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The missing middle: communities of practice in a freelance labour market

[Irena Grugulis] and Dimitrinka Stoyanova
Work, Employment and Society, 25, 2, 342-351

Abstract

Learning at, and through, work is a key part of the skills literature. However, the idea and ideal of the ‘community of practice’ assumes that workplaces are coherent communities where the skilful are available for novices to consult and observe. This is not always the case. This research note, drawing on three months of detailed ethnographic research in a TV production company, explores the way communities of practice function in a labour market dominated by small firms and freelancers. It argues that the experienced workers who would normally be central to skills development are simply not available to consult or observe, since they are employed on freelance contracts. The novices’ community is one with a ‘missing middle’.