02 SES 09 B, The Contribution of on the Job Trainers
In Switzerland, VET is the pathway most followed by young people after compulsory education (SEFRI, 2013). The majority engages in the dual VET system, which combines periods of learning and work in school and work settings in companies. A direct consequence of the system is the strong tie relying it to the labour market (Hanhart, 2006). This tie takes several forms: a practice-oriented VET system (Hoeckel, Field, & Grubb, 2009); a central position of the companies within the system (SEFRI, 2013); a close confrontation of the apprentices to the production needs and an education oriented towards immediate “employability” (Masdonati, Lamamra, Gay-des-Combes, & De Puy, 2007). Although host companies play a decisive role in dual VET, not much research has been done on them and in particular little is known about those who play a key role in the learning process: on-the-job trainers (Mulder, 2013; Baumeler, Lamamra & Schweri, 2014).
This contribution will be focused on the role played by the on-the-job trainers in the professional socialization of learners. This process takes place at various levels: when learners enter the working environment, when they learn standards and codes applying to the occupation, and more generally when they become more accustomed to working life and employment. Through the analysis of VET-trainers’ everyday activity, their direct or indirect influence on the school-to-work transition process will also be questioned. The following questions will also be addressed: what kind of transitions does the dual system support (a smooth and guided one or a harsh and rough one)? What kind of socialization takes place during the VET experience (to an occupation, to work, to the labor market’s logics)? Which role does the on-the-job trainer play in these processes (socialization and transition)?
On the theoretical level, it must be first underlined that very few studies have been interested in on-the-job trainers function, in their everyday activity or in their pathways (Bahl, 2008, 2012; Barras, 2011; Capdevielle, 2013). This contribution is based on current studies on transition that point out the lengthening and complexification of the transition process (Bergman et al., 2011; Häfeli & Schellenberg, 2009; Masdonati, Lamamra, & Jordan, 2010). Based on this literature, it adopts two different definitions of transition. On the one hand, transition is considered as a process, which begins at the end of compulsory school and comes to an end when entering the labor market. On the other hand, it is seen as two thresholds: Transition 1, located between the end of compulsory school and vocational or general upper secondary education; Transition 2, between the end of upper secondary education and employment. Both definitions will be useful in the current contribution, on-the-job trainers having an influence on the whole process, but also more specifically on the two thresholds (selection and first socialization of the apprentices or socialization to the labour market logics, employability).
This contribution also refers to the issue of occupational socialization that is often related to VET programs and particularly its dual-track, considered as a site of occupational socialization and occupational identity construction (Dubar, 1996). This socialization integrates different aspects: socialization to an occupation, to work, to the labor market’s logics, etc. (Heinz et al., 1998; Kergoat, 2003; Moreau, 2003). In this perspective, VET system does not only prepare to a specific occupation (skills, language, tricks), but also familiarizes to the world of work (constraints, hierarchy, organization and division of work) and to the labor market’s logics (flexibility, profitability, production-oriented, etc.). The on-the-job trainer will also be the key person for this socialization process and in this way he or she represents a central resource for the transition process.
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