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Author: Tracey L. Adams

Abstract

This chapter presents an overview of findings from a mixed methods case study of Ontario engineers, with particular attention to themes of workplace autonomy, authority, skill, and learning. The chapter begins with a brief summary of the literature on professions and workplace change, and, subsequently, the history of engineering in Ontario. Then, study findings on changes to engineering practice and training are presented. Differences in working conditions, and especially workplace autonomy and authority by employment class, gender, and race are identified. Finally, changes to engineers’ learning and training are explored. Findings reveal that the context for skill acquisition for Ontario engineers has altered. In rationalising environments, investments in engineers’ training are declining. The emphasis is now on engineers investing in their own futures, encouraging skill investments that are individualised, piecemeal and fragmented.

In: Professional Power and Skill Use in the 'Knowledge Economy'

Abstract

This chapter draws on data from both the registered nursing and professional engineer case studies to focus on workplace change and professional ethics. In professional workplaces, the presence of competing organisational logics can generate ethical tensions in day-to-day professional practice. As professionals navigate these hybridising logics, ethics become one means through which they can resist, accommodate and/or succumb to workplace change. Our findings reveal that nurses experience considerably more ethical tensions at work, than do engineers. Nevertheless, across the two professions, those professionals with less decision-making authority, experiencing greater workload increases, and those who do not identify as managers, experience more tensions than their counterparts. Qualitative data show that engineers identify top managers as a source of pressure to violate professional ethics. For nurses, it is changes to their work task profile which undermine professional standards for quality, combined with jurisdictional disputes, which exacerbate ethical tensions on the job. Implications for hybridised professionalism are discussed.

In: Professional Power and Skill Use in the 'Knowledge Economy'
This is the first systematic analysis of the class structure of professionals. Their growing numbers, including mainly non-managerial professional employees as well as self-employed professionals, professional employers and professional managers, have been conflated in most prior studies. In this book, evidence comes from a unique series of large-scale surveys since the 1980s as well as recent comparative case studies of engineers and nurses. A primary focus is on issues of job control and skill utilization among these knowledge workers widely regarded as pivotal to the sustainability of knowledge economies. Professional employees in particular are found to face declining job control, diminishing use of their skills and increasing barriers to continuing learning. There are many original benchmarks here to serve as guides for further studies on professional classes, job design and training strategies in advanced capitalist economies.