Project Details

A project, completed in 2013, to improve understanding of apprentices’ workplace-based learning and occupational identity formation through a synthesis of data on how apprentices perceive learning at work and contemporary understanding of workplace learning as informed by theories of embodied cognition and knowledge and grounded cognition. A collaboration of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Primary ITO, Building and Construction ITO, Hairdressing ITO, Competenz, Services IQ, Joinery ITO and NZ Marine ITO.


The main aim of the project was to:

  • ensure apprentices have access to adequate training and practice-based learning to become competent practitioners, entrusted with trade workers’ or crafts persons’ work tasks and responsibilities.


A mixed method approach was taken, both qualitative and quantitative, involving:

  • a literature review of contemporary learning theories
  • telephone interviews with apprentices were conducted to discuss how they learnt their trade skills and experienced workplace learning
  • case studies were constructed for each participant trade, which collated the common themes arising through the interview data.



Dr Selena Chan

Project Leader

Ara Institute of Canterbury
primary ITO

Tracey Shepherd

Primary Industry Training Organisation (PITO)

Loretta Garrow


Steve Brooks


Erica Cummings

Hairdressing ITO

Alison Thompson

Service IQ

Deb Paul

Joinery ITO

Patricia Black

Joinery Industry Training Organisation (JITO)

Colin Sandford

New Zealand Marine Industry Training Organisation (NZMITO)

Jacqui Bolton

New Zealand Marine Industry Training Organisation (NZMITO)




$15,100.00 (excl GST)

$15,100.00 Organisation contribution

Key Findings

The key finding of the project was:

  • The majority of apprentices learnt a trade through watching, practising and being coached. Apprentices also learnt through imitation, critical reflection and thinking, enquiry, problem solving, interaction with others (through feedback and conversations) and teaching or helping others.

Key Recommendations

The key recommendations from the project were:

Apprentices | Introduce, support and enhance metacognition and learning to learn strategies within trades learning contexts.

Coaches | Workplace trainers and coaches need to maximise direct coaching strategies and assist apprentices to: secure access to relevant and worthwhile work tasks to accomplish learning goals; ensure learners are not exposed to inappropriate knowledge; assist learners to access difficult to learn work practices like problem solving and judgement making; and provide forms of close guidance as the learners progress through competency.

Industry Training Organisations | Increase opportunities for peer learning connections and recognise workplace-based learning achievements.

Training of tutors and coaches | Improve vocational pedagogical approaches to encompass multimodalities and multiliteracies of trades-based learning to assist trades learners to become mindful practitioners.


Learning a Trade: Becoming a trades person through apprenticeship

In this project, apprentices’ perspectives on how they went about learning a trade are collated, studied and appraised. Guidelines for apprentices and their workplace trainers are then derived from apprentices’ experienced curriculum to assist with workplace-based learning.

(PDF, 2.16 MB, 74-pages).

  • 1 November 2013
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Helping Apprentices Learn a Trade

A poster demonstrating four simple steps for employers to help apprentices learn a trade.

(PDF, 619 KB, 1-page).

  • 1 November 2013
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Helping apprentices Learn a Trade

An animated video made for use in the workplace to help apprentices learn a trade. Produced by Mohawk Media.

(YouTube, 1.12 mins, 720p).

  • 2 November 2013
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Learning a Trade: Becoming a trades person through apprenticeship

This guide brings together the ideas based on work undertaken over the last 15 years that was focused on how to best support learners to ‘learn a trade’.

(PDF, 5.5 MB, 16-pages).

  • 2 March 2020
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