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For better or worse : joinery apprenticeships in Scotland

Anderson, Pauline (2011) For better or worse : joinery apprenticeships in Scotland. In: SASE 23rd Annual Conference 2011. Transformations of Contemporary Capitalism: Actors, Institutions, Processes, 2011-06-23 - 2011-06-25, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

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The revival of apprenticeships in the UK via the Modern Apprenticeship framework is reportedly serving to erode the quality and reputation of traditional apprenticeships. UK construction employers, moreover, report growing problems of recruitment and skill within trade occupations. Construction trade apprenticeship arrangements in Scotland, however, are based around a social partnership-type approach more closely aligned to European counterparts than the rest of the UK. Drawing on an in-depth case study of Scottish joiners, this paper examines changes in apprenticeship arrangements and reported problems of recruitment and skill by locating this model of initial skill formation within the broader context of a joinery skill ecosystem. It is argued that the adaptation of historical apprenticeship arrangements, underpinned by the central role of the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Training Council (SBATC), has been relatively successful, thus far, in offsetting countervailing trends witnessed elsewhere in the UK. Yet, the determination to ‘cling’ on to these arrangements presents longer-term challenges because plus c’est la même chose, plus sa change. The on-going fragmentation of the construction industry means that small, and increasingly specialist, companies tend to employ apprentices and many are not developing the full array of skills that have been the hallmark of the all-round, multi-skilled, Scottish joiner. New products and processes within the industry are also altering the nature of skill demand and deployment. Furthermore, this determination to cling on to traditional apprenticeship arrangements, it is suggested, has not assisted the large numbers of Scottish joinery apprentices ‘orphaned’ in the current global economic downturn.