Vocational students’ identity formation in relation to vocations in the Swedish industrial sector

  • Lisa Ferm Linkoping University
  • Daniel Persson Thunqvist
  • Louise Svensson
  • Maria Gustavsson
Keywords: Vocational education, industrial programme, vocational identity, trajectories, social categorisation


This article investigates vocational identity formation among students studying vocational education programmes that focus on vocations within Sweden’s industrial sector. The empirical material is based on twenty-eight qualitative interviews with students enrolled on industrial programmes at four upper secondary schools. Taking a situated learning perspective as our starting point, the study reveals how the students’ vocational identity formation can be understood by examining their learning trajectories, which are shaped by their social backgrounds, their perceptions of workplace-based learning and industrial vocations, and their thoughts about their vocational futures. The findings demonstrate that students’ vocational identity formation is not a single linear process. On the contrary, three learning trajectories emerged which correspond to three different student groups. The students oriented towards commitment intended to work in industrial vocations, while the students oriented towards flexibility were open to the possibility of careers outside the industrial sector, and the students oriented towards ambivalence had no obvious plans for their vocational futures. In conclusion, this article suggests that in order to better understand the formation of vocational identities, the notions of learning trajectory types and social categorisations need to be considered in greater depth and understood in relation to the upper secondary school environment.


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How to Cite
Ferm, L., Persson Thunqvist, D., Svensson, L., & Gustavsson, M. (2019). Vocational students’ identity formation in relation to vocations in the Swedish industrial sector. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 9(2), 91-111. https://doi.org/10.3384/njvet.2242-458X.199291
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