02 SES 06 B, Workplace Learning: development of identity
Based on a current sociological research in VET schools, this presentation discusses what kinds of subjectivities retail clerk apprentices develop and how they position themselves within new “managerial” values and practices of flexibility, autonomy and creativity at work (Voss, 2002, Mercure, 2011, de Gaulejac, 2012, Du Gay, 1996).
Since the 1980s, and especially in the 90s in Switzerland, there has been a restructuring of the labor market in general, which profoundly changes the relationship of individuals to employment and occupation (Voss 2002). This is a general evolution of the labor world in recent decades, which is often referred to as the transition to a post-Fordist system of organization (Sallaz, 2015).
The VET is defined as an “arranged transition” from school education to the labour market (Chaix, 1993).Therefore, during their training, apprentices are familiarized with the economic rationales of the retail sector impacting on their working and learning experiences (Brockmann, 2013, Fuller, 2009). First, they have to stand intense working days (ex. standing most of the time, long days due to shop opening times, and multiple tasks) and flexible working times (ex. work plan changes every week). Second, they are not only perceived as apprentices expected to learn but also as productive and efficient workers, leading to an ambiguous position within the company (Cohen-Scali, 2003). Moreover, they are sometimes responsible for basic tasks and lack recognition of their capacities.
Apprentices’ discourses will be analyzed in regards to the different ways they experience the challenges and company’s expectations to fulfil demands of flexibility, autonomy, and will to professional development. Thus, beyond the companies’ expectations and the social norm of subjective involvement in work, we will reflect on the subjective place of creativity during VET education. Therefore, the notion of creativity at work (Oldham, 1996), and its place during the VET education is important. In a psycho-sociological perspective, creativity is not just finding an original way of “doing well” (Lhuilier, 2015), but rather a way of singularizing activities, and of subjectively appropriating activity and working context (various working interactions and tasks). Such subjective appropriation can be observed in three key domains: a) the interactions with clients and “esthetic” tasks, b) the working activities such as organizing and management task, c) the handling of interactions with colleagues and managers.
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