University of Portsmouth, Business School (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Page: 4198 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
Continuous learning is increasingly regarded as a robust response for people and organisations to adapt to the accelerated demands of a global business environment. The purpose of this research is to examine to what extent continuous professional learning supports employment progress. Individual practitioners are seen as masters of their own destiny in acquiring learning to improve their job prospects. This economic view of learning for use in the workplace is underpinned by the theoretical concepts of career and social capital (Sullivan & Baruch, 2009; Seibert, Kramer & Linden, 2001). In short, learning as capital provides specific resources for tactical use in job progress (Inkson & Arthur, 2001; Khapova & Arthur, 2011). But assumptions of professional development for work-related advancement may conceal the realities of practitioner experiences of learning.

This study examines to what extent practitioners view professional development as a form of career capital. The research elevates the practitioner voice in using an interpretavist approach to explore learning experiences with a purposive sample of human resource practitioners from the UK public, private and not-for profit sectors. Findings reveal practitioners discover greater self-worth and transferable skills from education. Significantly, the exercise of looking back on development opens up personal insights of enhanced capability for long-term growth that contradict expectations of immediate career gain.

The contribution of this study is empirical evidence of the value practitioners place on broader skills development to navigate the future. For employers there is strategic interest in harnessing employee development that can invigorate social learning of collective benefit to the organisation. An appreciation of the impact of continuous learning beyond a narrow economic signal matters to the social and cultural dimensions of practitioner livelihoods, and the place of education in work. This qualitative research extends the debate about the importance of continuous learning which is of societal, organisational and individual value and adds new insights of practitioners’ learning experiences in the face of contemporary labour market realities.

[1] Inkson, K. & Arthur, M. (2001). ‘How to be a successful Career Capitalist’. Organizational Dynamics, 30 (1), 48-61.
[2] Khapova, S. and Arthur, M. (2011) Interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary career studies, Human Relations, 64:3.
[3] Seibert, S., Kraimer, M. and Linden, R. (2001), ‘A Social Capital Theory of Career Success’, Academy of Management Journal, 44, 219-237.
[4] Sullivan, S. and Baruch, Y. (2009) Advances in Career Theory and Research: A Critical Review and Agenda for Future Exploration, Journal of Management, 35:1542.
Continuous learning, career capital, employment, skills development.