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Re(valuing) VET as a route to expertise in disruptive times
In today’s highly varied world of work, where ‘intangible assets’ (ideas, brands, marketing, networks) and the use of digital technologies play an increasingly central and disruptive role, traditional boundaries between occupational fields and hierarchies are being breached. At the same time, faced with the pressures of daily life, many individuals are finding comfort and satisfaction in (re)learning and practising a craft as well as in buying handmade goods (for which, of course, there is a growing market). As such, VET navigates the shifting sands of change and continuity, of heritage and innovation, and of quality and the marketplace.
Yet, the bounded classifications that still determine to some extent the structure of VET systems, programmes and even pedagogies are rooted in a previous era when occupational categories were presumed to accurately describe the work people do, that young people were novices with nothing to teach their older colleagues, and that expertise was sliced up into clearly demarcated levels beyond which lay the rarified land of the ‘professions’. In this presentation, I will draw on ideas from Communication Studies and Cultural Sociology as well as from social theories of learning to explore how VET might grapple with a more fluid concept of expertise, one that acknowledges the different dynamic ways in which conceptions of its value are formulated beyond the confines of VET systems. I will argue that this could help VET address some of the challenges it faces through expanding the range of capabilities of its students and trainees and, as a result, addressing the demands from employers and politicians.