01 SES 15 B, Beyond the Classroom: Veterans, Adults and Workplace Learning
Workplace learning is intended to be the result of learning that is embedded in day-to-day work.
The research questions are related to the way different forms of adult and continuing education can be managed and how embedded learning and related components can support career development and, to certain extent, personal growth through learning devices designed and activated by organisations. This is something we have been investigated on in a 12-year longitudinal study within public and private organisations, the social economy sector by using a mixed method approach.
In our research perspective embedded learning is anchored in work processes, in project-based or embedded in team working, in job positions, in relations and business procedures. We learn through work tasks, from colleagues and work mentors, from external providers, through trials and errors, by solving challenges, by changing job positions, through continuing training employers can provide. This is because organisations are systems of people and goods aimed at the production of services and the creation of value. Here knowledge lets you know which service to produce, how to produce it, who to distribute it to and how to distribute it. This is what enables any organisation to work.
The wealth of knowledge an organisation has is not the sum of the wealth of each individual who is part of it. Not all the knowledge individuals possess has a use value for an organisation and, therefore, not all of it enters or will ever enter to be part of its cognitive system. Organisation itself can be considered a person whose own knowledge is different from the individuals who are part of it. This means that each of the elements that compose the “containers” of knowledge” (physical capital, organizational structures, routine, individuals, relations) generates learning activities not as an object of teaching, but because it contains knowledge and because the mere fact of entering into a relationship with it generates learning processes through learning actions of a different nature and form. A business, an institution exists as a result of the technological and innovation progress that is produced internally by its own activity. This is because innovation and growth come from things people do, also in their daily work through the use of organisations containers. It can be better understood only by adopting interpretative measures different to those of formal education. In this new perspective where production and learning are strictly connected, growth of businesses and institutions are deemed as an endogeneous process that is produced by productive agents themselves, differently depending on their roles and position. Organisations are places where informal learning processes takes place and need to be intentionally managed as they provide good environments for understanding problems and creating knowledge. They are just as important to the new economy as are those conducting scientific research.
Public and private adult and continuing education policies are required to reinforce the workplaces learning potential by acting on all the key organisations factors that create it and contribute to reinforce the employee transformative learning value proposition (ETLVP): job content, career prospects, benefits, a sense of belonging and the learning culture in job environments as well as in job contracts. These factors have direct impact on the learning value proposition (EVP) that any workplace offers to employees. The “value” offered consists in learning opportunities, both structured or not, which are directly produced by the factors identified.
The issue faced in the paper is the kind of learning opportunities that are embedded in the workplaces and how they can be managed in order for them to be a learning value for employees and employers.
Methods used in the research are both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative data were collected in a longitudinal study lasting 12 years. Data were collected in an ad hoc inter-relational database containing more than 1.000 inputs related to the different learning activities designed and managed for different manufacturing businesses (luxury and sports goods) and institutions (regional and local governments, museums, libraries, prisons). Data are related to the number of participants, the distribution of participants and participations among different kinds of learning activities, the kind of learning activities employees participated in over a certain period of time, and so forth. Qualitative methods were used mainly referred to the following: interviews, focus groups, brainstorming, participant and non-participant observations. They were taken to different levels of organisation players: the strategic ones in order to support them in defining learning actions impacting on organisational learning systems and strategies, the managerial ones in order to define learning devices and services addressed to different targets of employees (blue-collars, white-collars, executives, chief executive officers, managing directors) and teams (project teams and high potential teams). Qualitative methods supported in analysing and interpreting the huge amount of data collected as to define the kinds of learning actions implemented in organisations, the different aims, the results and impacts achieved in terms of innovation and transformations produced both at organisational and individual levels.
In the embedded learning perspective learning action is at a more complex level as it is not merely connected to the transmission of knowledge produced elsewhere and defined by others outside the organisation. Learning action is something that accompanies the whole process of using the available knowledge resources any organisation has in order to reach its organisational learning outcomes. There is no separation between research, technology, production, management, on the contrary learning works on their synergies and on processes that make knowledge evolve in strict connection to the services and products organisations deliver and produce. Normally learning is part of the productive processes, is embedded into them as it accompanies them all the time on a regular basis. Embedded learning is anywhere in the organisations. The challenge for the educational research is to investigate on how to intentionally manage productive processes and relations both from the employees and employers perspectives, the first ones is not a student but is an adult involved in productive processes, the latter ones are responsible for creating a working environment conducive to learning, beyond formal and non formal learning offer.
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