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Swedish industrial history is linked to education, professionalization

Published on September 19, 2023 by Lars-Erik Hansen

Translation from Swedish by Andreas Lindahl

During this year’s Swedish History Days in Umeå, a couple of lectures were held of great interest to anyone interested in Swedish industrialization in general and its connection to education in particular. Björn Hasselgren, from the Department of Economic History at Uppsala University, emphasized the interplay between the expansion of the Göta Canal in the first half of the 1800s and the expansion of the local ironworks. One synergy was that new technology was introduced and that the need for skilled labour increased. The engineer was thus needed not only to build the Göta Canal but also in the region’s growing ironworks industry. The road towards an increased need for skilled labour gained momentum, in this vein. It is not a coincidence that Teknologernas förening (Eng. the Association of Skilled Technicians), formed in 1855, came into being at this time, and which was a forerunner of the Svenska Teknologföreningen (Eng. the Association of Swedish Skilled Technicians) which was founded in 1861. It was the era of the engineer that was coming.

In another study presented by Umeå historians Lina and Fredrik Spjut, the emergence and development of parish or industrial schools was given an informed light. They were able to show that schools were often financed by the mills and that development was driven by the industry’s need for skilled labour. Increased demand for skilled labour became the starting point for teachers’ organization. Professions established themselves, a prerequisite for modern Sweden.

Author: Lars-Erik Hansen

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