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Learning Motivation of Lower Qualified Workers

John Konrad

Paper derived from the Final Project Report of the Motivation-LLL project Leonardo da Vinci –reference materials project supported by the European Commission "Motivation of lower qualified people for lifelong learning", A/02/C/F/RF/82100, see

A Research Overview

1. Introduction

The issue of the training motivation of lower qualified employees is not simply a matter of the attitudes or states of mind of those concerned. This issue has also to be located in the context of the labour market and especially the economic question of the challenges of the global market and the political question of how national governments respond. In European law, the role of the European Commission is defined as supporting the responsibilities of Member States and developing a Vocational Training Policy that will enable mutual learning and facilitate benchmarking(1).

At the level of the workplace, it is clearly the responsibility of the employer to lead the enterprise so that it survives and grows(2). In this situation, employees, particularly those who are less qualified, may see training simply as an instrumental process that helps to preserve their jobs. On the other hand, employers may consider that the return on the investment in this part of their labour force is too low. This perception may well lead to the "outsourcing" of these jobs to countries where labour costs are significantly lower, and also the educational and motivational levels of the labour force are higher. This situation makes the Report of a Leonardo Project of considerable policy and scientific importance(3).

The Purpose of the Project

The original Project Design was based on the assumption that levels of knowledge and qualification are decisive factors affecting the chances of the individual in the labour market. In particular, the lack of a qualification increases the risk of unemployment and a low level of qualifications can affect the quality and productivity of the enterprise. For some years, statistics of lifelong learning indicate that participation is inversely related to a person’s level of Qualification.

The research-design is based on the thesis that to improve participation it is necessary to know why few employees with lower qualifications participate in lifelong learning. Therefore the aim of the project is to investigate the motivation-structure of the lower qualified and the companies training strategies in relation to this group.

Survey Methods and Analysis

This study aims to identify the factors that affect people’s motivation to participate in Lifelong Learning. The basic assumption is that motivation is a very complex phenomenon consisting of several factors. Factors are seen here as single influential aspects. Concepts are based on several factors. The combination of concepts is called a motivational structure.

Data was collected in seven partner countries using thematic interviews. In each country a maximum of 24 lower qualified workers in two different companies were interviewed. In addition, the company human resources management and trainers in external training organisations were interviewed, using a similar set of questions.

The analysis took place partly in partner countries, partly in a Project Working Group that was responsible for the data analysis. Preliminary analysis was based on predefined categories. More qualitative data and interview results were summarised by using content analyses. Further analyses were done with the help of Dynamic Concept Analysis (DCA, Kontiainen 2002; Manninen 1993; 2002). Numerical data entered into the SPSS–software used to carry out further analyses and to produce summaries of the results.


Regardless of national differences that primarily result from the specific national educational and labour market framework, several trends can to be derived from the underlying analysis.

First, the results represent the views, perceptions, and insights of employees and employers in companies that already provide formal training of lower qualified employees in some way. This was a precondition to be able to carry out the analysis. This created some difficulty, as many companies that were contacted did not meet this requirement, the reasons given being frequently that they could not afford the resources for such training or were reluctant to do so in case the employees then left the company. There were some special situations in Germany due to the general economic situation.

Second, the company view already revealed that for this target group there is a strong interconnection between training activities and the labour market. This correlation could be also be identified among employees, especially, when many employees stated the safeguarding of their jobs as motivation for training, was related to the national situation (especially in Poland). Independently of national circumstances, the labour market represents the most dominant and, at the same time, most complex area.

Third, changes of activity within the company, a change to another company, career opportunities, or the expectation of an increased salary are the main driving factors motivating or making it even necessary to undergo training. At the same time, these are sustainable factors concerning the motivation to participate in Lifelong Learning, because many interviewees stated that the participation in training courses, in principle, was a job requirement.

This area is very complex, because several levels meet at once. There is the labour market, influencing the corporate strategy, and the individual being subject to the influence of both of these ‘external" factors. There is another example - possibly quite underestimated - in this area. The mechanisms mentioned above by which is one where companies might discourage employees’ development by denying opportunities (an argument frequently stated in the preliminary empirical analysis) thereby reducing labour mobility and safeguarding the supply of workers for unskilled work.

In this situation, employees will tend to perceive learning opportunities as a reward and as a sanction, that depends on the intrinsic nature of the activities themselves.

Regardless of whether employees seek opportunities, such extrinsic factors, as career opportunity, better income, improved job expectations and professional development opportunities, positive learning experiences can be important. In addition, such individual factors can be significant in non-participation. The variety of arguments is substantial. Of course, in the first instance, there are practical arguments like lack of time, age, family circumstances, or money that, of course, are critical and are symptoms of non-participation in learning, but not necessarily the causes.

The research has confirmed that the causes are more closely related to work, this means the expected benefit of the work, the complexity of the work, but also the image of training. It is remarkable that some employees say that despite complex working activities in their current jobs they do not need training, because they are expected to compensate for possible qualification shortage (and formal learning) by working experience and personal effort. Therefore, can the engagement in courses be seen as a sign of weakness?

In short, the typical attributes of poorly motivated employees are a low level of job skills requirements, a negative attitude towards the current work and future expectations, and average to poor history of learning experiences. The opposite applies to the group of persons motivated for learning, with one exception: they, too, consider the demands of the job to be low. The reason for learning is not to be able to cope with the job requirements, but to leave the job.

There is a clear view about how the learning process has to be designed: training on the job, active learning by doing, in connection with a ‘trainer’, who is and in many cases should be a supervisor, and learning in the team or with the colleagues in a familiar working environment.

2. The Project

2.1 Project Objectives

The objective of the project was to ground the analysis by using case studies in order to demonstrate perceptions and how they integrate into a holistic picture. The principal scientific questions may be summarised as follows:

  • Which factors influence the willingness of people with lower qualifications to participate in Lifelong Learning?
  • Which specific strategies for Lifelong Learning are pursued by employers and learning providers?
  • Do these strategies correspond with the requirements of the target group?
  • 2.2 Project definitions

    Definition of people with lower qualifications

    To date, there is no internationally recognised definition of the term "lower-qualified." Therefore, we are forced to establish such a definition ourselves.

    The qualification of an individual person is not classified directly but can only be determined by indicators.

    The most commonly used indicators for the classification of qualification are the highest level of formal education, the employment status, or respectively a combination of both(4).

    A person is described as "Lower Qualified" if their highest qualification does not exceed a certain level. It depends on the indicator used as to the level it is and where the borders between lower and higher qualification are situated.

    The operationalisation of lower qualified over the employment status comes nearest in our opinion, because the employment status is typically an expression of formal and non-formal education and includes the professional qualification. At this time, the term employment status is not standardised throughout Europe.

    The use of lower qualified instead of the indicator "highest (level of) formal education", is not without problems, because the formal graduation does not have to correlate with the status in the company. Additionally, the non-formal learning that can have the most influence on a person’s occupation (e.g. vocational education and training) is not easily taken into account by the formal education. A person’s formal education alone does not indicate his/her actual competencies. Formal education can be classified, contrary to the employment status, internationally. This classification is the ISCED:

    Table 1 Levels of ISCED 97

    ISCED Level

    Short description


    Pre-primary education


    Primary education or first stage of basic education


    Lower secondary or second stage of basic education


    (Upper) Secondary education


    Post secondary non-tertiary education


    First stage of tertiary education


    Second stage of tertiary education

    Source: Statistik Austria, International Standard Classification of Education, Edition 1997.

    Following the ISCED classification and the lack of international comparability of the employment status, for this project a person has to be classified as lower qualified when two assumptions are fulfilled:

  • The highest completed formal education according to the ISCED Levels 0 until 2; and
  • The pursuit of a professional activity in a company for which not more than the ISCED level 0 until 2 is necessary.
  • "In accordance with the definition for the purposes of the [Continuing Vocational Training Survey] CVTS, continuing training in enterprises comprises all continuing training measures in enterprises for employees, with the exception of measures for training apprentices and trainees with a special training contract. The continuing training activities must be planned in advance and financed by the enterprises (whether directly, e.g. costs for external lecturers or tutors, or indirectly, e.g. costs for continuing training in enterprises that takes place during paid working hours). There are two kinds of courses, and their classification follows from who makes the concept of the course and who gives the lessons. Internal CVT courses are designed and held by the companies themselves. They can also take place in rooms outside the company, for example in a conference room of a hotel. External CVT courses are designed and held by an organisation outside the company, this includes those courses, which take place inside the company. Further education or adult vocational training in a flexible way or in the form of correspondence courses in which the participants determine place and time by themselves, are not considered as CVT courses. They form their own category (see also other forms of further education), on which data has to be ascertained."(5)

    Motivation structure

    The general definition of ‘motivation to learn’ is "an individual’s desire to work towards a learning goal." Ruohotie (2000:8). This definition is very general and does not reflect the study’s assumption that motivation is a very complex phenomenon. A new approach based on findings of earlier participation and motivation research is suggested. The report will present a theoretical model of motivation structure. This model assumes that behind motivation and participation in learning there is a complex and dynamic set of factors more or less influencing human decision-making processes.

    The report also suggests a new theoretical approach to participation and motivation research. Traditionally these concepts have been analysed from the perspectives of sociology (environment, society etc), psychology (individual, traits etc.) or interactionism (individual development in social context). In this study the adult learners are seen as decision makers, who more or less consciously analyse their past experiences, current life- and work situation, and future expectations, and base their decisions to participate or not on these complex elements which form the motivation structure.

    Definitions of motivational factors

    Analysis of earlier studies and literature on participation and motivation indicates that there are altogether 30 factors and 4 background questions which are likely to form a coherent set of factors which form the motivation structure. Since the actual analysis would be very demanding using 30 factors, the study combined several factors into one concept. This analysis results in 10 concepts as shown in Table 2 below.

    Table 2 Concepts of motivation structure





    Individual characteristics




    Training format




    Work complexity




    Past learning experiences




    Information & opportunity

    Easily available



    Attitudes & values








    Current work & future expectations




    Support & incentives

    Easily available



    Expectancy & Valence




    Columns with Alfa-, Neutral- and Beta –attributes refer to an analysis method called DCA (Dynamic Concept Analysis; Kontiainen 2002; Manninen 2002). The empirical data collected from 138 themed interviews was intended to be used to define which attribute best describes the individual situation in each case(6). For example, positive past learning experiences would indicate that an individual has participated, and somehow benefited from it.

    The basic idea in DCA is to bring together information and data considered central in understanding a particular phenomenon, so that the structure serves as a source of information for various kinds of conceptual analysis (Kontiainen 2002)(7). The method is based on the definition of central concepts and their relationships. The concepts and their relations are depicted in individual conceptual models, which can be defined as influence diagrams or systems maps; they are not causal models (Huff 1990).

    Each model gives a hypothesis of how different things are likely to become related in a real-life situation or process. Conceptual models may be considered structured simplifications of a reality, and hypothetical structures of actual life. They could serve as a basis for deeper analysis of behaviour or a phenomenon.

    One principle in the definition process has been the assumption that one of the key motivating dimensions for vocational training and for work-related courses are the characteristics of the work in itself; whether it requires a long basic and/or continuous training, provides opportunities for advancement and so on. It is also important to analyse what role the work plays in individuals’ lives (an interruption of real life activities, a job or a career etc., see Siurala 1987). This approach has been central in sociologically oriented participation studies (cf. Rinne & al. 1992). There is strong empirical evidence that these factors explain participation and non-participation much better than the traditional concepts of attitude and values (Rubenson 2001).

    These changes are reflected in the development of motivation and participation theories, as shown in Table 3 below.

    Table 3 Changes in the models of explanation






    Explanations sought from

    External causes

    Internal causes

    Interaction of causes

    Individual decision making

    Key elements

    Work, society, social class, opportunities, obstacles

    Motives, traits, personality, interests

    Socialisation, experiences, felt needs, relevance, expectancy

    Images, values, feelings, stories


    Lehtonen &

    Tuomisto 1972; Rinne & al. 1992

    Boshier 1973; Garrison 1987

    Rubenson 1979;

    Pintrich & Ruohotie


    Manninen 2004; Manninen & al.


    These models of explanation are not exclusive but inclusive – each model adds to our understanding about influencing factors. All research conducted today should make use of the results that previous research identified as relevant for the complex system of motivational structure. For example, it is obvious that the individual’s social class influences the reference groups s/he finds attractive. This, on the other hand, is likely to have some influence on what kind of images and values education has, and what kind of stories (Jensen 1999) about learning experiences one is likely to hear.

    2.4 Data collection

    Data was collected in seven partner countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, and the UK) using theme interviews (Silverman 1997). Theme interviewing is a qualitative technique, which allows deeper analyses than, for example, surveys and structured questionnaires, which are traditionally used in motivation research. Theme interviews are based on predefined questions, so that data collection is systematic, but answers are open-ended and therefore allow detailed and deeper understanding of respondents’ personal situation.

    In this study, themed interviews were conducted in seven countries, and in each country a maximum of 24 lower qualified workers in two different companies were interviewed. In addition, the company human resources management (1 per company, 13 in total) and trainers in external training organisations (n= 16) were interviewed, using a similar set of questions.

    2.5 Main findings

    a) The characteristics of respondents

    Only 25 (18%) of interviewees were women, and 113 were men. This may reflect the actual gender division in manufacturing industry, since lower qualified women are more likely to work, for example, in social and health sector, whereas lower qualified men have been able to find jobs in physically demanding industrial occupations.

    The interviewees were evenly distributed in age (mean=39); with 47% in the 20-39 age group, 45% in the 36-44 age group, and 46% in the 45-61 age group. The age distribution varied slightly between countries.































    Since the aim of the study was to analyse the motivation of the lower qualified workers, the selection of interviewees was based on the principle that they should be on ISCED-level 2 or below. This was rather difficult to follow in practice, and in many cases, the guideline had to be modified according to national characteristics. For example, in Finland, nowadays almost all school leavers complete either secondary school or some vocational training.

    Nevertheless, many of those who had completed professional school or higher training, were trained in different professions than where they were working, and can, therefore, be treated as lower qualified workers. For example, one interviewee had completed cook’s vocational training, but was working in a plastic factory. Another interviewee originally trained as a construction worker but was currently working as a meat cutter at a food factory. This analysis is based on a traditional view of initial vocational training where competence is occupationally related. However, recent research in Lifelong Learning, stresses the importance competencies gained in non-formal learning, which can be applied in different vocational contexts. The importance of these competencies is likely to become more significant as changes in the labour market reduce the importance of employment in the manufacturing sector.

    The role of work in an individual’s life can vary from interruption to job, occupation, career, vocation and mission (Kahn & Wiener, see Siurala 1987). The responses indicated that about 90% of the interviewees saw work as having such an instrumental purpose. A similar percentage did not choose their work, taking what was available, or easily gained. This situation is likely to be not only a reflection of a tight labour market, but a willingness to accept this instrumental situation because of a lack of alternatives. This is likely to influence an individual’s motivation to invest time and effort in learning. If work is considered as an interruption severely obstructing the use of free time or as a job, means of making money, the motivation to participate in work related training might be low. In this context, traditional vocational training is unlikely to open up new possibilities, especially for satisfying or rewarding work where the lifelong learning approach would have considerable potential relevance.

    The study report observed that "This is a huge challenge for European Lifelong Learning policy – if the majority of lower qualified jobs are simple, and there are no advancement possibilities, the willingness among lower qualified workers to engage themselves in lifelong learning activities is likely to be low." This comment may be a reflection on the current state of the labour market of the member states studied.

    It is also noteworthy that the study does not refer to the social context of work that would have considered the importance of situated learning. The finding that about half the interviewees viewed training positively, especially if completed, indicates that such a constructivist approach might have had more effect in re-engaging this group in learning.

    2.6 Findings

  • Lower qualified workers are motivated to learn, if they think that training is useful, believe that they are able to complete the training and that they have some opportunities for better work conditions or advancement possibilities.
  • The use of a suitable learning format and recognition of individuals’ own characteristics (self-concept, skill acquisition methods) are also likely to support motivation.
  • The most common attribute for motivation is neutral (46%), which indicates that, in general, the lower qualified workers are open to learning opportunities, but not highly motivated.
  • In general, the motivation structure in the partner countries seems to be quite negative. Current work is non-motivating and future expectations are low, and there is no support available from the company. Work tasks are also generally simple, and therefore there is no need for further training.
  • The general attitudes on training are positive, and training is seen as a realistic option (expectations and valence positive), but these elements have no direct influence on motivation.
  • Motivation is at a medium level, and this seems to result from previous learning experiences and personal characteristics.
  • Training format is considered generally as suitable but only at a neutral level, it is not highly motivating. In short, training is seen as valuable and important in general, but motivation to participate is not so high, because the work environment does not motivate individuals to develop new skills.
  • People are motivated to study if they have positive experiences of learning, and some support from their employer.
  • The structure leading into low motivation is based strongly on non-motivating career prospects, since there are no possibilities of advancement. Expected outcomes and need for training are therefore considered low, and low motivation is influenced by negative learning attitudes. Lack of support from the employer makes the situation more problematic.
  • For those with a medium level of motivation, that is without significant negative factors, the level of participation would be likely to increase if:
  • o There were real opportunities for advancement and job rotation;
  • o Learning opportunities led to continuing learning experiences;
  • o The operation of the learning process was tailored more closely to participants’ needs; and
  • o More support was provided for learning in the workplace.
  • Table 4 A typology of Motivation

    This Table summarises the theoretical framework derived from the data analysis and provides clear support for the policy recommendations.

    3. European context

    3.1 Introduction

    The position within the European Union is that the relationship between European Institutions and Member States concerning Vocational Training as defined by Article 150 of the EC Treaty states that "the Community shall implement a vocational training policy which shall support and supplement the action of the Member States while fully respecting the responsibility of the

    Member States for the content and organisation of vocational training."

    The Lisbon European Council in March 2000 set the European Union the strategic goal of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society in the world. The development of vocational training is a crucial and integral part of this strategy. The Barcelona European Council in March 2002 reaffirmed this important role and gave a mandate to make European education and training a world reference by 2010, and to develop closer co-operation in vocational training (in parallel to the Bologna process in higher education).(8)

    3.2 Current policy goals

    Individuals must update and complement their knowledge, competencies and skills throughout life through participation in lifelong learning.

    The rate of adult participation in education and training in 2004 reached 9.4% in the EU, i.e. 1.5% higher than in 2000. A part of the increase was, however, due to a break in time series in 2003. After and before 2003 progress was only slow. The objective set by the Council of achieving a 12.5% rate of adult participation requires Member States to step up efforts and to develop an integrated, coherent and inclusive lifelong learning strategy. Best performing EU countries are Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

    Acquiring basic competencies is a first step to participation in the developing knowledge society.

    In the fundamental domain of literacy, reading, the most recent data suggests that in 2003 about 20% of young people under the age of 15 in EU Member States achieved only the lowest level of proficiency. The average performance has not improved since 2000. The EU has still a long way to go to reach the objective set by the Council of reducing this percentage by 20% (to reach 15.5%) by 2010. Best performing EU countries are: Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands.(9)

    Key Performance Indicator n°9 - Participation in education or training of initially low qualified people is one of the progress indicators.

    The European Benchmark of an educational attainment level of 85% at upper secondary level by 2010, for those aged 20-24, poses a significant challenge for the majority of Member States. The present average level of attainment in the Union is 76.4% (2004), which has not improved since 2000. Eight EU countries are at present achieving completion rates beyond the benchmark of 85%, among which two countries (Czech Republic and Slovakia) have rates of over 90%. … Data from the European Labour Force Survey shows that participation in lifelong learning is strongly correlated to attainment levels achieved in formal education. Completing upper secondary education is therefore very important for participation in the knowledge society.(10)

    3.3 Current strategies

    The necessary reforms and investment should be focused particularly on the:

  • Image and attractiveness of the vocational route for employers and individuals, in order to increase participation in VET;
  • Needs of low-skilled (about 80 million persons aged between 25-64 years in the EU) and disadvantaged groups for the purpose of achieving social cohesion and increasing labour market participation.(11)
  • The relevant implications of these strategies for National systems include the further development of VET systems to meet the needs of people or groups at risk of labour market and social exclusion, in particular early school leavers, low skilled, migrants, persons with disabilities and the unemployed. This should be based on a combination of targeted investment, assessment of prior learning and tailored training and learning provision.

    This study is a contribution to meeting these priorities.

    4. National Reports

    4.1 Austria(12)

    The level of training participation observed does not correlate statistically with the training motivation of the Austrian lower qualified employees. Therefore, the level of training participation has to be affected by other players and their institutional mechanisms.

    An increase in the participation rates of lower qualified employees may be expected, if both, the companies as well as the labour market regulating institutions intensify their training supply to lower qualified employees.

    However, existing levels of demand are likely to make such provision economically unviable, unless specific targeted funding is provided.

    4.2 Czech Republic(13)

    The situation for people with Lower Qualifications is generally unsatisfactory. The skills and competencies of the majority with higher qualifications (over 85% of the adult population) make the opportunities for the Lower Qualified precarious. At a time of high unemployment and the decline of traditional manufacturing industry, the position of those who have not completed secondary education is quite difficult. They are competing in a labour market where the opportunities are limited, due to economic and technological change in areas that once had traditional manufacturing industry.

    Many jobs in these areas are filled by immigrants with higher qualifications and while those who have jobs feel their situation is precarious. In addition, the current system of welfare benefits provides little incentive to seek to develop new skills. For the minority who lack competence in the Czech language and come from disadvantaged social groups, there are few opportunities or engagement in basic education.

    4.3 Denmark(14)

    Denmark has a total population of 5.3 million. The Danish population has been quite homogeneous and this has contributed to consensual approaches to issues including those related to education and training.

    In 2002, 30% of the adult population (aged 20-69) was qualified to ISCED 1-2(15). In 2002, 59% of the 15-69 years old participated in adult and further education (41% with the goal of maintaining their education, and 18% to improve their qualifications)(16). In an OECD study from 2001 the adult participation in job and career relevant adult and further education the proportion was 49%, for the ISCED 1-2 group it was 29%.(17)

    4.4 Finland(18)

    In general, the educational level of the Lower Qualified is higher than most countries as a high proportion of the population have completed secondary education (see 3.2 above).

    Although the unemployment rate in Finland is rather high (8-9%), there is sometimes even a labour shortage, especially in lower paid and less attractive jobs. Unemployment is more or less a structural and regional phenomenon, and mainly affects older people who have lower or narrow skills and in many cases also employability problems.

    Finnish data indicates that the motivation level is highest when compared to other countries in this study. Finland is also very high in all learning-related concepts (such attitudes, opportunities, past learning experiences). This reflects the general image of Finland as a learning-friendly country. The interviewees generally considered training and education as valuable as such and in principle. However, most of the tasks they had they preferred to learn in practice, at work.

    4.5 Germany(19)

    In connection with the 2004/5 ‘Hartz IV’ reforms, the activities and financial support in further education have changed dramatically. The employment agency reduced the financial support for the so-called ‘second labour market’ drastically which affects the lower qualified directly. This also affects the employed lower qualified indirectly as they benefited from measures that have been organised by their companies and partly financed by federal money. The result of course in these cases is that the measures are stopped which simply erases the possibility for those workers to take part in integrated further education.

    According to the German Bundestag, (Federal parliament) we have a figure of 9.5 million lower qualified persons amongst those between 25 and 64 years of age. This means that about 20% of the population belongs to this group. About a quarter of the lower qualified are immigrants and two-thirds of them are women. Only 13% of them have no formal qualification, if they have, they do not make much use of it. Two thirds of them graduated at high school level, 20% of them graduated at secondary level I or even II. The number of lower qualified persons decreases with age and that nowadays the opportunity and access to education are better and in future, a decrease in that figure is expected.

    In general, male lower qualified are working as manufacturing (48%), in storage and transportation (16%), in agriculture (5%) and the remaining 41% are working in the service industries. Quite similar is the situation for the female lower qualified: 27% of them are working in manufacturing, 15% as cleaners, 5% in agriculture and 50% in service industries such as office management, sales and housekeeping.

    Generally, one can expect that the situation to follow the rule that the lower a person’s vocational qualification the worse is the position for this person in the labour market.

    4.6 Netherlands(20)

    Goals to be achieved through giving courses have to be realistic. Pressure causing stress among the trainees, too much theory, too ambitious trainers or training programmes are factors that easily may have a strong negative effect on the success of courses for Lower Qualified. The general feeling after the interviews was that especially the better-educated Lower Qualified people were eager to learn. These better educated also showed more confidence in their future, which maybe an important factor.

    In general, the interviews with the employees seem to confirm that what Lower Qualified most need is more self-confidence. This can be achieved through more job security, but also by showing them respect and confidence. Obviously, many of the employees we interviewed also deserve that treatment, as they are motivated workers with a commitment to their company.

    They are also ambitious: the less talented do their utmost excel, for example, to become the best operator on the line, the more educated ones have ambitions to become to a certain extent involved in management. Both types of employees are indispensable for the proper operation of a company. To get the most out of the committed Lower Qualified employees, companies have to offer security and confidence.

    4.7 Poland(21)

    Structural and technological changes in the Polish economy have made the Polish labour market dynamic and unstable. The number of jobs requiring rather low qualifications has decreased. In the early 1990s, the demand for education in Poland rose strongly reflecting only the educational aspirations of the youth whereas the demand from adults was infinitesimal. Surveys conducted in 2003, as well as the research for this project, indicate that:

  • High levels of unemployment and a weak labour market discourage those with Lower Qualifications from participating in Lifelong Learning;
  • Training courses organised by employers are mainly for generic subjects such as Health and Safety and are usually compulsory;
  • This situation may change with access to the European Social Fund in the future.
  • 4.8 United Kingdom(21)

    The United Kingdom [UK] is the only country that currently has a market model of continuing VET. "The UK and the Netherlands are the most decentralised in terms of the levels of institutional control (although centralised as regards standards setting) and, in the English case, adopt a voluntarist or network model of partnership in adult training." (Green 2004)

    Britain suffers from a legacy of low levels of basic skills for many workers, moderate educational achievement, and an incoherent and insufficiently valued skills training and skills development system. … Question marks were also raised over the quality and standards of formal and informal British skills instruction, and the need further to improve the rigour of British inspection and assessment procedures. … The existing adult workforce has lower levels of Level 2 skills than most other EU member states, disproportionately concentrated in the unemployed, disadvantaged and economically inactive. It has neither a well-established apprentice system, nor a formal system of vocational training nor a combination of both – the so-called dual system combining the two.

    By the standards of comprehensive lifelong learning fit for purpose for a knowledge economy, the system of Further Education colleges, notwithstanding recent funding increases and some improvement in performance, remain too poorly coordinated, under-resourced, and undervalued.

    A multiplicity of diplomas of varying quality is offered whose overall coherence and usefulness for both learner and employer is often difficult to assess. As experience of training and understanding of its paybacks is essential to undertaking training in later life, these weaknesses make the establishment of adult learning and training even more difficult. There is a long-standing lack of parity of esteem and lack of integration between the vocational and academic routes to learning. The prism that determines resource and policy priorities is too often influenced by the demands of the academically excellent, and not by the mass of vocational learners – in part because of the cultural and social dominance of the private school system." (Hutton 2005: 6-15)

    In this context, the issues of motivation of Lower Qualified adults tend to be situationally specific and related to a particular nexus between the employer and the market. Thus, the possibility of providing opportunities to this group depends on how far centralised funding and regulation mechanisms can provide a coherent offering. Current policy gives considerable priority to the needs of the 18-25 year old group, with the tendency to leave less funding for older age groups. It is the latter group whose jobs are increasingly vulnerable to outsourcing in low-cost countries.

    5. Conclusions

    Learning preferences identified by lower qualified workers across the countries (like learning by doing & learning from others) indicate that theoretical models such as shared expertise and cognitive apprenticeship (Bereiter & Scardamalia 1993; Lave & Wenger 1991) are suitable for this target group.

    One of the major developments of modern scientific psychology is the recognition that the traditional focus on the individual has limited value in considering how human beings learn. One of the reasons for this is the empiricist assumption that we can only "know" what we have good and sufficient evidence for, drawn from the world of our senses – the physical or "real" world.

    The view has been successfully challenged, by constructivism, which views most knowledge as an interpretation of experience, based on schema that enable and limit individuals’ processes of making sense of their experience. The ways in which constructivist learning operates depends on the assumption that much that an individual knows is personally constructed on both direct experience and on such social processes as oral, pictorial and non-verbal communication. These social processes involve taking information from and giving information to others; discussion, asking and answering questions, explaining and challenging others’ statements, explanations and ideas. In this way, psychology has moved from cognitions about social phenomena (social psychology) towards treating social processes as cognition. (Resnick 1991)

    All adults experience the phenomenon of being competent without having formally learned how to achieve that competence. This fact points towards the interlocking and perhaps symbiotic relationship between knowledge and action. Cognitive Apprenticeship is the term used to describe the process of how people become competent in the authentic world of everyday life similar to the much older paradigm of learning – craft apprenticeship. The concept refers to a pre-industrial structure where learning took place successfully in the social setting of the family.

    In her seminal article, Jean Lave (Lave 1991) argues that learning should be considered in our own (personal) "sociocultural, historically grounded world. Such a view invites a rethinking of the notion of learning, treating it as an emerging property of whole persons’ legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice." (Lave 1991:63)

    "Broad exposure to ongoing practice … is in effect a demonstration of the goals to which ‘newcomers’ expect and are expected to move. … This more inclusive process of generating identities is both a result of, and a motivation for participation." (Lave 1991:71)

    Thus, when an individual joins an existing group of competent practitioners, they are motivated by membership of that group both to strengthen their identity as learners and, at least as importantly, to promote the success of the group. This process of mastering the virtuous circle of learning to learn is a central part of the process of successful adult learning. In a structured workplace, the role of the competent members is crucial, whether those with formal status (such as supervisors) or as informal leaders.

    This analysis leads to the conclusion that where a group has sufficient autonomy to manage their own learning in order to contribute to the achievement of shared goals, motivation is likely to be enhanced. In particular, valuing such situated learning is an important process in promoting engagement in lifelong learning. To put it simply, success at learning is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it encourages individuals to shape their identity as successful learners, irrespective of any previous lack of success, such as within formal learning processes at school or college.

    A recent study commented:

    "Situated motivation is based on the simple and straightforward idea that some course designs are more motivating than others (Paris & Turner, 1994:217). Accordingly, a student's inherent or baseline motivation will be enhanced or blunted by the motivating potential (or lack thereof) of the classroom setting. The challenge for educators is to design into their learning settings ‘prototypical characteristics’ that encourage student motivation." (Paris & Turner, 1994: 221)

    "One factor that has been commonly associated with the motivating potential of a learning context is the amount of autonomy provided. … A second factor associated with the motivating potential of a learning setting is the degree to which students can identify with and find interesting a given learning task or set of tasks. … A third factor associated with the motivating potential of a learning setting is the type and timing of the feedback provided." (Adler 2001).

    These three factors are important recommendations, which are strengthened where non-formal learning is successfully validated resulting in credits towards formal certification.

    "One of the decisions of the Education Council (May 2004) was the agreement to the ‘Common European Principles for the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning’. These voluntary principles are designed to improve the working of the labour market and Lifelong Learning." (Konrad 2004)

    This Report provides some of the experience and conceptual approaches to support the achievement of the priorities emphasised by European Ministers and Social Partners.


    1. See Section 3.1 below. 

    2. In many member states, Vocational Training policy and practice is a matter of negotiation between employers and trades unions as Social Partners.  Such matters are also the subject of consultations at a European level.

    3. This report is based on the Motivation-LLL project (Leonardo da Vinci –reference materials project supported by the European Commission “Motivation of lower qualified people for lifelong learning”, A/02/C/F/RF/82100, see

    4. The highest completed formal education describes a person’s first education.  A typical feature of the formal education – in contrary to non-formal education – is that it is acquired in the regular school and education system and is finished with a degree.  The formal education is classified internationally by the ISCED standards (International Standard Classification of Education).  The employment status corresponds with the status in the organisation of the company.  The employment status may be described according to leading and non-leading functions, like for example by the Statistik Austria.

    5. The 2000/01 study of Continuing Vocational Training in the EU is published at page 8(July 2005)

    6. However, operational problems reduced the number of analysable responses to this number.  No data was analysed for Germany and the UK.

    7. The DCA method is explained elsewhere (Kontiainen 1991, 2002; Manninen 1993; see also where the DCA-programme is also available as freeware)

    8. For the wider context, see

    9. European Commission 2005, Commission Staff Working Paper – Progress towards the Lisbon Objectives in Education and Training, pages 5-6

    10. European Commission 2005, Op.Cit., page 35

    11.European Commission 2004, Maastricht Communiqué on the Future Priorities of Enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training [VET], December, page 2,

    12. Prepared by Helmut Hafner

    13. Prepared by Hana Danihelkova

    Prepared by Helle Toft and Peter Bacher

    14. News from the National Statistical Agency, Education and Culture 2002 (26 January 2003)

    15. News from the National Statistical Agency, Education and Culture 2002 (16 December 2003)

    16. Education at a Glance, 2001 OECD

    17. Prepared by Jyri Manninen

    18. Prepared by Daniela Harlinghausen

    19. Prepared by Magnus van der Meer

    20. Prepared by Jola Religa

    21. Prepared by John Konrad


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    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 15 August 2005