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The role of apprenticeship in the cultivation of soft skills and dispositions

Karen Vaughan

As a learning model, apprenticeship is well known for its capacity to develop skills and vocational identities. It is also increasingly appealing for its potential to develop soft skills and enhance dispositions. This article focuses on the nature and role of apprenticeship and employers in developing dispositions and soft skills. It draws on a two-year New Zealand study of 41 apprentices in general practice medicine, carpentry, and engineering technician work, and their workplace mentors and teachers.

The study theorised that apprentices’ most significant learning is personally as well as professionally challenging, and can be understood in terms of ‘vocational thresholds’ – portals to deeper capability in the field. This article argues that crossing vocational thresholds requires ongoing development of dispositions and soft skills, critically supported by workplace mentors and teachers. The article suggests that the situated nature of apprenticeship uniquely positions it to foster dispositions and soft skills, and that these are field-specific and learnable, rather than general, abstract and fixed.

Vaughan, K. (2017): The role of apprenticeship in the cultivation of soft skills and dispositions. In Journal of Vocational Education & Training. Online DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2017.1326516.

You can find the full text in the Journal of Vocational Education and Training at the Taylor & Francis Online website, 

Knowing Practice
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Journal article
Taylor & Francis Online
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Karen Vaughan