Thursday, November 10, 2011

First year apprentices' experiences in the workplace - report now out

The official output from the Ako Aotearoa National project funded "Belonging, becoming and being:First year apprentices' experiences in the workplace" now available on the Ako Aotearoa website.  This project began early 2010 with focus groups and interviews carried out mostly in the middle of 2010 with first year apprentices, pre-trade students and discontinued apprentices.  First year apprentices interviewed were re-contacted at the beginning of this year to find out how they were progressing and the few who had discontinued were then also interviewed.  In all 251 apprentices/students participated with 56 first year apprentices and 34 discontinued apprentices interviewed.  My thanks to all of these apprentices and the Industry training organisations (ITOs) for their support. The seven ITOs, presented various sectors of industry with the AgITO for the primary sector, the Building and construction - BCITO for infrastructure, NZ Marine, Competenz and Joinery ITO for manufacturing and Hairdressing ITO and hospitality standards institute representing the services sector. Apprentices were dairy farm trainees, Gateway students on building sites, building apprentices, boat building and marine engineering apprentices, fitting/turning, fabrication and refrigeration engineering apprentices, joinery apprentices, glazing apprentices, hairdressing apprentices, front of house trainees and cookery apprentices. So some diversity and a wide range of workplaces from small one employer, one apprentice, to large factories employing hundreds and training dozens of apprentices.

The project was an ideal one for me, incorporating and building on some of my learning from my PhD and extending my research skills with a larger cohort of research participants and amount of data. The data collected was extremely rich and much of the raw data was collated into individual reports for each ITO.  Each ITO had developed systems suited to the context they worked in, with many meeting the needs of their apprentices and their employers. As always, there is room to learn and some ITOs had very good practices that could be worthwhile sharing across to other ITOs,

The final report is largely a consolidation of the many themes emerging from the data. The main ones are 'common sense' but are crucial in helping apprentices make sure they have made a studied choice of occupation, settle into the workplace learning environment and maintain resilience and motivation to complete their qualifications. For in completing an apprenticeship, many opportunities for future career development and individual achievement are then made available.

My thanks to Ako Aotearoa for supporting this project as it has provided apprentices with an opportunity to voice their perspectives. The apprenticeship journey is viewed by many as being a 'rite of passage' and for many young people, it is an exciting and rewarding experience. However, for some, workplace and occupational mismatch mean that they discontinue. One interesting finding has been how people who are really interested in an occupation display persistence in trying to meet their 'vocational imagination' goals. So although some discontinue as apprentices, they still maintain connections with the trade either by enrolment in a full-time training programme or by obtaining work in another workplace. Helping people to 'become what they want to become' is an important outcome of this project. As the Chinese saying goes "Choose a job you like, and you never have to work a day in your life" :)

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