In what ways does the workplace influence trainee learning?

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In a time when skills shortages are in the forefront of Australia’s training agenda this thesis involved a mixed mode study entitled: “In what Ways Does the Workplace influence Trainee Learning?” Over the last ten to fifteen years a significant amount of government funding has been diverted from Australia’s public vocational education provider to encourage the growth of private providers including employer-based providers and community providers. The aim of this agenda included facilitating work-based learning as a legitimate alternative to conventional forms of institutional provision. As a result government funding cuts had a flow on effect for trainees includes a reduction in delivery costs (time) and increased reporting costs both of which impact on teaching and learning. With this trend to delivering training and assessment in the workplace the area that was explored in this thesis is how the workplace influences trainee learning. The thesis arises from the problem that while there are various theories about workplace learning there was a significant gap in the understanding of ‘in what way’ and ‘how’ trainee learning was being influenced by the workplace. The research investigated on-the-job learning in order to understand how ‘the learning’ was being influenced by the practices and culture that exist within the workplace systems and/or under the influence of the supervisor. The research design consisted of a case study approach in conjunction with qualitative (interviews) and a quantitative (semi-structured questionnaire). This thesis was informed by data collected from the following main sources: document searches; a semi-structured cross-section questionnaire (for 70 trainees; 20 teachers/trainers and 10 workplace supervisors) and interviews from three case study worksites, a public RTO; a medium sized security organization and an online group buying organization. The selected traineeships involved learning in the context of Business Services Training Package BSB07 – specifically Certificate III and IV levels in Business Administration and Technology and Customer Contact. The data collected indicated a major disconnect between the requirements as set down by traineeship legislation and current practices. It also highlighted a significant disconnect between the various interpretations and expectations (by key stakeholders) as to what constitute workplace learning for trainees. The thesis makes an important contribution to the telling of the stories of those struggling to undertake training and the barriers and lack of support they experience. It is a modest study of three case studies that provides a lens to expose issues and challenges in the workplace learning for these business sector trainees.
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