definitions intended to clarify its meaning” (Poell et al. 2006, p. 179) this paradigm has led to new perspectives on the “learning climate” and how cultural characteristics of the organisation contribute to employee learning. By applying the theory of “organizational learning” of Argyris/Schön to a German chemical plant involved in a reengineering process, Röben (2006) has illustrated how fruitful such an approach can be and how deeply these management strategies also affect the situation of trainers in the training department.
Although there is a vast body of organisational theory available, educational research about VET trainers in the dual system has not yet taken much advantage of it and this a field to be further explored. We have only started to systematically analyse the available empirical studies carried out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland from the past 20 years, but the lack of any theoretical framework is already rather obvious.
Exceptions are the German study by Schlösser et al. (1989) that follows more or less a perspective of the sociology of occupations and professions and the Swiss study by Kühnis (1987). Here basic enterprise parameters (like size, division of labour, occupational training system etc.) affecting the situation of trainers have already been thoroughly analysed. Since the structural situation in companies has tremendously changed in the meantime though, the results are of limited use for today’s situation.
The scope and design of the German research study carried out by BIBB
The BIBB research project4 wants to explore the situation of workplace trainers with regard to their individual scope of action and the given opportunities of occupational career development in different types of companies. We want to gain structural knowledge about the company parameters and framework conditions that have a decisive impact on the situation of this particular and heterogeneous group. The results should provide policy makers, employers and other stakeholders with a solid empirical basis and enable them to shape more adequate and specific means of support for the different target groups concerned.
The main research questions are:
What causal structures of condition can be identified with regard to the activities of workplace trainers in companies?
What are the factors determining their scope of action and occupational career within the company?
In how far different company cultures can be identified and a typology be developed?
In order to answer these questions information needs to be gathered about the following aspects:
The position of initial training and trainers’ practice in the power structure of the company:
What is the staff´s assignment and which scope is made available to complete this assignment?
Are there company traditions / a learning or business culture for trainers to rely upon?
What is the role of workplace trainers in the frame of the general management strategy concerning human resource development in the company?
Where are the different groups of workplace trainers placed in the organisational structure of the company (hierarchically and logistically)?
4 The German title of the project is „Die Situation des ausbildenden Personals in der betrieblichen Bildung“. For further details see