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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Improving Incentives to Learning in the Workplace

Grant reference: L139251005

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Book chapter details

TLRP: Running faster to stay in the same place? The intended and unintended consequences of government policy for workplace learning in Britain
‘Well in our country . . . you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing’ (Alice, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’). Recent policy debates have emphasised the significance of workplace learning to the vision of the ‘learning society’ and the ‘knowledge-based economy’. Whereas these terms trip relatively easily off the tongue, identifying what they mean in terms of a vision of the economy and society is more problematic. We are indebted to Lloyd and Payne (2002) not only for their reflections on the vision of the high skill society, but also for their reference to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’. The starting point for this paper is the idea that workplace learning ought to be central to any vision of the economy and society which is based on skills and knowledge (cf. Rainbird, 2000). The objective is to examine three major arenas of UK government policy which, it could be assumed, might exemplify the way these connections are made in one form or another. These are policy interventions which are intended to have a direct impact on training and workforce competence, on the one hand, and interventions which affect it indirectly, on the other. The example we have chosen of the former is the development of occupational standards in the care sector. These have been developed and introduced as a means of securing a competent and qualified workforce in a sector which until recently has not been effectively regulated. In ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’, the Red Queen’s replies to Alice: ‘Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’ We would like to suggest that rather than adopting this solution from the world of the looking glass, a more appropriate starting point would be the clear identification of objectives for workplace learning and mechanisms for attaining them. This might involve: mechanisms for identifying workers’ needs for skills and knowledge which are not restricted to training for their current jobs; curriculum development and tools for supporting innovation and transforming organisational requirements for skills.
Original Document

Primary contributor

Author H Rainbird

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