Commercial Vocational Education and Training: do learners want to develop specific professional competences for future career or do they expect to have a general training?

Boldrini, Elena and Marcionetti, Jenny and Guidotti, Sabrina and Bausch, Luca (2014) Commercial Vocational Education and Training: do learners want to develop specific professional competences for future career or do they expect to have a general training? In: Congresso SSRE 2014: competenza e prestazione nella ricerca in educazione., 23-25 giugno, Lucerna.

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The commercial Vocational Education and Training (VET) is the most frequently chosen VET track in Canton Ticino at the upper secondary level. In this field, two main tracks can be chosen: the apprenticeship with a combination of work-based and school-based segment and the full-time schools (Handelsmittelschulen-HMS). In Canton Ticino, a third option is possible and namely the Cantonal Business School (CBS), which qualifies itself as a full-time four-year school which ends both in the baccalaureate and in the Federal Diploma for apprenticeship. Within the peculiar transition I of the Canton Ticino (Boldrini & Bausch, 2013) in the last 10 years a huge decrease of the number of learners in the dual commercial apprenticeship (-17%) and an increase of enrolling in the full-time schools were noticed (HMS:+6%; CBS:+11%). In these tracks, the development of professional competences and professional identity as office clerks seem to be very differentiated. The main assumption of this research is that in full-time tracks the professional specific competence development has to be reinforced as learners tend to interpret this training as a non-specialized training serving as a pass-partout for future professional career out of the commercial sector. A longitudinal study has then been set in order to investigate in depth learners’ professional expectations, perceived professional identity, and motivations towards professional competences characterizing the office clerks. Analyses will mainly compare full-time schools and dual-schools data. Moreover, a monitoring of dropouts and tracks changes along the period will be held as well. The study involved the whole population of commercial employees at the first year (about 1’100 individuals) and started in September 2013, with the submission of a survey which will be repeated at the middle of the curriculum and at the end of it (2016). Preliminary results of the first survey (n=1’045) show that half of the students decide to attend a commercial VET basic training in order to have a general training to access other studies or to have time during the training to reflect on their preferred professional choice. 10% declare that they attend the training because they chose this specific vocation. 14% is interested in continuing with a professional career in the commercial field and 13% would like to go on studying in this field. These motivations and future projects are highly differentiated among the three different tracks, i.e. the need of a general training to access non-commercial careers is evident in the full-time schools. On the contrary, apprentices in dual-track would like a direct employment in the commercial sector. Moreover, the knowledge and perception of the competence profile of office clerks is different among students enrolled in the three tracks, suggesting that the instructional approach needed in order to develop professional identity and competence has to be adequately designed on these specific populations. More detailed results will be presented at the conference.

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