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Older workers’ workplace learning in manufacturing industries: subjectivity

Maria-Cristina Giovanna Migliore (IRES Piemonte, Torino, Italy)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 12 October 2015




The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to older workers (OWs)’ subjective engagement in working and learning in the manufacturing industry. Workplace learning (WPL) literature rarely considers the subjective side of learning from a cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) account.


The paper adopts a CHAT-influenced perspective: learning is a cultural and collective process and a dimension of activity. Subjectivity is conceptualized through the ideas developed by A.N. Leontiev. The design takes the form of multiple embedded case studies, within two companies which approximate two types of production strategies, mass production and flexible specialization. OWs were interviewed about their professional lives.


The subjective side of WPL is differentiated by the two types of production strategies. These strategies, together with other life experiences, create different opportunities for the OWs’ subjective engagement. Motives for WPL are linked to the needs for learning in the workplace, and to the ideal image that OWs have of their workplace.

Research limitations/implications

The theoretical framework requires an interdisciplinary study and leads to conclusive remarks which overcome the boundary of the educational field. More investigation is needed about the gender issue.


This paper enlarges the view on WPL for OWs by using the concept of the “object of activity” to connect industrial practices and OWs’ subjectivities. This concept has been used to explore the motivational aspects of learning in an original way. The findings of this paper will assist policy-makers to better understand WPL and the production strategies implications supported through industrial policies.



Migliore, M.-C.G. (2015), "Older workers’ workplace learning in manufacturing industries: subjectivity", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 27 No. 8, pp. 583-595.



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