• Apprenticeship teaching in England: new practices, roles and professional formation for educators.

      Esmond, Bill; Centre of Educational Research and Innovation, University of Derby (2019-03-21)
      Whilst apprenticeships are generally supported by workplace trainers and by vocational teachers in schools or colleges, competency-based systems also allocate roles to third-party workplace assessors. Apprenticeship reforms in England, replacing qualification-based ‘frameworks’ with ‘employer-led standards’ have opened up possibilities for these assessors to carry out training duties, although these generally lack the qualifications and status of classroom-based teachers, having completed shorter courses in assessment and sometimes training practice. A qualitative study was carried out among practitioners who had begun to take on training responsibilities, exploring their emerging practices and identities. Participant responses varied in their apprehension of role change, partly because apprentices in more technical subjects would continue to study at colleges, whilst practice-based subjects would be entirely taught in the workplace. More generally, working within production constraints provided challenges implying not a minimal professional formation but a more direct engagement with the problems of educational practice within production environments.
    • Beyond comparative institutional analysis: a workplace turn in English TVET

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby (Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET), 2018-09-04)
      Vocational education analyses often compare national patterns seen to favour industry-based training, state schooling or personal investment in skills acquisition: these are increasingly offered as ‘templates’ to new and established industrial economies. Institutionalist scholarship has correspondingly foregrounded skill formation as key to national policy differences; in particular historical institutionalism has focused on the role of labour market and state actors in negotiating and contesting arrangements for skill formation. Whilst paying relatively little direct attention to educational practice, these approaches provide theoretical tools to understand policy differences and to identify possibilities, limitations and strategies for change. This paper draws on their application in England, where apprenticeship and technical education reforms are periodically represented as relocating skills formation to the point of production on the model of collectivist systems: case study data is examined for evidence of institutional change strategies within emerging educational practices. Whilst the absence of engaged labour market actors renders the adoption of a substantially different model improbable, contestation over knowledge, control and educational roles is nevertheless evident, indicating the deployment of strategies for significant change. Their outcomes will determine the availability of transitions, with a layering of selective opportunities threatening to diminish the opportunities available to others.
    • 'Bridging' the gap between VET and higher education: permeability or perpetuation?

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby (VETNET, 2019-09-22)
      Demands for admission to higher education from vocational routes are widespread across Eu-rope but take different forms, depending on the recognition of tertiary VET or whether sharp-er distinctions between VET and higher education exist. In England, alongside policies pro-moting more employer-responsive tertiary provision, opportunities for ‘bridging’ from voca-tional routes to general university education, and vice versa, have been discussed. The study reported here examined four cases of existing provision supporting transitions into higher edu-cation, potential sites of practices supporting bridging across pathways. Each case provided valued support for progression to higher levels of study; yet these practices focused on exist-ing routes rather than transitions between more academic or vocationally-oriented sites. It is suggested, therefore, that the explicit denotation of separate tertiary provision may be more likely to constrain ‘bridging’ provision than for the latter to help students move beyond their existing route into substantially different forms of higher education.
    • Continental selections? Institutional actors and market mechanisms in post-16 education in England

      Esmond, Bill; Centre of Educational Research and Innovation, University of Derby (Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), 2019-08-06)
      Recent policies for English technical and vocational education, centred on apprenticeship reforms and the Sainsbury Review, have prioritised employer-led curricula and learning in employment settings. These policies are represented in policy discourse as radical changes that imitate successful European systems, raising new issues about the possibilities and limitations of policy learning and policy borrowing. Useful insights are offered by comparative political economy, which has located skill formation within networks of complementary institutions that shape economic life, rendering problematic the notion of change in a single dimension such as skills. Relatedly, historical institutionalism explains skill formation both as an enduring institution but also as the product of specific historical conflicts over workplace training. Building on these theoretical conceptions, a series of qualitative case studies carried out at key points in the emergence of current skills policies is reviewed, which demonstrates how wider conflicts are reflected in a tension between selectivity and inclusion currently playing out in the implementation English skills policy. The findings indicate the possibility of further stratification in post-16 education, through the process that historical institutionalism describes as ‘layering’. However, possibilities for a more coherent relationship between educational practice and the workplace may also be derived from this analysis.
    • Emerging apprenticeship practitioner roles in England: conceptualising the subaltern educator

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby (Springer, 2019-10-26)
      TVET educator roles and identities vary internationally, and are subject to repositioning, for example as the relative significance of institutions and the workplace change within national systems. In English apprenticeships, a key position has long been occupied by competence assessors, whose non-teaching role has related uneasily to those of professional educators. Following the introduction of new apprenticeship standards, former assessors are increasingly being allocated training responsibilities, raising issues about the expertise, identities and professional formation both of these emerging practitioners and of vocational educators in general. A qualitative study of assessors who have assumed greater training responsibilities examined these issues through individual and small-group interviews. Participant accounts of diverse and contested practices and environments suggested a need to conceptualise their roles in ways that draw upon but go beyond accounts of professionalism and occupational expertise developed at earlier stages. Drawing on Gramsci, the concept of the subaltern educator is put forward to characterise the complex position of these staff in the current climate of further education, the need for enhanced, rather than diminished, professional formation and wider possibilities for professional enhancement at a time of uncertainty for all vocational educators.
    • Higher/degree apprenticeships and the diversification of transitions in England

      Esmond, Bill; Centre of Educational Research and Innovation, University of Derby (2019-03-21)
      The relationships between apprenticeship and higher education vary internationally: unlike countries whose apprenticeships and TVET offer tertiary vocational progression, post-school education in England is dominated by universities. Professional or technical additions to the higher education system have generally conformed to the norms of established universities. Apprenticeships at higher levels now contribute to moves to create a second tertiary pathway, with degree apprenticeships now offering both a work-based route and a qualification at bachelor level. Concerns about access and permeability between ‘technical’ and ‘academic’ routes provided the basis for a study of possibilities for ‘bridging’ between work-based and existing higher education provision. The four examples studied succeeded in their primary aim of supporting higher progression but were less effective in supporting permeability across these education pathways. A deeper recognition of the differences among students and their knowledge is suggested as a precondition of effective bridging between formal or implicit sectoral divides.
    • ‘I don’t make out how important it is or anything’: identity and identity formation by part-time higher education students in an English further education college.

      Esmond, Bill; Chesterfield College (Taylor & Francis, 2012-07-04)
      Policymakers in England have recently, in common with other Anglophone countries, encouraged the provision of higher education within vocational Further Education Colleges. Policy documents have emphasised the potential contribution of college-based students to widening participation: yet the same students contribute in turn to the difficulties of this provision. This article draws on a study of part-time higher education students in a college, a group whose perspectives, identities and voices have been particularly neglected by educational research. Respondents’ narratives of non-participation at 18 indicated the range of social and geographical constraints shaping their decisions and their aspirations beyond higher education; whilst they drew on vocational and adult traditions to legitimate college participation, their construction of identity was also shaped by the boundaries between further education and the university. These distinctive processes illustrate both possibilities and constraints for future higher education provision within colleges
    • More morphostasis than morphogenesis? The ‘dual professionalism’ of English Further Education workshop tutors

      Esmond, Bill; Wood, Hayley; University of Derby (Taylor and Francis, 2017-03-27)
      An international repositioning of vocational teachers in relation to knowledge and the workplace is reflected in English Further Education through the terminology of ‘dual professionalism’. Particularly in settings most closely linked to specific occupations, this discourse privileges occupational expertise that vocational educators bring from their former employment alongside pedagogic expectations of the teaching role. In a qualitative study of recently qualified teachers employed substantially in workshop settings, using the analytical framework of Margaret Archer, workplace skills and generic attributes provided a basis for claims to expertise, extending to a custodianship of former occupations. Further augmentation of educator roles, however, appeared constrained by market approaches to development and employment insecurity in the sector and beyond. In Archer’s terms, the current environment appears to cast ‘dual professionalism’ as morphostasis, drawing on former practice at the expense of teacher identity in the face of insecurity. Morphogenesis into enhanced professional teacher identities, for example, developing coherent vocational pedagogies informed by research into advances in knowledge, appears the less likely outcome in the current and emerging sector.
    • Part-time higher education in English colleges: Adult identities in diminishing spaces

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby (Taylor and Francis, 2016-01-21)
      Adult participation in higher education has frequently entailed mature students studying part time in lower-ranked institutions. In England, higher education policies have increasingly emphasised higher education provision in vocational further education colleges, settings which have extensive adult traditions but which mainly teach employment-based skills and are widely regarded as ‘outside’ higher education. This paper interrogates the significance of these dimensions of college higher education, through a qualitative study of identity formation by adult part-time students. Their accounts, developed through individual interviews and focus groups, emphasised the significance of work to their interpretations of higher education participation: these are compared here to a range of conceptualisations of identity that have been applied in relation to work organisations. This analysis indicates some of the ways in which pathways which adults may interpret as meaningful in terms of work-related identities may correspondingly be constrained by a narrow discourse of work-based skills and credentials.
    • Re-conceptualising VET: responses to covid-19

      Avis, James; Atkins, Liz; Esmond, Bill; McGrath, Simon; University of Derby; University of Nottingham (Taylor and Francis, 2020-12-30)
      The paper addresses the impact of Covid-19 on vocational education and training, seeking to discern the outline of possible directions for its future development within the debates about VET responses to the pandemic. The discussion is set in its socio-economic context, considering debates that engage with the social relations of care and neo-liberalism. The paper analyses discourses that have developed around VET across the world during the pandemic, illustrating both possible continuities and ruptures that may emerge in this field, as the health crisis becomes overshadowed in public policy by the prioritisation of economic recovery and social restoration. The paper concludes that, alongside the possibility of a narrowing of VET to its most prosaic aims and practices, the health crisis could also lead to a re-conceptualisation that develops its radical and emancipatory possibilities in both the global south and north.
    • Research methods teaching in vocational environments: developing critical engagement with knowledge?

      Gray, Claire; Turner, Rebecca; Sutton, Carole; Petersen, Carolyn; Stevens, Sebastian; Swain, Julie; Esmond, Bill; Schofield, Cathy; Thackeray, Demelza; University of Derby (Taylor Francis, 2015)
      Knowledge of research methods is regarded as crucial for the UK economy and workforce. However, research methods teaching is viewed as a challenging area for lecturers and students. The pedagogy of research methods teaching within universities has been noted as underdeveloped, with undergraduate students regularly expressing negative dispositions to the subject. These are challenges documented in university-based higher education (HE), yet little is known of the practices and pedagogies of research methods teaching in the college-based HE setting, where the delivery of HE has grown in prominence in recent years. Because college-based HE is widely regarded as primarily vocational, incorporating research methods into curricula may be seen as an additional level of complexity for staff to negotiate. In this article, we report on the data collected within a study to examine research methods teaching in social science disciplines on HE programmes taught in college-based settings in England. Drawing on data obtained from college-based HE lecturers and students, we discuss features of research methods teaching and how these may be applied with a diverse student body, within vocationally focused institutions. Issues of institutional culture, resourcing and staff development are also considered as these are identified as integral to the successful embedding of research methods teaching.
    • The role of education and training in the development of technical elites: work experience and vulnerability

      Esmond, Bill; Atkins, Liz; Suart, Rebecca; University of Derby (VETNET, 2019-09-19)
      Whilst education and training systems in Europe have provided qualifications preparing candidates for highly skilled, responsible occupational roles, early research indicated that firms preferred to promote to such positions internally. Following changes to labour markets, several countries now place greater emphasis on early workplace learning, in the hope that transitions to work will be eased by experience of workplace environments. The outcomes of these shifts were explored through case studies in England of provision where work-based learning provides a high level of course content. Whilst students and educators ascribed value to these early experiences, evidence emerged of a narrowing of skills taught in work settings and em-phasis on behaviours and attributes. This emphasis is reflected among disadvantaged groups such as young women preparing for service roles: this paper argues for attention to the vulnerabilities of these groups, whose exclusion contributes to the reproduction of ‘elite’ occupations.
    • ‘They get a qualification at the end of it, I think’: incidental workplace learning and technical education in England

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby; College of Education, University of Derby, Derby, UK (Taylor and Francis, 2017-10-20)
      Workplace learning is increasingly central to the international lifelong learning agenda but has made limited contributions to full-time vocational education in England during the last 30 years. A more central role is envisaged within the technical education proposed by the 2016 Sainsbury Review and Post-16 Skills Plan, with access to work placements dominating discussion of policy implementation. A multicase study of workplace learning among post-16 students in England on current ‘study programmes’ was mapped to four of the technical routes designated by the Sainsbury Review and Skills Plan, using documentary, observation and interview data. The study drew on theorisation of the workplace as the site of situated or incidental learning, whilst noting that its opportunities are differentially allocated according to organisational or personal differences, in ways that have particular implications for young people on placements. Whilst access to more advanced learning opportunities was secured through planned, collaborative approaches, reliance on incidental learning offered more routinised experiences to students less prepared for autonomous learning. The study indicates that questions of access, knowledge and pedagogy remain to be addressed if plans for ‘technical education’ in England are to provide meaningful learning opportunities and support transitions to fulfilling work.
    • VET realignment and the development of technical elites: learning at work in England

      Esmond, Bill; Atkins, Liz; University of Derby (European Research Network in Vocational Education and Training (VETNET), 2020-08-11)
      An enhanced role for work-based learning is advocated increasingly widely across industrialised countries and by international VET policies. However, this is framed differently in each country by long-term policy orientations that reflect VET’s relationship with wider economic and social formations. These national differences reflect path dependency but also distinctive responses to contemporary challenges such as globalisation. In England, recent reforms strengthening workplace learning are constrained by existing patterns of skill formation and may be shaped by further market liberalisation and divergence from social and economic policies in Europe. The study examined the relationship between greater emphasis on workplace learning in England and societal change, addressing the research question: how are early experiences of work in England, as part of young people’s full-time education programmes, positioning them for future employment? Case studies were organised around apparently distinctive placement types that had emerged from earlier studies. Using the constant comparative method, the team identified a series of categories to distinguish the way each type of work-based learning positioned students in a particular type of labour market transition. Evidence emerged of divergence in England’s ‘further education’ system, across mainly male ‘technical’ routes, young people on vocational courses preparing them for routine, low-skilled, precarious employment, and an area of greater uncertainty preparing young people for digital routes linked to the ‘new economy’. Key dimensions of difference included study locations, discourses of occupational status, types of valued learning content, approaches to socialisation, sources of expertise and processes of credentialisation. In each case, learning at work served to position students for a particular type of labour market transition, which we characterise as technical elite formation, welfare VET and new economy precarity. Approaches to workplace learning in England already reflect social distinctions but entail the possibility of reinforcing these, supporting a more hierarchical pattern of labour market transition. Whilst the upper strata of VET shift their purpose to support the formation of new ‘technical elites’, others face the possibility of further marginalisation. Such new inequalities could become central to a further fragmented society in a post-Brexit, post-COVID-19 Britain. Other European states facing challenges of globalisation and the transition to services are also likely to experience pressures for VET stratification, although they may seek less divisive solutions.
    • Vocational teachers and workplace learning: integrative, complementary and implicit accounts of boundary crossing

      Esmond, Bill; University of Derby (Taylor & Francis, 2020-05-25)
      Where young people’s upper-secondary education spans work and institutional domains, questions arise about learning across both spheres and its guidance. Theoretical accounts of ‘boundary crossing’ have explored how vocational teachers can integrate learning across domains by drawing on extended concepts and theoretical knowledge to solve workplace problems; whilst empirical accounts have validated the role of vocational educators by describing the workplace and schools as equally valid, complementary spheres. Different understandings, described here as ‘integrative’, ‘complementary’ and ‘implicit’, appear to reflect different national patterns of vocational education. The paper reports a qualitative study conducted around two case studies, located in Germany and England, of the way vocational teachers’ understandings of facilitating learning across domains are constructed. Vocational teachers working in Germany’s ‘dual training’ claimed to provide advanced knowledge that they compared to practical work skills, reflecting ‘implicit’ or ‘complementary’ approaches to learning across domains. Teachers in England, where workplace learning elements are more unevenly developed and lack institutional foundations, nevertheless described colleges and workplaces as distinctive, little-connected spheres. These differences suggest that teachers’ approaches are less shaped by the potential or necessity for ‘integrative’ approaches than by the way different systems enable or constrain their conceptualisation of ‘possible futures’.