Older professional workers and continuous learning in new capitalism



Fenwick T (2012) Older professional workers and continuous learning in new capitalism. Human Relations, 65 (8), pp. 1001-1020.

Amidst projected shortages of skilled workers, policy measures to retain older workers in employment include increasing their participation in learning. However, the few studies produced to date examining older workers' learning suggest complexities not recognized in human capital conceptions of skill development and assumptions of declining seniors' participation. To build on these studies, particularly in older professionals' learning, which has received little attention despite concerns regarding professional transitions in a knowledge economy, this article examines older professionals' approaches to and conceptions of learning. The study involved 816 accountants' survey responses and 60 interviews with older (50+) Certified Management Accountants in Canada. Far from withdrawing from learning, these older professionals are particularly focused in what, when and how they engage. Their enactments are complex, and demonstrate ambivalences related to discourses of both age and learning. More fundamentally, they negotiate the various pressures associated with new capitalism strategically: deliberately complying with some, refusing others, and generally resisting subjectification either as excluded ‘older workers' or as continuous learners.

accountants; new capitalism; older workers; professional learning; work environment

Human Relations: Volume 65, Issue 8

Publication date31/08/2012

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Professor Tara Fenwick

Professor Tara Fenwick

Emeritus Professor, Education