will decline’.(UK Government White Paper on Competitiveness, see Government, 1998, p. 28).