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Plus c’est la même chose : joinery apprenticeship arrangements in Scotland

Anderson, Pauline (2014) Plus c’est la même chose : joinery apprenticeship arrangements in Scotland. Journal of Education and Work, 27 (2). pp. 137-160. ISSN 1363-9080

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This paper examines recent changes in the Scottish apprenticeship system of skill formation for joiners through an occupational skill ecosystem lens. Building trade apprenticeships in Scotland are based around a social partnership model more akin to ‘dual systems’ than typical arrangements elsewhere in the UK. Drawing on in-depth occupational case study primary data gathered in the ‘boom’ period, this paper argues that whilst joinery apprenticeships in Scotland are far from perfect they are relatively successful in serving the needs of industry and maintaining quality. Part of this success can be attributed to the regulatory role of the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council and effective alignment of historical apprenticeship arrangements to the Modern Apprenticeship framework. Yet determination to ‘cling’ on to historical arrangements has proven problematic precisely because plus c’est la même chose, plus ça change. The global economic downturn and subsequent ‘bust’ period within the construction industry, moreover, dealt an unwelcome blow to the system and many apprentices were ‘orphaned’ in crisis. Drawing on secondary data and other sources following the current ‘bust’, this paper posits that the recent exogenous shock to the system may well have been unwelcome and difficult but it has also provided a serendipitous and necessary catalyst for change.