Occupational identification in dual-track VET programmes: social processes, prospects and meanings for retail clerk apprentices

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The aim of this research project is to explore processes of occupational identification among apprentices in dual-track VET programmes. Understanding how apprentices identify with their occupation will help to create a more in-depth understanding of how apprentices familiarise themselves with the social requirements of their chosen occupation (i.e. norms, codes and occupational values, "vocational habitus").

Adopting a sociological perspective, the study examines the social conditions and factors that influence the development of occupational identities at the VET school as well as during apprenticeship training at the host company. In order to understand this process, the project focuses on the following aspects:

  • How do apprentices identify with the occupation? How do they become ‘professionals’?
  • How do apprentices negotiate their occupational identities in response to the social requirements of their occupation (vocational habitus) and the conditions of working life in general?
  • How does the institutional framework of VET influence the development of occupational identities among apprentices?
  • What social disparities underlie occupational identification processes?

In a general sense, the project seeks to identify current systemic shortcomings and challenges that may hinder the personal and professional aspirations of apprentices and affect their level of social integration, particularly in work settings. The main objective is to show the image that apprentices have of their occupation and highlight any differences, or even discrepancies, between apprentice perspectives and those held by VET teachers, VET trainers, professional organisations, etc. This research may then serve as a basis for recommendations on how VET professionals can provide better support to apprentices.


This study will be conducted with retail clerk apprentices (Federal VET Diploma) in three VET schools in three Swiss Cantons (two French-speaking ones and one German-speaking Canton). For the empirical data collection, a qualitative approach involving various methods was chosen: document analysis, classroom observation, group discussions with apprentices and semi-guided interviews (with apprentices, teachers, trainers, etc.).