Promoting work-related behaviours in vocational training preparation courses

This research project aims at analysing the way those standards of behaviour that are considered as prerequisite for entering vocational training are promoted in vocational training preparation programmes. Especially when it comes to young people without an intermediate school-leaving certificate (“mittlerer Bildungsabschluss”), who are overrepresented in measures for the transition from general schooling to vocational training, training companies pay particular attention to work habits and social skills. At the same time, the behavioural problems often mentioned by employers are interpreted in terms of a lack of “apprenticeship entry maturity”, which is to be addressed in vocational training preparation schemes. In this context, this project will examine how work habits and social skills are developed, negotiated and approached as part of the curriculum in vocational training preparation programmes. The focus is on the question of how the line can be drawn in such courses between behaviour that is considered appropriate for vocational settings and behaviour seen as inappropriate and on what normative patterns associated with those standards of behaviour that are generally assumed to be prerequisite for vocational training are expressed in different situations. Following the Foucauldian approach to power relations, this project deals with regulatory and disciplinary practices in the same way as it addresses patterns of subjectivity to be found in vocational training preparation courses. The methodology applied here is based on participant observation in class – an ethnographic research strategy rarely employed in vocational training preparation. It is thus possible to systematically study the methods by which work-related standards of behaviour are promoted in individual settings and concrete situations from a first-hand perspective. This approach takes the institutional heterogeneity of vocational training preparation measures into account. Contrasting an educational programme provided by a vocational school that is regulated by state law with an educational offer provided by an educational institution that is governed by the German Social Welfare Code III (“Sozialgesetzbuch III”), basic patterns are identified and analysed across institutions. With the development of a “grounded theory” on the (implementation) logic and effectiveness of practices applied to promote those work habits and social skills that are considered vital for entering vocational training, this project contributes to setting up an empirically based model for a standardized system of teaching instructions and methods specific to vocational training preparation measures in the transition system.