IJRVET: Vocational Adult Education, Skill Formation and Human Relatedness

The International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) published three articles:

Swedish Vocational Adult Education in the Wake of Marketisation
Per Andersson & Karolina Muhrman

The Political Economy of Skill Formation in a Rentier State: The Case of Oman
Margarita Langthaler, Stefan Wolf & Tobias Schnitzler

The Theory of Human Relatedness as a Potential Underlying Causative Mechanism in Nursing Student Placement Experiences: A UK-Based Critical Realist Study
Phil Coleman  

Abstract : Swedish Vocational Adult Education in the Wake of Marketisation

Per Andersson & Karolina Muhrman

Context: This study is about vocational education and training for adults within municipal adult education (MAE). Sweden has a long tradition of adult education, and has one of the world’s highest proportions of participants in adult education. The Swedish education system is characterised by extensive marketisation with many private actors, particularly in adult education. The focus of this article is on the enactment of the market orientation in vocational adult education, with the purpose of showing how vocational adult education is organised in different ways in Swedish municipalities and how national adult education policy is enacted in local VET practices. 

Methods: The data consist of documents presenting relevant national policies for adult education, in particular on vocational education, and semi-structured interviews with adult education leaders in 20 municipalities. 

Findings: The findings show that MAE in Sweden has a clear labour market focus on offering education that corresponds to working life’s labour requirements. Most municipalities have a shortage of staff in elderly care and childcare, which is why they offer a large number of training places in these professions. Many immigrants choose these training programmes to get a job. It is also common for municipalities to offer these training programmes in combination with SFI (Swedish for immigrants). This means that MAE fulfils an important function for integration. VET in MAE is offered as school-based training, apprenticeships or distance education. Offering VET at a distance makes it possible to provide a wider range of training programmes, and enables people who have difficulties participating in on-site training (due to commitments such as work or young children) to take part. Apprenticeship training provides work experience and often leads to employment. However, a weak interest in apprenticeship training among students and difficulties finding apprenticeship placements are examples of reasons why the number of apprenticeships is often very limited. 

Conclusion: Swedish MAE is characterised by flexibility and a broad supply of courses. However, there is a clear focus on certain vocational areas – mainly within the municipal organisation. This gives reason to question whether publicly funded VET for adults should mainly prepare participants for publicly funded labour-market sectors, or whether other sectors could also benefit from newly trained adults. Since vocational training within MAE is of great importance for immigrants’ establishment in the labour market, there is a risk that unilateral investments in certain vocations will limit immigrants’ career opportunities.

Abstract : The Political Economy of Skill Formation in a Rentier State: The Case of Oman

Margarita Langthaler, Stefan Wolf & Tobias Schnitzler

Context: Against a backdrop of dwindling oil resources and increasing unemployment rates, the government of Oman has set out to diversify its industry and establish a knowledge-based economy. In this context, forming a highly-skilled Omani workforce is considered to be of crucial importance. Yet, the national TVET system suffers from low social status, poor quality, and limited labour market connectivity. This paper offers an analysis of Oman’s TVET system in the socio-economic and cultural context of a rentier state. 

Approach: We draw on the political economy of skills and socio-cultural approaches that understand TVET systems and the broader skills regimes in which they are embedded as part and expression of particular patterns of the social organisation of work. This helps to locate TVET systems’ strengths and weaknesses in the context of their underlying social relations instead of considering them as mere dysfunctionalities at the systemic level. This paper draws on an unpublished study on TVET for industrialisation commissioned by an Omani line ministry in cooperation with an international organisation. For this study, the authors carried out a literature review, undertook two field trips to Oman in 2018 and 2019 and conducted forty semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from government, private companies, business associations, and TVET and higher education institutions. 

Findings: Our analysis highlights how skill formation in Oman is shaped by the socio-economic and cultural context of the Omani rentier state. First, the availability of cheap expatriate labour and Omanis’ traditional preference for public sector jobs culminate in poor incentives for employing Omani nationals in the private sector. Second, reluctant employer attitudes towards national skill formation deepen quality issues in the TVET system, especially with regard to work-based training. This reinforces negative perceptions of the local workforce, which in turn contribute to biased employment patterns. Both social processes mutually reinforce each other, eventually preventing the emergence of strong national skill formation dynamics. 

Conclusion: While immediate structural change appears challenging, it is evident that reforms of the TVET system alone will not lead to its sustainable improvement. More research into how skill formation relates to Oman’s specific socio-economic structures, how employment dynamics relate to educational credentials and how cultural traditions shape educational and work practices is needed.

Abstract : The Theory of Human Relatedness as a Potential Underlying Causative Mechanism in Nursing Student Placement Experiences: A UK-Based Critical Realist Study

Phil Coleman  

Context: This study, underpinned by Critical Realism, re-analysed interview data acquired to examine the views and experiences of four stakeholder groups involved in the delivery of employer-sponsored pre-registration nursing programmes offered by a UK university in which all students already held an appointment as a non-registrant carer and who completed their placements within a block or integrated practicum framework. The re-analysis focused on the extent to which this interview data aligned with the key propositions of the Theory of Human Relatedness and therefore whether this theory, congruent with assertions based on the results of an earlier realist synthesis, might provide a causative explanation of factors affecting nursing student placement experiences. 

Methods: Semi-structured, digitally recorded and professionally transcribed interviews, each lasting approximately 30 minutes, were held with a purposive sample of 37, predominantly female, respondents in 4 stakeholder groups involved in employer-sponsored pre-registration nursing programmes. These stakeholder groups were students, employers, mentors, and practice tutors and were associated with programme provision within twelve healthcare organisations in northern England. 

Results: Although more modest in some areas, data provides support for every key proposition identified within the Theory of Human Relatedness; suggesting this theory may closely reflect the criteria that stakeholders implicitly employ to evaluate placement models. More respondents in all groups described the block practicum model in ways that suggest it is best able to promote a sense of connectedness, belonging and synchrony for learners. In contrast, an integrated placement design was portrayed in terms that implied it may increase the risk of disconnectedness but might also be more likely to promote reciprocity. Insufficient data was available to identify the perceived effect of either practicum design in respect of enmeshment, parallelism, and mutuality. 

Conclusion: The results of this research suggest that a block placement may foster more positive relatedness experiences for students and other stakeholders within nursing programmes. Moreover, the extent to which a practicum framework is perceived to promote connectedness, belonging, reciprocity and mutuality, to minimise disconnectedness and enmeshment and to reduce the need for parallelism may underpin stakeholder appraisal of the two practicum frameworks. Little research regarding the effect of placement duration and intensity on student learning within pre-registration healthcare programmes or the application of the Theory of Human Relatedness to practicum experiences, however, has been undertaken to date and such investigation is complicated by inconsistent terminology to describe practicum designs. It is argued that further academic enquiry within both fields should be a priority for healthcare educators; not least because it may provide further insights into curriculum designs capable of reducing student attrition.