Purpose: The role of higher education institutions in enhancing capability development of the healthcare professionals workforce has resulted in work-based learning becoming an essential component of awards linked to professional registration. The purpose of this paper is to explore how key stakeholders (academics, workplace tutors and students) on a programme leading to registration as a Biomedical Scientist (BMS) position themselves in their role and the subsequent impact of this upon delivery of pre-registration training and the development of professional capability. Design/methodology/approach: Constructivist grounded theory methodology and a mixed-methods approach were drawn upon for the study., Findings: Findings expose the challenges of a positivist focus and assumptions around workplace learning and professional development presenting a barrier to developing professional capability. In addressing this barrier, two strategies of ‘doing the portfolio’ and ‘gaining BMS currency’ are adopted. The registration portfolio has become an objective reductionist measure of learning, reflecting the positivist typology of practice in this profession. Practical implications: To ensure that students are supported to develop not only technical skills but also professional capability there is a need for a paradigm shift from a positivist episteme to one that embraces both the positivist and socio-cultural paradigms, viewing them as complimentary and parallel. Originality/value: The study provides a novel insight into how stakeholders interact with the pressures of internal and external influences and the impact this has upon behaviours and strategies adopted. The theoretical understanding proposed has a range of implications for practice and for the development of practitioner capability through pre-registration training and beyond.