02 SES 06 A, Adult Learning and Careers: Challenges and risks
The growth of ‘free-lance’ and contract-based work internationally generates a need to understand how experiences of these forms of work contribute to or constrain personal and professional development, and how the learning of workers can be supported. The new Routledge volume by Bound, Sadik, Evans and Karmel (2018) - How Non-permanent Workers Learn and Develop - explores these experiences with particular reference to the Asian context and Singapore as an advanced developmental state. Research collaboration between the authors provides a platform for the future development of a new European-Asian analysis of the work and learning of free-lance and agency workers.
- How does the experience of free-lance and contract-based work in contrasting international contexts contribute to or constrain the learning of workers?
- How can the learning of non-permanent workers be supported and enhanced?
The theoretical framework:
At a theoretical level, Bauman (2005) shows how individuals are increasingly positioned to lead a ‘liquid life’. Expertise is deployed in relational and multifaceted ways, cutting across areas of specialisation. Workers develop multiple identities according to their positioning and their contributions to different work teams. Eraut (2004), moreover, argues that the situated learning perspectives stemming from Lave and Wenger (1991) are most valuable in understanding learning in stable work environments, but provide fewer intellectual resources to engage with the decentred nature of wok and expertise or the distributed nature of much learning.The concept of figured worlds hars assumed greater salience for understanding learning in and through work in the liquid life course. In occupations of all kinds, and at all levels, people come to figure who they are, through the worlds in which they participate and by how the ways in which they relate to others both within and beyond these worlds.
An emphasis on capabilities and life directions is apparent in the work and life negotiations of the liquid life course. Maintenance of internal points of reference and a continuous internal life appear important in navigating fluid work opportunities, but casualities of contract-based work are likely to occur where workers lose a sense of continuity and direction and are unable to access support that could help them. The literature on learning and reflexivity in figured worlds often acknowledges, but struggles to keep in view, the different types of knowledge (personal, procedural, ethical, propositional) that the contract-based worker draws on. The learning of free-lance and contract-based workers entails continuous multiple knowledge recontextualisations. This knowledge dimension is central to the exploration of the how the experiences of work can contribute to, constrict or undermine the learning of these workers. The paper shows how the Evans et al 'Putting Knowledge To Work' framework (2009) can be used to interrogate evidence of free-lance and contract-based workers experiences in contrasting settings. By focusing on the contextualised nature of learning,the recontextualisation of knowledge and the processes by which contract-based workers become knowledgeable practitioners (Evans 2013), the paper attempts to shed light on the practices that support and enhance learning in contrasting contexts in both European and Asian labour markets, as a point of departure for future comparative study.
This paper locates its exploration of the experiences of free-lance and contract-based workers in a literature-based review of connections between European Union and International Labour Organisation perspectives (see for example EC 2016; ILO 2016) on the growing prevalence of non-standard work and the challenges this presents in contrasting economies and societies. In particular, the limited attention to how non-permanent workers learn and develop is highlighted. Focusing on examples from particular sectors (including creative industries sector, and continuing education and training sector) the paper explores the question of how non-permanent workers learn and develop. The methodological approach draws on Ragin (1991)'s comparative sociological approach in aiming to develop an extended dialogue between ideas and evidence yielded by UK and European-Asian research into how working lives are sustained in contingent work. The paper connects findings from international level surveys in Europe and Asia (Brown, Lauder & Ashton 2011; ILO 2013; McKinsey 2016) to micro-level data yielded by participants experiencing particular forms of contingent work in Britain (see Evans et al 2009; Lahiff and Guile 2016 Taylor 2017) and Singapore (see Bound, Sadik, Evans and Karmel 2018). The paper gives particular attention to use of prior and new knowledge, how work-related networks and relationships are developed and how roles are negotiated. The ‘putting knowledge to work’ framework of Evans et al. (2009, 2011) is used as an analytic framework to explore how these workers use their knowledge and capabilities and how they think and feel their ways into occupational and social identities as they move between different sites of practice. By analysing the practices and conditions as well as the learning dispositions that support free lancers' and contract-based workers' learning and development, the research aims to identify fresh ways of thinking about what it means to become knowledgeable practitioners in the contexts of contingent and precarious work. Building on Cavanagh (2012) and Fenwick (2008) attention is given to the gendered aspects of these processes and practices..
In exploring how these workers become knowledgeable practitioners (Evans 2015), recontextualise multiple forms of knowledge and think and feel their ways into occupational and social identities as they move between different sites of practice, the paper shows how these processes are embedded in ‘bigger’ sets of relationships that mediate day-to-day work. Modes of industry engagement; professional, industry and workplace discourses; funding and industrial relations, the degree of industry susceptibility and the organisation and flow of production, along with workers’ own sense of agency, influence learning and professional development.
Bauman, Z. (2005) Liquid Life. Cambridge: Polity. Bound, H., Sadik, S., Evans, K., Karmel, A. (2018 in press) How Non-Permanent Workers Learn and Develop, Singapore: Routledge Brown, P., Lauder, H. & Ashton, D. (2011). The global auction: the broken promises of education, jobs and incomes. New York: Oxford University Press. Cavanagh, J. (2012). Auxiliary women workers in the legal sector. Journal of Vocational Education and Training. 64: 3, 245-259. European Commission. (2016). The new European consensus on development “our world, our dignity, our future”. Brussels: European Commission. Eraut, M. 2004. Informal Learning at Work Studies in Continuing Education, 26, 2 http://old.mofet.macam.ac.il/iun-archive/mechkar/pdf/InformalLearning.pdf. Accessed 30.1.2018. Evans, K. Guile, D. & Harris, J. (2009) Putting Knowledge to Work: The Exemplars. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1527268/ Evans, K. Guile, D and Harris J (2011) Rethinking Work-Based Learning for Education Professionals and Professionals who Educate. In The Sage Handbook of Workplace Learning London: Sage. Evans, K. (2015) Developing knowledgeable practice at work. In Elg, Mattias, Ellstom, Per-Erik, Klofsten, M., Tillmar, M. Sustainable Development in Organisations. London:Edward Elgar. Fenwick, T. (2008). Women’s Learning in Contract Work: Practicing Contradictions in Boundaryless Conditions. Vocations and Learning, 1(1), 11–2. Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D. and Cain, C. (1998) Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. International Labour Organisation. (2013). Non-standard forms of employment around the world.Geneva: ILO. Lahiff, A. and Guile, D. (2016) It’s not like a normal 9 to 5!’: the learning journeys of media production apprentices in distributed working conditions. 68, 3 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13636820.2016.1201846 International Labour Organisation. (2016). Non-standard forms of employment around the world.Geneva: ILO. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press. McKinsey Global Institute. (2016). Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy. https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/independent-work-choice-necessity-and-the-gig-economy Ragin, C.(1991) The Problem of Balancing Discourse On Cases and Variables in Comparative Social Science. International Journal Comparative Sociology, 32, 1, 1–8. Taylor, M. (2017). Good work: The Taylor review of modern working practices. . https://doi.org/10.1080/0140511012008938.
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