This paper aims to examine employees' conceptions of the meaning of experience in job‐competence and its development in workplace context. The aim is to bring out the variety of conceptions related to experience, competence and workplace learning.
The paper is based on interview data from six Finnish small and medium sized enterprises. The data were collected as a part of a larger European Union research project, Working Life Changes and Training of Older Workers (WORKTOW) during spring 1999. The approach chosen for the analysis presented in this paper was phenomenography.
The findings in the paper show the importance accorded to experience in competence and in workplace learning. The employees valued work experience as the main source of their competence. They also developed their competence mainly through learning at work. The role of social participation in work communities and learning through experiences was emphasized.
The paper shows that differentiating employees' conceptions paves a way to more specific perspectives on the development and utilisation of experience‐based competence in work communities and organisations.
In this paper the findings are discussed in the light of construction and development of older workers' job‐competence in working life. It is argued that experience serves several kinds of purposes in workplace learning also among experienced workers.
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