The skills debate in many European countries has for many\ud years been preoccupied with the supply of qualified\ud individuals and participation in training events. This emphasis\ud is reflected in the sources of systematic data currently\ud available to policy-makers and academics in the field.\ud However, recent case study work suggests that qualifications\ud and training are partial measures of skill development as most\ud learning arises naturally out of the demands and challenges of\ud everyday work experience and interactions with colleagues,\ud clients and customers. This paper argues that the ‘learning as\ud acquisition’ and ‘learning as participation’ metaphors aptly\ud capture these two competing intellectual traditions. Despite\ud the substitution of the word ‘learning’ for ‘training’, the\ud preoccupation with measuring exposure to conscious and\ud planned events which are set up to impart knowledge and\ud skills remains as strong as ever and typifies the ‘learning as\ud acquisition’ approach. This paper outlines an experiment that\ud was designed to give the ‘learning as participation’ metaphor a\ud firmer survey basis than it has hitherto enjoyed. The resulting\ud survey of 1,943 employees carried out in February 2004 in the\ud UK highlights the importance of social relationships and\ud mutual support in enhancing individual performance at work,\ud factors which individual acquisition of qualifications and\ud attendance on courses ignores. The paper also confirms the\ud importance of work design in promoting and facilitating\ud learning at work in all its guises.\ud
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