Challenges to agency in workplaces and implication for VET: mechatronics artisans in the automotive sector
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The argument is built through reflecting on the case of intermediate-level skilling in the mechatronics function area in the automotive sector in South Africa, as an emerging economy. The growing use of technology in intermediate-level work requires different and higher-level knowledge, skills, and attributes than has been traditional for intermediate-level occupations. But boundaries in the workplace are maintained in such a way as to disadvantage the enactment of new capabilities especially for those from disadvantaged and poor backgrounds, women, and blacks. At the same time, the South African automotive sector is strongly governed by global production chains, which also tend to constrain the types of VET required from those employed in the sector.
The analysis raises a critical question for the global debate on the future of VET: with a multiplicity of factors that impact on both the development and enactment of intermediate-level skills and capabilities in workplaces, how can VET systems more effectively enable the development of holistic individual capabilities that support empowerment and agency?