Shaping apprenticeships : strategic actors in skill ecosystems

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Policymakers have become increasingly focused upon ‘responsive’ and ‘agile’ systems of skill formation – arrangements of actors and institutions which rely upon collective responsibility to produce skills. With these systems prone to mismatches between supply and demand, practitioners have tasked themselves with improving their responsiveness to changing demand for skills. Apprenticeships embody a system where actors and institutions cooperate to ensure collective skill formation. However, academic and policy literature reveal only a limited understanding of actor roles and interests. Without a more comprehensive understanding, attempts to achieve ‘responsive’ systems are likely to encounter resistance from actors whose interests conflict with those priorities. This thesis seeks to better understand these actors and how they are shaping apprenticeships.Strategic actors and their relative power in skill ecosystems are analysed through a comparative case-study research design. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 46 ‘elite’ participants in Scotland and England. This data was thematically analysed and presented as two stand alone case studies, before a cross-case analysis was conducted. This thesis has made a conceptual contribution by developing a conceptual framework through which to better analyse the roles, interests and relative power of strategic actors in skill ecosystems. The findings build upon Fuller and Unwin’s (2003; 2009) expansive/restrictive continuum to expose that actors have an important role in determining the trajectory of apprenticeship quality, from more expansive to more restrictive apprenticeships.The findings reveal enduring state control of apprenticeships, despite a prominent ‘demand-led’ rhetoric which implies greater employer leadership. Despite several points of convergence, contrasting state strategies manifest in increasingly different funding arrangements and apprenticeship models – both of which have important implications for the future of apprenticeships in the UK. However, these differences are built upon fragile arrangements prone to change.
Date of Award15 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorPauline Anderson (Supervisor) & Dora Scholarios (Supervisor)

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