32 SES 16, Bounded Agency in Workplace Learning – A Comparative View
The medium-sized organisations in the metal cutting/machinery sector studied are producers for global markets and occupy different positions in transnational value-chain. Given the competitive pressure from low-wage countries, SMEs need to innovate and move upwards the value-chains in order to stay competitive. Innovative SMEs in manufacturing thereby turn into a key factor for sustainable employment growth in the EU with particular importance for some regions e.g. the Basque country. The study of manufacturing had provided the very foundations of workplace learning as a field of investigation (Ashton, 2002; Billett, 2011; Ellstrom, 2011), with innovation as particularly important topic (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995, Lorenz and Lundvall, 2006)). Innovative SMEs’ workforce needs to attune to rapidly changing and constantly raising skill demands driven by technological integration. Day-to-day workplace learning in multi-skilled teams is key. Solving non-anticipated problems on site or after delivery of products to customers is a frequent and demanding learning exercise. Furthermore, for particular challenges, organisations need to resort to continuing formal and non-formal education for their workers. Moreover, in the metal and machinery sector, new forms of dual apprenticeship have been introduced in many countries. Early career workers personal accounts from two Basque and two Bulgarian SMEs were analysed on how they experienced day-to-day workplace learning and how they have personally integrated informal and formal learning in their learning journeys. Demonstrated individual agency of early career workers in workplace learning has been studied parallel to the four organisations’ principles for organising work and the deliberately chosen approaches for supporting learning of early careers workers.
Ashton, David (2002). The dynamics of workplace learning: the role of work organizations. In: Evans, Karen; Hodkinson, Phil and Unwin, Lorna (eds). Working to learn - transforming learning in the workplace. London: Kogan Page, pp. 149-162. Billett, Stephen (ed.) (2011). Subjectivity, self and personal agency in learning through and for work. London: Sage. Ellstrom, Per-Erik (ed.) (2011). Informal Learning at Work: Conditions, Processes and Logics. London: Sage. Lorenz, Edward and Lundvall, Bengt-Ake (eds) (2006). How Europe’s Economies Learn: Coordinating Competing Models. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nonaka, Ikujirō and Takeuchi, Hirotaka (1995). The knowledge-creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
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