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Affordance, agency and apprenticeship learning: a comparative study of small and large engineering firms
journal contributionposted on 2018-08-17, 09:25 authored by Dan Bishop
Amidst concerns over skills shortages, both the current British government and its coalition predecessors have, against the grain of wider austerity measures, invested heavily in the apprenticeship system. The majority of apprentices are, and have historically been, employed within small businesses. However, research suggests that, in the main, small firms tend to approach management issues – including workplace employee development – in a less formal way than their larger counterparts. What implications this has for apprentices and their workplace learning remains unclear. The article aims to address this gap, and it does so through a qualitative study of apprentices in three English engineering firms of different sizes. The findings broadly support the established picture of informal working and learning processes in the small firm. However, it is argued that this does not inevitably restrict apprentices’ on-the-job learning. Rather, the ways in which apprentices learn, and what they learn, are conditioned by the interaction – or ‘co-participation’ – between the opportunities afforded by the workplace, and the apprentice’s subjective agency.
This work was supported by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust under grant number SG120862
CitationResearch in Post-Compulsory Education, 2017, 22 (1), pp. 68-86
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)