32 SES 16, Bounded Agency in Workplace Learning – A Comparative View
The retail sector ‘is one of the main entry gates to the labour market for young people and a re‐entry point for those who had left the labour market for personal reasons’ (Eurofound, 2012), employing roughly one in ten employees in the EU28. Notwithstanding the existence of rewarding, managerial careers, the retail sector provides mainly low-skilled jobs, with an increasing proportion of part-time and fixed-term jobs. Options for workplace learning, continuous education and further career development are often limited in overall low-wage positions (Carré, Tilly, Van Klaveren and Voss-Dahm, 2010). Only in some European countries (e.g. Germany), a large fraction of retail workers do hold a specific vocational qualification. While a fraction of (often highly qualified) young people see their employment in retail as transitory many others need to accommodate to the employment conditions in retail for longer stretches of time. For becoming more productive and using more complex socio-technical arrangements, the retail sector is partly changing its low skill profile, demanding more skilled and agile employees, making workplace learning a more vital issue for the organisations. Given retail’s role as a young people’s bridge into employment, it is particularly important that they can expand their skills and educational levels while working in the sector, either for leaving towards more promising sectors at a later stage or for changing career tracks within retail. This paper analyses the personal accounts on day-to-day workplace learning by 20 young workers from five large supermarket chains (two in Flanders and Estonia, one in Denmark). Young people’s perception on their learning are studied against the backdrop of the work organisation within the five supermarket chains and the deliberatively chosen practices to foster early career employees learning.
Carré, Françoise; Tilly, Chris; Van Klaveren, Maarten and Voss-Dahm, Dorothea (2010). Retail jobs in comparative perspective. In: Gautie, Jerome and Schmitt, John (eds). Low-wage work in the wealthy world, pp. 211-268. Eurofound (2012). Working conditions in the retail sector Dublin. Mrozowicki, Adam; Roosalu, Triin und Senčar, Tatiana Bajuk (2013). Precarious work in the retail sector in Estonia, Poland and Slovenia: trade union responses in a time of economic crisis. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, Vol. 19, No 2, S. 267-278. Roberts, Steven (2013). Gaining skills or just paying the bills? Workplace learning in low-level retail employment. Journal of Education and Work, Vol. 26, No 3, S. 267-290.
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