02 SES 10 A, The Contribution of Methodologies to VET Research
The reality of an ageing Europe has been recognised by the European Union, and the challenge of maintaining active participation has been one of the focus areas of recent OECD reports (OECD 2012, OECD 2013, OECD 2014). National governments in European and OECD countries are concerned about how to deal with rapidly aging populations. The global share of population aged 60 years or over is predicted to double, reaching more than 20 per cent by 2050 (United Nations 2013). In many European countries, this level has already been reached, and is expected to increase further. This development represents an array of economic and social challenges.
Increased life expectancy should also be regarded as a triumph and a potential asset, provided that societies are able to ensure a healthy and active ageing. While politicians are concerned about funding pensions, others are interested in the continued active participation of senior employees (aged 55 to 67). One of OECD’s recommendations (2013) to improve the employability of older workers is to ensure a high level of learning throughout their working career i.e. lifelong learning.
In this paper we outline the design of a new project examining the relationship between learning and employment of older workers. We address the issue of the ageing European workforce by examining the relationship between education or learning and the active participation of older adults in the work force. One concept, which has been used to study learning at different times and in different places, is the concept of the learning trajectory. This concept has its origins in practice-based studies largely within the sociocultural perspective of learning (Billett 2001). This perspective moves the focus away from measuring formal education, towards gaining an understanding of the progressive development of the knowledge and skills of individuals or groups in changing contexts.
The aim is to describe and discuss how to approach this field in a novel methodological way. Suggesting a mixed method approach to explore and analyse learning trajectories of late career employees, we outline a design aiming to better understand how the working environment might influence decisions to continue working, or to retire early. While the idea of this study is not new (Lahn 2003, Mayhem & Rijkers 2004, Philipson & Smith 2005, Gries et al 2009, Hanushek et al 2011, Desjardins & Warnke 2012), we do however combine new data in a novel way (cf. Tashakkori & Teddlie 2003, Antonacopoulou 2006, Creswell & Clark 2007).
Our research question is as follows: How may we examine if and how learning in the workplace may be one way to improve the lot of older employees, and to increase the number of those who continue to make an active contribution to the workforce?
By describing how to carry out both quantitative and qualitative studies, we will discuss how to identify the forms and trajectories of learning that are most conducive to the employment of older adults with an aim to explore whether there are gaps or weaknesses in current national policies in this area.
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