Cole, Prince Taiwo (1999) Training and learning in the informal sector in the Gambia. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Over the last 30 years or so, there has been growing international interest in the "infon-nal
sector" of the economy in developing countries, and there is now the recognition that to
operate successfully as artisans in the informal sector, "apprentices" require a range of
knowledge and skills.

The general aim of the present, qualitative study, was to investigate how apprentices in
informal sector enterprises in two trades (the Motor Vehicle trade and the Tie-dye trade) in
The Gambia learn at the workplace and how such learning was facilitated. Twenty
enterprises were selected for the study, ten in each trade.

A variety of data collection methods were employed, namely, (a) individual, semistructured
interviews of the entrepreneurs (who owned these enterprises), and of the
apprentices, (b) observations of the tradespersons and apprentices at the workplace, (c)
accounts of "critical events", and (d) documentary studies.

The study has shown that (a) the tradespersons did not demonstrate to the apprentices the
procedures for the tasks that they were undertaking, (b) the apprentices were not allowed to
practise on the tasks that the tradespersons were contracted to und(rtake; (c) the
apprentices practised their skills privately in their leisure time. (d) the tradespersons did
not explain to the apprentices the theories underpinning the technical procedures; and for
the apprentices, the term "theory" referred to the technical procedures, as such, rather than
to the scientific and technological concepts and principles underpinning the procedures, (e)
although the apprentices were often outwardly passive they did observe closely the
tradespersons at work and made associative links with their own previous knowledge and

What has also emerged from the study is that apprentices' learning at the workplace in the
informal sector is: (a) a multi-dimensional process, largely self-motivated and conditioned
by the rigid hierarchical structure of the workplace. (b) (i) productivity-driven, (ii)
atheoretical, (iii) unplanned, (iv) unstructured, (v) facilitated through role modelling.
The study compared the concepts of learning which emerged from the study with the
traditional concepts of learning and teaching in Vocational Training Institutions.

This study has also shown that the tradespersons failed to assess formally competent
performance at the workplace. There was no end-of-apprenticeship assessment for the
apprentices in the Tie-dye trade; and in the Motor Vehicle trade, the assessment was adhoc.
Importantly too, from the entrepreneurs' perspective, the workplace was about
production and not about apprentice learning. The tradespersons were expected to
concentrate on their jobs and not on training, in sharp contrast to the apprentices'
expectation that the tradespersons should concentrate on skills training.

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