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Enhancing learning at work

Alexander Braddell (2007) in Learning through work: developmental on-the-job learning as a vehicle to widen participation in workplace learning outlines a system for the NHS of on-the-job learning integrated with participative people management that has the potential to deliver genuinely developmental learning, focused on the information processing and communication skills needed for effective management of work activity. Such a system is aligned to organisational business objectives and can impact positively on individual and collective performance and could become the driving force of a more inclusive learning culture within the NHS and beyond.

Chris Robinson (2000) in New directions in Australia’s skill formation: Lifelong learning is the key is typical of this genre in outlining the forces shaping skills' requirements and the skills that will be needed in the future, but also quotes the findings of a literature review by Waterhouse et al. (1999) that in future much greater emphasis should be given to 'the need to develop learning communities, rather than just focussing on the education and training of individuals; the need to develop collective learning, stressing group competencies, skills and knowledge, rather than persisting solely with the conventional focus of education and training systems on the individual; the need to develop more strategic and effective approaches to workplace learning' (Robinson, 2000, p. 5, emphases in the original). Reference is to: Waterhouse, P, Wilson, B & Ewer, P 1999, The changing nature and patterns of work and implications for VET, review of research series, National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Adelaide.

Michael Eraut (2006) argues in Modes of Workplace Learning and the Factors that Affect it that the following attributes need to be considered in the development of a learning culture at work:

  • Confidence and trust in managers and colleagues
  • Mutual learning and support
  • Giving and receiving feedback without blame
  • Learning from experiences, positive and negative, at both group and individual level
  • Learning from colleagues, clients and visitors
  • Locating and using relevant knowledge from outside sources
  • Attention to the emotional dimension of work
  • Shared learning purposes aligned with the organisational strategy and not weakened by conflicting aspects of that strategy
  • Discussing and reviewing learning opportunities, their appropriateness and their use
  • Reviewing work processes and opportunities for quality improvement.
Institutional support for enhancing learning at work: example of German chambers

The following video-clip highlights how in Germany the chambers of craft and trade play a key role and can be considered an important partner in supporting the development of workplace learning. The Dusseldorf chamber of craft and trade is the biggest institution of its type in Germany with a membership of forty-seven thousand companies. Like other German chambers of craft and trade, it has three main tasks. The first task is to represent the interests of its members at political, state and local levels. The second task is to act as a regional centre for the administration of the intermediate and final ‘mastercraftsman’ exams. The third task is to provide further training for the employees and employers of its member companies. This training can lead towards the 'mastercraftsman' qualification or towards other qualifications in specific skills areas e.g. technicial, commercial or presentation.