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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Successfully submitted to the Technological University Dublin towards the award of Masters (M.A.) in Third Level Learning and Teaching, 2011.


This thesis research set out to examine the learning experience of apprentice painters and decorators on the Irish Standards Based Apprenticeship. It focussed on three painting and decorating apprentices from the Technological University Dublin who were coming towards the end of their four year apprenticeship. As such the participants had experienced the full range of possible learning on the programme. The main aim of the study was to explore the learning experiences of apprentices on the standards based apprenticeship in their own words. This would provide for unique insights into that learning experience.

The research design was interprtivism informed by a constructionist epistemology. As it was exploring the real life experience of the participants it was phenomenological in nature. The research method was one on one semi structured interviews and the data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analyses. An extensive literature review of college based modules and work based modules was conducted as these form the two primary aspects of the Irish standards based apprenticeship.

The findings reveal the multi-faceted aspects of the learning experience that apprentices undergo with three strong themes emerging from the analysis. Firstly, it is clear that the apprentices engage in a complex relationship with their employer. Secondly, there is a perception among the participants that the college based modules are where learning occurs. Lastly, the participants revealed the transformative power of learning as it helped to transform their sense of self.

The study concludes with recommendations for policy makers with regards to improving the future learning experiences of apprentices.