Arne Roar Lier Ronny Sannerud Akershus University College

Linking research-related tools to fieldwork that supports workplace learning (the case of Norwegian shipyards)
This paper has the intention to give the reader insight in to a research process undertaken in a Norwegian ship yard. The research work is not completed, but rather in the process.

Aker Yards Florø A/S is a ship building company located on the west coast of Norway. The Yard produces mainly chemical tankers and juice tankers for the world market. Aker Yards Florø A/S is part of the group Aker Yards A/S, one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, which comprises 18 Yards located in 8 countries, and employs approximately 20,000 people. In the Oslo Stock Exchange, Aker Yards Florø A/S is listed as a producer of: • • • Fore and aft ship at Okean, Ukraine Mid part with stainless steel cargo tanks in Florø. Assembly, outfitting, testing and delivery the ship from Florø

Aker Yards Florø has 315 contracted employees working in different types of occupations. They are steel workers, welders, pipe fitters, mechanical outfitting, steel outfitting, scaffolding. There are also 300 subcontracted or hired employees who work as electricians, carpenters, painters, insulation fitters, instrumentation fitters, steel workers, and pipe fitters.


Aker Yards Florø A/S has two important groups of customers. One of them consists of the three largest and most demanding operators in the transport of chemicals world wide, which are: • • • Odfjell ASA, Bergen Stolt Nielsen, USA/Netherland JO tankers, Bergen

The other group of customers consists of the world leading producers and transporters of Orange juice, which are: • • • • Aleuropa, Germany Fisher Group, Brazil Atlanship SA, Switzerland Cutrales, Brazil

Aker Yards Florø A/S has the following organizational structure for production:

The research work was conducted in this part of the organization (Mainly)

Production area

Figure1. Aker Yards Florø A/S - organization


Challenges Aker Yards Florø A/S is located on the upper part of the Norwegian west coast and it faces today two main challenges. One of them is related to its location on a relatively small municipality (Flora kommune) away from big cities/centre. The other is to be able to succeed in an increasingly competitive global market. Among several demands, high competition today requires that Aker Yards Florø A/S is able to: • Perform high quality work efficiently (do the work right the first time) • Invest in production that demands high competence • Recruit its workers and apprentices from the local community and keep them in the yard Such demands are forcing the Aker Yards Florø A/S to change from being the producer of the entire ship (carry out all steelwork) to becoming an equipment yard, whose main task is to install technical equipment. This means that the yard has a need today for more plumbers and mechanics and fewer welders. Being aware of this situation, Aker Yards has, among other initiatives, decided to take a chance and implement a relatively large project that shall result in an effective and relevant training for apprentices, who will be retrained from being, for example, welders to becoming mechanics. Akershus University College was invited to discuss the situation with Aker Yards Florø’s top/senior management with the aim of making a proposal for actions to be undertaken. After extensive discussions with the leaders at different levels, the following was decided: • Develop work based curricula for all groups of specialists in the yard • Educate trainers/instructors who shall have the responsibility for the training of technicians • Carry out management training for production leaders and foremen


Research approach and strategy Because "the mission" can be defined as a development work that should lead to positive results, an action oriented approach was chosen. According to this approach, the participants (top management, middle management, foremen and technicians) have an active role (Svensson 2002, Sannerud 2003). It was emphasised that the foremen and the skilled workers expertise would be an important and fundamental resource in the project. Some fundamental values in the research approach selected are related to democracy. Thus, transparency, equality, dialogue and interaction are integrated in the development process. With this view in mind, it was attempted to establish a liberating (“emancipator”) perspective as a means to get the research into a democratic track, where practical was not just audience but also participants (Skjervheim, 1956 - Toulmin,1996 Olsén, Steen Nielsen, Aagaard Nielsen, 2003 – Sannerud 2006). Conceptually, the project can be defined within an action research tradition with a focus in democratic processes and the development of democracy. In other words, the approach should ideally take place through wide interaction among practitioners and researchers as equal partners. Even if this approach not should be characterized as normative from the researchers' side, but is still needed to use various types of "tools" and structures. One of them, for example, inspired by ITB's Design and Implementation of a Curriculum on Curriculum Development (DCCD) as a tool when the work with work based curricula was to be carried out. (Joachim Dittrich 2007) The empirical material was collected in two ways and on two levels. In the beginning of the project and as part of anchoring work, individual interviews were conducted with foremen, production leaders, quality leaders and persons in top management. The purpose of these interviews was to


contribute to an in-depth insight into the organisation, not least the informal organisation. In addition, the interviews contributed to an insight into the various problems associated with the production and the cultural side of the business/organisation. The next level, it was related to the development of work based curriculum which was inspired by the DCCD "method". This part was organized as workshops for each trade, such as a plumber, welder and mechanics. The participants were the foremen and technicians. Figure 2 shows the overlap of the two levels. This method helped to gain an insight into the concrete work area and work process and the work tasks.

Fig 2 Overlap - Methods and levels

This two overlapping methods contribute to, for example, material from the individual interviews helps to set the contents and the structure of the work based curricula in an organizational and cultural context.

The role of the research
In contrast to work performed by a consultant, the approach here proposed is based largely on a systematic collection of empirical data, and has different interests and perspectives, such as a specific focus on theories of learning and methodological questions. In the interface between the university (academia) and business (technicians, foremen, and so on), the researchers can be regarded as translators. In other words, the models and research approaches must be available in a “language” that practitioners in the company feel comfortable with and understand well. Conversely, technicians must adapt their terminology so that


it can be understood by the researchers. This approach can be illustrated by Figure 3.

Fig 3 A model of A Participative Action Research Scandinavian Style: The Cogenerative Way Whyte, F. W. ed. (1991) Participatory Action Research

Through such an approach research can also have a value for the enterprise. Among other things, one can develop insight into his/her own organization based on one’s own participation and statements. This can be very important for the content of, for example, education and training of trainer/instructors and of managers. Concerning Akershus University College, this research makes an important contribution to the vocational field. It can be, for example, insight into how a modern ship yard works. We belong to a vocational environment whose mission is to educate also vocational teachers, among other professionals. The role of research in such a project can make a number of contributions with varied perspectives, which are focussed in Figure 4 6

Figure 4. A systematic view of workplace learning Australian National Training Authority 2003

Figure 4 shows the different perspectives that can be fruitful for a comprehensive understanding of work based learning, for example, at Aker Yards Florø A/S. In our project the focus is particularly on The enterprise, especially on the culture of learning, training and development of work based curriculum. In this model Akershus University College can be defined as Networks and partnerships that provide assistance to develop Aker Yards Florø A/S ' formal and informal learning at the workplace. The model (fig. 4) focuses on a number of perspectives, but should also be put into a local context, that is, the local conditions the company is a part of.


Some questions
What can our insight contribute to research related to workplace learning? Confirms something we “all know”, or can we talk about a research approach that is different on the basis of our background, as for instance being a plumber or a mechanic? What perspectives can be fruitful in further research work?

Australian National Training Authority (2003) What makes for good workplace learning. Centre for Vocational Education Research. Adelaide. Dittrich, Joachim (2007) Implementation of a Curriculum on Curriculum Development (DCCD) ITB - Bremen Nielsen, Kurt Aagaard Nielsen og Svensson (Eds.) (2006) Action Research and Interactive Research. Beyond practice and theory. Shaker Publishing BV, Netherlands. Skjervheim, Hans (1957) Deltakar og Tilskodar - Stensilserie. Oslo Universitet. Sannerud, Ronny (2003) Interaktiv forskning : utfordringer i interaktiv forskning. Høgskolen i Akershus. Sannerud, Ronny (2006) Methods for developing the Construction Site as a Learning Space in Nielsen, K. AA. & Svensson, L ed. Action research and Interactive Research. Beyond practice and theory. Saker Publishing. Maastricht. Svennson, L m. fl. red (2002) Interaktiv forskning - för utveckling av teori och praktik - Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm, Sverige. Toulmin, Stephen (1996) Elitism and Democracy among the Sciences i: Beyond Theory Whyte, F. W. ed. (1991) Participatory Action Research Newbury Park: Sage.