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Standing at the crossroads: identity and recognition of the applied science technologist in British Columbia

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(Thesis) Ed.D.
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Modern technical education in British Columbia has been affected by two societal trends: in industry, engineering technology evolved as a discipline to bridge the increasing chasm between the process-oriented skill sets of tradespersons/technicians, and the declarative knowledge focus of engineering; in education, the provincial college and institute system was created to address the need for a new post-secondary credential situated between trades certificates and university degrees. The Applied Science Technologist arguably forms the intersection of these two concepts. Almost forty years after its inception, it is timely to ask if the original model has matured into a distinct occupational category in industry, education, and in the public mind. The thesis proposes three environments, the Formative, Market and Public Domain, respectively. Interviews, surveys and personal experience afforded insights into the dynamics of these domains with respect to a fledgling occupational category, while the socio-philosophical concepts of culture, habitus and social imaginary provide the tools to interpret the findings. The thesis postulates that an emerging occupational category will not only challenge existing cultures and habitus, but that over time it will influence the imaginaries of each domain and society as a whole. Ultimately, the occupational category will be truly successful only when the general public is able to distinguish it from related disciplines. Charles Taylor’s writings on multiculturalism are used to discuss identity and recognition of the Applied Science Technologist in each domain while Pierre Bourdieu’s perspectives on the existence of habitus and self-proliferating elites form the framework to examine the relationships between technologists and engineers. Taylor’s theory of multiple concurrent social imaginaries guides the comparison of divergent expectations among academic, career and vocational instructors at British Columbia’s colleges. The thesis concludes with recommendations for the sustainability of the Applied Science Technologist as distinct occupational category.
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