Felstead, Alan, Fuller, Alison, Unwin, Lorna, Ashton, David, Butler, Peter, Lee, Tracey and Walters, Sally (2004) Applying the Survey Method to Learning at Work: A Recent UK Experience. Other. Univesity of Leicester, Leicester, UK. (Unpublished)

The skills debate in many European countries has for many
years been preoccupied with the supply of qualified
individuals and participation in training events. This emphasis
is reflected in the sources of systematic data currently
available to policy-makers and academics in the field.
However, recent case study work suggests that qualifications
and training are partial measures of skill development as most
learning arises naturally out of the demands and challenges of
everyday work experience and interactions with colleagues,
clients and customers. This paper argues that the ‘learning as
acquisition’ and ‘learning as participation’ metaphors aptly
capture these two competing intellectual traditions. Despite
the substitution of the word ‘learning’ for ‘training’, the
preoccupation with measuring exposure to conscious and
planned events which are set up to impart knowledge and
skills remains as strong as ever and typifies the ‘learning as
acquisition’ approach. This paper outlines an experiment that
was designed to give the ‘learning as participation’ metaphor a
firmer survey basis than it has hitherto enjoyed. The resulting
survey of 1,943 employees carried out in February 2004 in the
UK highlights the importance of social relationships and
mutual support in enhancing individual performance at work,
factors which individual acquisition of qualifications and
attendance on courses ignores. The paper also confirms the
importance of work design in promoting and facilitating
learning at work in all its guises.

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