University of Leicester
Thesis Kath Atkinson.pdf (3.09 MB)

Does the concept of expansive-restrictive learning fit knowledge workers aged over 50? An examination of selected features and high-end knowledge workers in a UK public sector organisation.

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posted on 2015-11-06, 15:41 authored by Katherine Jane Atkinson
Due to changing demographics, improving health in later life, removal of a retirement age and increases in state pension age, older people (50+) are a growing phenomenon in the labour market. Consequently organisations and governments increasingly need to understand how to approach the development of older workers. Previous research reveals a variety of results regarding learning undertaken and attitudes towards learning. The ‘expansive-restrictive framework’ facilitates learning opportunities regardless of age, experience or market sector. It encourages, inter alia, formal courses and qualification acquisition. These features are challenged using a largely quantitative study of IT engineers in a UK pubic sector organisation. Results showed older workers found learning and variety essential. Both participative and acquisitive learning were valued, although courses rated lower than reading or the internet. Older respondents did not shun qualifications per se, several were working towards one, but they did not consider them that important. They would not pursue extra study to obtain a qualification - unless the additional work was directly relevant to their role. Therefore encouraging courses and qualification acquisition, as recommended by the framework, runs counter to the preferences and activities of the older workers studied. The thesis enhances understanding of the workplace learning of older workers in the high-end knowledge economy and UK public sector. It also adds to the few examples of quantitative analysis of participative learning. Finally, it shows the expansive-restrictive framework is not suitable for the older workers examined and suggests experience may be the cause rather than chronological age.



Beck, Vanessa; Goodwin, John

Date of award


Author affiliation

Centre for Labour Market Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DSocSci



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