Supporting learning for today’s workplaces, particularly in public employment services, but also beyond, must not stop with knowledge about new methods, processes, approaches, but needs to take a broader view. The effects of learning need to encompass “deeper levels” of professional identity, and learning support needs to target at facilitating the transformation to meet the challenges of the changing world of work.

Professional identity has both individual and collective dimensions, which interact with each other and touch various areas, such as professional culture, coping strategies, identity narratives, among others.

Learning in professional identity transformation processes occurs across four domains: relational development; cognitive development; practical development; emotional development. Learning may involve development in one or more domains and development in each domain can be achieved in a number of different ways.

  • A major developmental route for relational development is learning through interactions at work, learning with and from others (in multiple contexts) and learning as participation in communities of practice (and communities of interest) while working with others. Socialisation at work, peer learning and identity work all contribute to individuals’ relational development. Many processes of relational development occur alongside other activities but more complex relationships requiring the use of influencing skills, engaging people for particular purposes, supporting the learning of others and exercising supervision, management or (team) leadership responsibilities may benefit from support through explicit education, training or development activities.
  • A major developmental route for cognitive development to prepare those in intermediate or high skilled labour market positions for labour market transitions involves learning through mastery of an appropriate knowledge base and any subsequent technical updating. This form of development makes use of learning by acquisition and highlights the importance of subject or disciplinary knowledge and/or craft and technical knowledge, and it will be concerned with developing particular cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking; evaluating; synthesising etc.
  • For practical development the major developmental route is often learning on the job, particularly learning through challenging work. Learning a practice is also about relationships, identity and cognitive development but there is value in drawing attention to this idea, even if conceptually it is a different order to the other forms of development highlighted in this representation of learning for labour market transitions. Practical development can encompass the importance of critical inquiry, innovation, new ideas, changing ways of working and (critical) reflection on practice. It may be facilitated by learning through experience, project work and/or by use of particular approaches to practice, such as planning and preparation, implementation (including problem-solving) and evaluation. The ultimate goal may be vocational mastery, with progressive inculcation into particular ways of thinking and practising, including acceptance of appropriate standards, ethics and values, and the development of particular skill sets and capabilities associated with developing expertise.
  • For emotional development, the major developmental route is learning through engagement, reflexiveness that leads to greater self-understanding, and the development of particular personal qualities. Much emotional development may occur outside work, but the search for meaning in work, developing particular mind-sets, and mindfulness may be components of an individual’s emotional development. Particular avenues of development could include understanding the perspectives of others, respect for the views of others, empathy, anticipating the impact of your own words and actions, and a general reflexiveness, which includes exploring feelings. Career transitions may also be influenced by changing ideas individuals have about their own well-being and changing definitions of career success.

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