Swiss on-the-job trainers: their multiple ways to fulfil the function.

Besozzi, Roberta (2017) Swiss on-the-job trainers: their multiple ways to fulfil the function. In: JVET Conference, Oxford. (Unpublished)

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In Switzerland, vocational education and training (VET), and in particular the dual system, is the most frequently chosen path for young people leaving lower-secondary education. This system is based on alternating periods of learning and work in school and at the workplace. In this Swiss dual-track VET programmes, a specific population plays a key role in the training process of apprentices and occupies a pivotal position, participating both in the training and in the production sphere: on-the-job trainers. However, there have been very few studies of this group. On the theoretical level, this contribution refers to the sociology of work, in particular theories about changes in work, professional identity and commitment to work and it aims to shed light on the impact of changes in the current working context on on-the-job trainers’ trajectories and on how they deal with them. More precisely, it aims to study how on-the-job trainers talk about their experiences and to analyze the impact of changes in work on this issue. This paper draws on a PhD thesis focused on on-the-job trainers’ trajectories in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and carried out within a broader research project (Projet FNS100017_153323). This study uses qualitative methods and data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with on-the-job trainers (N=80) and focus groups (N=4) were organized with future on-the-job trainers (N=28) working in companies of different sizes from a variety of sectors. Our preliminary results highlight the variety of ways in which on-the-job trainers develop their duties according to their professional identity and their commitment to work. Some demonstrate strong professional identity and engagement at work, which they want to transmit to their apprentices. Others also have a strong professional identity, but it is used to help them to endure their difficult working conditions. In these situations, the on-the-job trainers’ position offers them some room for manoeuvre. Finally, some trainers are committed to their work without necessarily having a strong professional identity. Becoming on-the-job trainers seems a way to find a new sense of meaning for them. These first lines of analysis offer an opportunity to think about what this position means to the on-the-job trainers and the impact of changes in the current working context on their experiences.

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