DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION, L Atkins

Tags: em, ion, educat ion, wit, ed, skills, Brit ish Educat ional Research Journal Volum, Northumbria Research Link, employability skills, Northumbria University
Content: Citation: Atkins, Liz (2012) Social control in practice: the impact of learning employability skills. In: Discourse, Power and Resistance, 2-4 April 2012, Plymouth.
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16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON Social cont rol in practice: the im pact of learning em ployability skills Pa pe r Pr e se nt e d a t D iscour se , Pow e r a nd Re sist a nce Con fe r e nce Tuesday, April 3 2 0 1 2
Cor r espondence Dr. Liz At kins Universit y of Huddersfield School of Educat ion and Pr ofessional St udies Queensgat e Hu d d er sf i el d HD1 3DH Em ail: l.at [email protected]
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16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON Abst ract This paper explores not ions of `em ployabilit y' in furt her educat ion, a concept which is at t he basis of m uch governm ent policy associat ed wit h m arginalised learners. Drawing on earlier em pirical work by At kins ( 2009) At kins et al ( 2010) and Sim m ons and Thom pson ( 2011) and wor king wit hin a fram ework inform ed by Mar xist concept s of Pow er and Cont rol, t he paper pr oblem at ises t he t erm em ployabilit y, arguing t hat in policy t erm s it is ill- defined yet associat ed wit h a posit ive rhet oric about high pay, skill work which is in t ension wit h t he prospect s of t he m arginalised group of st udent s at whom it is direct ed. Despit e t he rhet oric, m ost em ployabilit y program m es are far rem oved from t he `genuine work experience' advocat ed by Wolf ( 2011: 130) . They offer lit t le in t he way of concept ual knowledge or exchange value, but are resonant wit h earlier concerns about t he st ruct ure of v ocat ional PCET pr ogram m es as pr oducing users who are socialised t o work, rat her t han as cit izens ( Tarrant , 2001) . As such, t he paper argues t hat em ployabilit y program m es are little m ore t han an exercise in social cont rol which is product ive of false hope t hat engagem ent wit h them will offer a rout e int o high pay, high skill em ploym ent wit h t he prospect of financial and career securit y. The paper concludes t hat t his hope obscures t he realit y t hat such program m es at best m ay lead t o low, pay, low skill work and at worst , form anot her st age in t he `churn' of young people who are NEET. The im pact of such program m es is unlikely, t herefore, t o be one of progression t o high pay, high skill careers, but rat her t o be one of class and labour ( re) product ion as st udent s are socialised int o part icular form s of casual and low pay, low skill em ploym ent . 2 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON I ntroduct ion Em ployabilit y skills program m es in t he learning and skills sect or in England have proliferat ed in recent years, apparent ly in direct correlat ion wit h t he cont ract ion of t he labour m arket . However, despit e t heir proliferat ion, and despit e t he scrut iny t o which graduat e em ployabilit y has been subj ect ed, t here has been lit tle critical considerat ion given t o t he low- level em ployabilit y program m es direct ed at m ost ly NEET ( Not in Educat ion, Em ploym ent or Training) working class young people which ar e in t ension wit h policy rhet oric suggest ing t hat t hey effect ively prepare young people for part icipation in t he knowledge econom y. Not ions of em ployabilit y perm eat ed t he discourse and post - 16 policy of t he 1997- 2010 Labour gov ernm ent and t his em phasis has cont inued under t he pr esent Coalit ion governm ent . Mcquaid and Lindsay ( 2005: 201) argue t hat t he t erm `em ployabilit y' has originat ed at least a cent ury ago, but t hat t he use of t he concept in t erm s of labour m arket out com es can be dat ed t o t he 1970s and t he focus on t he need for `individual' and `t ransferable' skills t o t he 1980s. These changing definit ions m ay, in part be responsible for t he consist ent failure of policy in t his area t o `m ove beyond broad concept ions of skill and define t hose necessary t o capably undert ake a range of j obs' ( Keep and Jam es, 2010: 14) . The perceived need for individuals ­ part icularly t hose who m ight be described as m arginalised - t o have a generic set of `skills' was m ade explicit in t he CBI 's 1989 call for a `skills rev olut ion' which, it was argued, w ould result in an increase in t he provision of `em ployabilit y skills' across all educat ion sect ors. I n t he UK it m ay be argued t o have been given part icular pr om inence by Callaghan's 1976 speech Towards a Nat ional Debat e, in which he argued t hat schools were failing t o equip young people wit h t he basic skills and at t it udes necessary for t he world of work, a percept ion which was j ust ified in t he cont ext of t he m ass yout h unem ploym ent of t he t im e and which resonat es t hrough t he new vocat ionalism of t he 1980s, t he GNVQs of t he 1990s and t he Diplom as and BTECs of t he 2000s as w ell as wit h t he cont ent of cont em porary em ployabilit y program m es. At t he t im e of t he new vocat ionalism t he explicit inculcat ion of part icular at t it udes in young people was largely associat ed wit h t he young unem ployed on vocat ional program m es and led t o a percept ion t hat t hose who required t he developm ent of such at t it udes belonged t o a part icular cat egory of non- academ ic low achievers ( Moore, 1984: 66) , a percept ion which has rem ained unchanged in skills and educat ion policy ( e.g. see BI S, 2010: 33 for a recent exam ple) . Early program m es such as GNVQ and CPVE inculcat ed specific social disciplines ( Cohen, 1984: 105; Chit t y, 1991b: 104) also found in cont em porary em ployabilit y program m es including t eam work, at t endance and 3 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON punct ualit y. This approach t o educat ion has been argued t o prepare young people t o undert ake specific low pay, low skill occupat ions ( Ainley, 1991: 103; Helsby et al 1998: 74) , in `sinist er' ( Tarrant , 2001: 371) form s of socialisat ion which m ay also be argued t o form an at t ack on t he social identit y of t he individual, given t he explicit nat ure of t he changes in at tit udes and behaviour t hey seek t o achieve and which ultim at ely result in a `pre- ordained posit ioning' in t he labour m arket rat her t han facilit ating young people t o develop a `critical underst anding of t he nat ure of work' ( Bat hm aker, 2001: 90) . Labour m ar ket posit ioning which leads young people t owards t he `opport unit ies' of casualised, low pay, low skill work, int erspersed wit h periods of unem ploym ent is in conflict wit h bot h t he New Labour rhet oric which prom ised `an inclusive societ y t hat prom ot es em ployabilit y for all' ( DfES 2003b: 18) and wit h sim ilar, m ore recent Coalit ion rhet oric ( e.g. see BI S, 2010: 33/ 34) which also conflat es `em ployabilit y' wit h inclusion am id prom ises of high pay high skill work in t he global econom y. This posit ioning does, however, clearly dem onst rat e t hat t hese form s of discourse are highly effect ive as `inst rum ent [ s] of dom inat ion' ( Schubert , 2008: 183) by at t ributing blam e t o t he individual for t he position in which t hey find t hem selves and divert ing at t ent ion and crit ical considerat ion from governm ent responsibilit y for m acro- econom ic policy. These form s of discourse also reflect t he deficit m odel ut ilised by policy m akers t o describe t hose who are perceived t o lack part icular ( uncritical and ill- defined) skills and at t ribut es and which rhet oric suggest s can som ehow be em bedded in t he individual by part icipat ion in low level em ployability skills program m es. Young Peoples' Perceptions Although em ployabilit y policy is heavily focussed on m arginalised groups, part icularly NEET young people, and despit e t he debat es ar ound t he value and efficacy of t his, t here is a lack of credible research which explores t he out com es of such program m es in t erm s of t he relat ive benefit s t o t hose who undert ake t hem . There is, however, considerable evidence t hat sim ilar low level qualifications, such as t hose derived from foundat ion learning program m es and t he broad vocat ional program m es associat ed wit h em ployabilit y 'skills', lack any `r eal world' cur r ency ( Wolf, 2011: 93) . Fur t her t o t his, research conduct ed by MacDonald and Marsh ( 2005: 99) suggest s t hat m any young people who undert ake em ployabilit y program m es, oft en as a condition of receiving benefit s, feel an elem ent of pointlessness and hopelessness about t he realit y of what t hese program m es can offer in t erm s of access t o t he labour m arket and t he `secure' em ploym ent t hey are seeking. Sim ilarly, in a st udy by At kins ( 2009) , young people on a generic level 1 program m e, which included all t he feat ures found in em ployabilit y program m es, expressed concern about t he lack of credibilit y t hat t he program m e had 4 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON out side t heir inst it ut ion. This lack of credibilit y was reflect ed in one st udent 's com m ent t hat `I will use [ t he level 1 qualification] any way I can use it , I will use it , but I 'm not sure where I can use it ' ( At kins, 2009: 99) . Despit e t heir recognition t hat t heir low-level qualifications carried m inim al exchange value, all t he young people in t his st udy ( conduct ed across t wo inst it utions) em phasised t he im port ance of get t ing `good' qualifications as a pre- cursor t o get t ing a `good' j ob ( 2009: 60) . I n t he cont ext of t hese aspirat ions `good j obs' were conflat ed wit h `perm anent ' and `secure' em ploym ent ( ibid: 80) and `good' qualifications were t hose such as GNVQ, which had nat ional branding and were perceived t o have a value beyond t he inst it ut ion. The young people in a lat er st udy ( At kins et al, 2010) whilst recognising t he academ ic/ vocat ional divide and it s im plications in t erm s of inequalities, had chosen t heir program m es because t hey perceived t hat t hey would confer t he skills necessary t o work in a part icular t ype of em ploym ent . This group, which included part icipant s from all m ainst ream levels in Furt her Educat ion, also aspired t o hav e `secur e j obs' but it was apparent t hat t heir underst andings of possible career pat hs varied in sophistication according t o level and t ype of program m e as w ell as subj ect area. The st udent s ( m ainly t hose from m ore affluent and educat ed backgrounds) on t hose level 3 program m es wit h great er `academ ic' cont ent ( e.g business st udies) offered m ore sophist icat ed int erpret at ions of t he not ion of `career' as well as having considerable clarit y about t heir personal career orient at ions ( 2010: 31) . I n cont rast , t hose ( largely working class) young people on lower level, pract ical program m es such as const ruct ion and childcare m ade less sophist icat ed int erpret at ions. Perhaps unsurprisingly given t heir Social Class and pot ent ial Labour Mark et posit ioning, and like t he y oung people in t he 2009 st udy, t his group was also t he m ost concerned wit h `securit y', som et hing t hey conflat ed wit h `good m oney' im plying that working class young people on lower level program m es ­ part icularly where t hese have m inim al social or exchange value, as in VET, Funct ional Skills and Em ployabilit y program m es - ar e m or e likely t o aspire t o `securit y' around t he not ion of a `j ob for life' , in cognisance of t he uncert ainties associat ed with low pay, low skill work, t heir class- specific `opport unities' t hus also `det erm ining t he level of occupat ional aspirat ion' ( Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990: 184) . I t is clear t hat t he aspirat ions of t hese young people are in st ark cont rast t o t he not ions of graduat e em ployability em ployed in ot her policy areas which are cont ext ualised around `career planning', a not ion which im plies very different life and econom ic ret urns t o t hose of t he `secure j obs' m any of t he working class young people in t hese st udies aspired t o. Such diverse percept ions of career and em ployabilit y raise t he quest ion why t he sam e governm ent should utilise t wo such different percept ions of `em ployabilit y' for 5 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON young people, in an apparent ly arbit rary division m ade according t o social class and perceived academ ic and econom ic pot ent ial, if not t o m aint ain a convenient st at us quo. Part icipat ion in t he ent ry level program m es offered in t he learning and skills sect or im ply an em bodied recognition on t he part of working class young people t hat t hey have been unequally prepared for an unequal j obs m arket in which t hose from m ore elit e social classes will have access t o t he best j obs ( Bourdieu and Passer on 1990: 184) : cont ext ualised wit hin a global recession t he uncert ain hope for `secure' em ploym ent am ongst working class young people m ay be a fact or in t heir lack of resist ance t o undert aking em ployabilit y program m es t hey recognise have lit tle value, in an act which m ay be seen as being com plicit with t heir own dom ination ( Bourdieu 1989a: 12 cit ed Bourdieu and Wacquant , 1992: 24) . Em ployabilit y: Policy Discourse and D efinit ions Most cont em porar y int erpr et at ions of t he t erm em ployabilit y draw on a CBI definit ion from 2007 which, in an echo of Towards a Nat ional Debat e, suggest s t hat em ployabilit y skills include a posit ive at t it ude as w ell as self- m anagem ent , t eam - w orking, business and cust om er awareness, problem solving, com m unicat ion and lit eracy, application of num eracy, and applicat ion of inform at ion t echnology. This draw s on an earlier ( Confer ence Board of Canada, 2000) definit ion of em ployabilit y skills which includes t he `abilities' t o com m unicat e, m anage inform at ion, use num bers, t hink & solve problem s, be responsible, be adapt able, learn cont inuously, work safely, work wit h ot hers, and part icipat e in proj ect s & t asks as well as dem onst rat e posit ive at t it udes & behaviours, ( m y em phasis) . Hillage and Pollard ( 1998) dev eloped a definit ion which, whilst it acknowledged t he `crucial' im port ance of labour m arket conditions, em phasised t he responsibilit y of t he individual to gain and maintain em ploym ent and to find new em ploym ent if required, in a report which relat ed t o t hose at t he lower end of t he j obs m arket , a fact or which m ay be significant in t he differing approaches t o `em ployabilit y' t aken wit h t hose positioned at t he lower end of t he labour m ark et , and t hose who hav e t he benefit of Higher Educat ion credent ials. A broader definition, developed by Brown et al ( 2003) proposes a concept of em ployabilit y which com prises an absolut e dim ension ( an individual's skills) and a relat ive dim ension ( where j ob- seekers st and in relat ion t o each ot her) as well as a subj ect ive dim ension relat ing t o t he socialisation and social identit y of t he individual. Thus, t hey argue, a m ore helpful definit ion of em ployabilit y would be `t he relat ive chances of acquiring and m aint aining different kinds of em ploym ent ' ( Brown et al 2003: 111) , som et hing which would be influenced not only by an individual's skills, but by work 6 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON availability in the labour m arket and by the individuals perception of what work is `right' for t hem ( Bat es, 1993: 14) . This int erpret at ion of em ployabilit y raises a key quest ion about cont em porar y em ployabilit y program m es in t he learning and skills sect or . Given t hat , in relat ion t o ot her j ob- seek ers, NEET young people and t hose who hav e v er y low levels of educat ion st and at t he bot t om of an unequal and highly st rat ified hierarchy, t o what ext ent do t he generic and low- level `skills' conferred by such program m es alt er t hat positioning ? Despit e a lack of credible research t o provide const ruct ive answers t o t his and ot her quest ions, `em ployability' has form ed a m aj or plank of governm ent policy for nearly t wo decades: it 's cent ralit y to t he key st rat egic direct ion of t he t hen Depart m ent for Educat ion and Em ploym ent under New Labour was m ade explicit in Hillage and Pollard's ( 1998) report and, ut ilising sim ilar inst rum ent al definit ions of em ployabilit y, t he influent ial 2003 Skills St rat egy Whit e Paper began by conflat ing skills wit h `em ployabilit y for life' ( p.11) as a key response t o perceived global econom ic dem ands. These definit ions chim e wit h m or e recent Coalit ion policy, which ut ilises a deficit m odel associat ed wit h disadvant age and poor educat ion t o j ust ify it s approach t o `em ployabilit y' in t he cont ext of a discourse which bot h j ust ifies, and, as Sim m ons and Thom pson ( 2011: 30) have argued, glam ourises t he increasingly insecure nat ure of em ploym ent . The post - fordist rhet oric in t he Skills St rat egy Whit e Paper about t he high skill, high pay opport unities associat ed wit h globalisat ion were however, in st ark cont radiction t o t he definit ion of Em ployabilit y in t he sam e paper . New Labour ( DfES 2003b: 13) defined `t he m inim um for em ployabilit y' as t he holding of level 2 credent ials, som et hing which was cont ext ualised wit hin a discourse of inclusion and re- inforced in a lat er Whit e Paper ( DfES 2006: 4) and t hr ough t he dat a r eport ing of t he t hen funding body for Furt her Educat ion ( FE) , t he Lear ning and Skills Council ( LSC) , in t erm s of num ber s achieving t he `level 2 At t ainm ent t hreshold' as w ell as by Fost er's ( 2005: vii) call for FE colleges, which form a significant proport ion of t he learning and skills sect or, t o have `a core focus on skills and em ployabilit y' . I n response t o t his, `personal' and `t hinking and learning' skills wer e m ade explicit in t he 2005 Whit e Paper , which also st at ed t hat such skills were fundam ent al t o im proving young people's em ployabilit y cont ext ualising t hem wit hin t he ov er- arching legislat ive fram ework t hat followed t he Every Child Mat t ers ( 2004) green paper. This focus on low- grade skills as a pat hway t o `em ployabilit y' becam e t he key funct ion of a dim inished and increasingly inst rum ent al FE sect or under New Labour. The posit ion has not alt ered as a consequence of m ore r ecent Coalit ion policy which prom ises t o `im prove learner out com es and em ployabilit y' ( BI S, 2011: 24) again conflat es `em ployabilit y' wit h vocat ional skills ( BI S, 2010: 33) and furt her re- inforces t he `narrow 7 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON and rest rict ive role based upon part icular int erpret at ions of skill and em ployabilit y' assigned t o Furt her Educat ion in recent y ear s ( Sim m ons, 2010: 364) . Problem at ising Em ployabilit y Despit e t his plet hora of policy and rhet oric, t he concept of em ployabilit y, part icularly in relat ion t o young people who are NEET and t hose undert aking furt her ( r at her t han higher) educat ion, rem ains `a slippery not ion' ( Sim m ons and Thom pson, 2011: 29) and appears t o have very different m eanings in t he t wo cont rast ing arenas in which it is used. Policy discourse on Graduat e `em ployabilit y' em phasises gaining `real' experience of work by undert aking work- relat ed degree program m es and gaining post - graduat e qualifications: t here is an em phasis on t he individual `selling' t heir high level skills and having t he social skills to funct ion in high st at us corporat e environm ent s ( e.g see DI US, 2008) . The acquisit ion of t hese skills ­ or capit al ­ is t hrough academ ic st udy at an advanced level. I n cont rast , learning and skills em ployabilit y program m es, unlike t heir graduat e count erpart s, are form ally credent ialised only at very low levels, lacking in concept ual cont ent , confer lit tle in t erm s of cult ural capit al, have a negligible `social value' ( Bourdieu 1990: 132) and prom ot e only `im poverished form s of em ployabilit y' ( Sim m ons, 2009: 137) . Furt her, a k ey aspect of graduat e `em ployabilit y' is t he opport unit y t o undert ak e w or k experience, largely as ext ended work placem ent s or int ernships. I n cont rast , t hose program m es offer ed t o NEET young people offer only `w or k experience' of very short durat ion: for exam ple, one program m e ( Cit y and Guilds, 2011) requires 15 hour s w or k `experience' t o m eet t he requirem ent s for an `em ployabilit y' credent ial, an experience which falls far short of t he `real work experience' called for by Wolf ( 2011: 130) . This qualit atively different ial approach prepares t hose young people on low level program m es in the learning and skills sect or t o ent er a different part of an unequal hierarchy in which t hey are subj ect t o form s of dom inat ion and sym bolic violence in t he cont ext of bot h t he program m e t hey undert ake and t he broader unequal educat ion st ruct ures t hese program m es are part of. These processes, which are int egral t o t he st ruct ure and conditions of reproduct ion of t he exist ing social order, ensure `t he product ion of com pliant habit us' ( Bourdieu 1990: 129/ 130) preparing young people effect ively for a cycle of low pay, no pay in which t hey accept bot h casual, low skilled work and periodic unem ploym ent as fact s of life. 8 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON Em ployabilit y Sk ills Curr icula Analysis of cont em porary em ployabilit y curricula reveals t hat t he cont ent is m ore reflect ive of inst rum ent al definitions em phasising `narrow, im poverished not ions of skill and em ployabilit y' ( Sim m ons 2010: 373) t han of broader underst andings which encom pass issues such as local availabilit y of work and personal and social identit y. I n an echo of t he policy discourse, t hey also place t he st udent wit hin a deficit m odel associat ed wit h t he perceived absence of cert ain behaviours and at t it udes and sim ilarly t o policy discourse, t his m ay be const rued as an assault on t he ident it y, or self, of t he individual undert aking such program m es. For exam ple, t he Em ployabilit y and Personal Developm ent program m es offered by one nat ional awarding body are advert ised as `qualifications t hat help you develop key personal skills, qualities and at t it udes required by em ploy er s as well as t o help you pr ogr ess in educat ion' ( Cit y and Guilds 2011, online, m y em phasis) whilst a second advert ises t heir credent ials as offering t he `ABC of em ployabilit y ­ At t it ude, Behaviour, Com m unicat ion' ( Edex cel, 2012 online, m y em phasis) . Thus, t he em ployabilit y skills curricula m akes explicit t hat m uch of t he `learning' is associat ed wit h socialisation int o t he workplace as well as including what have been variously t erm ed key, core, com m on, basic and funct ional skills, with `key' skills changing and evolving over t im e driven by what ever is considered key for em ployability at that point (Kelly, 2001: 33). Over t im e, key skills and em ployabilit y skills have been closely associat ed bot h wit h t he vocat ional curriculum and m arginalised learners, part icularly t hose experiencing specific exclusionary charact erist ics such as unem ploym ent or in t erm s of low achievem ent of 16+ credent ials. The vocat ional curriculum it self is also closely associat ed wit h m arginalised learner s and it is widely recognised t hat low level VET pr ogram m es hav e very lim it ed exchange value in bot h t he labour and t he educat ional m arket place ( Wolf, 2011: 21; At kins, 2010: 255; 2009: 137/ 138) . Young people undert aking em ployabilit y program m es will pursue courses whose generic cont ent m ay be argued t o be of even less value t han t hat of low level vocat ional courses and which will do not hing t o change or am eliorat e t heir social and econom ic posit ioning. The `em ployabilit y' curriculum will offer t hem , in addit ion t o som e ( v er y) lim it ed work experience, act ivit ies such as CV writing, int erview and com m unication skills, approaches criticised by MacDonald and Marsh ( 2005: 109) as largely ineffect ive and which once form ed part of t he `preparat ion for work' wit hin t he heavily criticised, low level broad vocat ional courses such as foundat ion GNVQ. Now howev er, t hese act ivit ies have been disconnect ed even fr om t he busy work of low level vocat ional program m es t o form `st and alone' courses. Advert ised as offering t he skills all em ployers dem and but lacking any real cont ext ualisation t o t he world of work t hey creat e form s of dissonance for t he young people who undert ake 9 | Pa g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON t hem : whilst recognising t he `pointless' nat ure of t hese program m es, t he young people st ill have t he ( false) hope t hat perhaps t he prom ises of secure and well paid em ploym ent im plicit in t he rhet oric w ill be fulfilled. The generic curriculum has ot her significant failings: first ly, and m ost significantly, it assum es an availabilit y of j obs in a cont ract ing labour m arket and fails t o acknowledge t he local pressures and dem ands which are significant influences on j ob prospect s and availabilit y. Secondly, it fails t o acknowledge t he seism ic shift from a yout h t o a secondary labour m arket charact erised by poor working conditions and `pervasive unem ploym ent and underem ploym ent ' ( MacDonald and Marsh ( 2005: 111/ 112) which is now t he fut ure for m any working class yout h. Furt her, it assum es t hat all NEET y oung people are funct ioning at ver y low lev els, cont rary t o research evidence suggest ing t hat this is a com plex area, heavily m ediat ed by age and gender, and t hat m any young people classified as NEET hav e relat ively high levels of credent ial ( Sim m ons and Thom pson 2011) . This discourse of underachievem ent effect ively j ust ifies and re- inforces a public and policy percept ion t hat t hese young people have hom ogenous learning and at t it udinal deficit s and hom ogenous needs based on uncrit ical st ereot ypes of m arginalised yout h. Finally, alt hough t his rem ains unacknowledged in policy, t her e rem ains a significant dem and for work er s pr epared t o undert ak e `flexible' low pay low skill work ( CBI , 2009: 20 cit ed Keep and Jam es, 2010: 28; Ecclest one, 2002: 17/ 19) and it is highly quest ionable whet her, for m uch of t his work, any qualifications at all are required: it should also be not ed t hat in m any cases such em ploym ent is found t hrough inform al net works rat her t han t hrough st rat egies such as applicat ion for advert ised vacancies or writ ing and dist ribut ion of CVs ( MacDonald and Marsh, 2005: 110) . Thus, rat her t han providing young people wit h t he skills and m eans t o access em ploym ent , as suggest ed by policy discourse, em ployabilit y skills program m es m ay be argued t o subj ect t hem t o explicit form s of socialisat ion associat ed wit h low pay, low skill em ploym ent in an econom ic clim at e where such w ork is in increasingly short supply. This `sinist er' approach t o educat ion, which actively seeks t o m ake changes t o t he social identit y of t he individual also dim inishes t he hopes, expect at ions and aspirat ions t hese young people have for t he fut ure. Despit e considerable governm ent rhet oric t o t he cont rary, working class young people have broadly sim ilar aspirations as t heir m ore affluent m iddle class peers as t hey begin t heir school t o work t ransit ions but lack t he m at erial and cult ural resources t o creat e a posit ive choice biography ( Ball et al, 2000: 68) . Ult im at ely, t herefore, t hese aspirat ions becom e increasingly unrealistic as, wit h lim it ed pot ent ial for agency and cult ural capit al at t heir disposal t hey t ry t o negot iat e and re- negot iat e t ransitions in a world in which t heir place wit hin t he social order has been pre- ordained. 10 | P a g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON A Paradox: em ployed but unem ployable Clearly, t hese issues should be m at t er s of grav e concern. How ev er , alt hough `r ot t en j obs' and t he reasons for t hem are subj ect t o ext ensive critique ( e.g. see Keep and Jam es, 2010) which resonat es wit h Marcuse's early ( 1964: 25) argum ent t hat t he `v eil' of t echnological advances had creat ed form s of labour which were `... exhaust ing, st upefying, inhum an slavery [ result ing in t he] isolat ion of t he workers from each ot her' and m erely concealed t he ongoing re- product ion of inequalities and `enslavem ent ' ( I bid: 31) . Sim ilar not ions of inequalit y inform ed t he 1980s crit iques of VET pr ogram m es as being part of a st rat egy for socialising t he young int o low pay low skill work; despit e t his, cont em porary em ployabilit y program m es in t he learning and skills sect or have not been subj ect t o such ext ensive exam inat ion. This is despit e t he fact t hat socialisat ion t o work and at t it udinal change are key explicit aim s of such program m es rat her t han, as wit h t he VET pr ogram m es, part of a hidden curr iculum . Rat her, t hese pr ogram m es have becom e `t aken- for- grant eds' as part of a broad societ al and educat ional `buy- in' t o governm ent rhet oric. This reflect s t he power of discourse ­ t hat over t im e, t he deficit m odel of m arginalised yout h in t he persona of non- academ ic, unem ployed and unm ot ivat ed has becom e accept ed as a `norm ' in which t he young people concerned are `ot hered' and seen in one of t w o ways. First ly, t hey can be perceived as failing t o t ake advant age of t he `opport unities' offered t o t hem , t hus blam ing t he victim for t heir own sit uat ion whilst effect ively excluding any ot her possible explanat ions ( Clark e and Willis 1984: 3) . Alt ernat ively, t hey can be ot hered as `disadvant aged' and in need of `support ' , lacking qualifications and by ext ension, int elligence; in t his cont ext , t hrough act s of `t ransfigured' dom inat ion ( Bourdieu 1990: 126) `support ' is conferred t hrough t he provision of `skills t raining' on low level em ployabilit y program m es. Evidence fr om a sm all scale surv ey of t rainee t eacher s, all specialising in em ployabilit y skills, support s t his analysis. Em erging dat a indicat e t hat t heir pr act ice is inform ed by per cept ions of need, disadvant age and support consist ent wit h Coalit ion discourse around em ployabilit y and underachiev em ent as well as wit h Ecclest one's ( 2004) concept of a t herapeut ic educat ion, which she argues is cont rary t o social j ust ice ( Ecclest one, 2004: 133) as it engenders dependency, rat her t han em pow ering individuals. The t eachers' focus on a perceived need for em ot ional support and soft skills is also indicat ive of t he `dim inished im ages of hum an pot ent ial' ( Ecclest one, 2007: 455) which perm eat e em ployabilit y skills discourse and curricula. These t rainee t eachers expressed an explicit `buy in' t o a deficit m odel of em ployabilit y which ident ifies a personal lack or failing on t he part of t he young people. Exam ples of t his wer e definit ions of em ployabilit y program m es offered by t he part icipant s as `provid[ ing] learners wit h relevant absent 11 | P a g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON skills' and m eet ing t he `skills gap in an individual's knowledge' by providing t he `relevant skills ... needed t o achieve em ployabilit y'. Part icipant s clearly per ceived t heir st udent s as m arginalised but t ended t o conflat e t hat m arginalisat ion wit h skills deficit rat her t han wit h any ot her exclusionary charact erist ics, and regarded t heir own role as being t o `correct ' or im prove t hat deficit . These responses raised quest ions around t eachers underst andings of social j ustice issues, som et hing which m ay well be relat ed t o t he curr ent t echnicist approach t o I nit ial Teacher Educat ion. I t is also reflect ive of t he power of a governm ent discourse around em ployabilit y skills and vocat ional educat ion, which, for at least 30 years, in parallel wit h it s crit icism s of skills educat ion and t hose providing it ( e.g. see Leit ch, 2006; Fost er, 2005) has associat ed high levels of vocat ional skill wit h securit y of em ploym ent and high levels of econom ic ret urn. This relat ionship was cit ed by t hese t rainees as j ust ificat ion for em ployabilit y skills program m es which will help young people `underst and how em ploym ent works [ and] what em ployers are looking for' and m ay also be a fact or in t he lack of resist ance t o t hese program m es on t he part of t he young people who undert ake them . The not ion of a `skills deficit ' expressed by t hese t rainee t eachers perm eat es official discourse and is m ediat ed in t erm s of a suggest ion t hat , in fut ure, labour m arket s will dem and `high levels of flexibilit y' and t hat `individuals will need t o cont inually adapt and change t o t he const ant ly shift ing dem ands of t he w orkplace' Sim m ons ( 2010 : 373) .This dem and is inconsist ent wit h bot h a percept ion t hat necessary skills can be conferred by a short and low level em ployabilit y skills program m e and wit h a cont ract ing labour m arket in which, cont rary t o em ployabilit y skills rhet oric, m any skilled workers find t hem selves redundant . I t is, however, wholly consist ent with Brown et al's ( 2003: 122) argum ent t hat t heir definition of em ployabilit y acknowledges t he possibilit y t hat an individual can be em ployable but not in em ploym ent , a cont ention support ed by research conduct ed by Sim m ons and Thom pson ( 2011: 85) and by Keep and Jam es ( 2010: 23) . Research am ongst young people funct ioning below level 2 and t hus, according t o t he discourse of successive skills policies ( e.g. DfES 2003b: 13; DfES 2006: 4) , lacking t he skills for em ployabilit y found t hat at least a t hird of t hose part icipating in t he st udy were current ly engaged in som e form of paid em ploym ent , whilst ot hers ( all fem ale) were engaged in unpaid care- work wit hin t heir ext ended fam ilies ( At kins, 2009) act ivities which m ight be argued t o confer knowledge and skills which carried som e exchange value in t he labour m arket , unlike t he level 1 vocat ional qualifications t he young people were pursuing. These dat a dem onst rat e t he paradox t hat it is possible t o be unem ployable in policy t erm s but t o be engaged in paid em ploym ent . They also reflect t hat fact t hat , cont rary t o 12 | P a g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON policy and public percept ion, m ost y oung people who are NEET are not also `long t erm ' unem ployed but m ove bet ween various form s of part icipat ion ( Sim m ons and Thom pson 2011: 175) . The `churn' or cycle of low pay, no pay, bet ween low level t raining courses and low pay, low skill em ploym ent m eans t hat m any of t hese young people have, in fact , experienced periods of em ploym ent , oft en in different cont ext s albeit in `rot t en j obs'. Having been em ployed, t his t hen begs t he quest ion why t hese young people need t o be `prepared' t o ent er t he labour m arket by part icipat ion in `em ployabilit y skills' program m es. Co n cl u si o n I n conclusion, it m ay be argued t hat t here is evidence t o suggest t hat , far from being educat ed in any m eaningful way, working class young people on em ployabilit y skills courses available in t he learning and skills sect or are being socialised int o `flexible' ( or insecure and t em porary) em ploym ent , int erspersed wit h periods of unem ploym ent , in a cycle of low pay, no pay which benefit s only em ployers in need of a pool of causal workers. This approach, which ut ilises `t herapeut ic' approaches t o form s of educat ion designed t o change t he ident it y of t he individual, m erely offer `a dim inished curriculum for dim inished individuals' ( Ecclest one and Hay es, 2009: 164) which ser ves only t o reproduce t he st at us quo in t erm s of societ al and labour m arket ( in) equalities. I n cont rast wit h t his, t he discourse around em ployabilit y is explicit about offering a t ransform at ive experience which will t ake t he individual from a posit ion of deficit t o one in which t hey will be endowed wit h t he skills necessary t o succeed in a high pay, high skill global econom y despit e evidence t hat t he fundam ent al causes of `low pay and rot t en j obs' are m isdiagnosed and t hat t his part icular policy solut ion is unlikely t o be effect ive ( Keep and Jam es, 2010: 1) . Despit e evidence t hat m any young people have a r ealist ic underst anding of t he likely out com e of t hese program m es, t here is a dissonance wit h t heir lack of resist ance t o undert aking t hem , which seem s t o be indicative of a false hope t hat t he rhet oric associat ed wit h em ployabilit y program m es will deliver t he t ransform at ion it prom ises, as m uch as t o t he degree of power and cont rol exert ed by st at e st ruct ures on young people wit h lim it ed agency and cult ural capital. The exercise of power t hrough bot h t he program m es t hem selves and t he discourse surrounding t hem m ay be observed in bot h t he im plied m eaning and act ual im pact of a policy which warehouses unem ployed young people on valueless program m es t hat confer no cult ural or econom ic capit al. I nst ead, t he real im pact of such program m es is t o prepare young people for a lifetim e of drudgery in t he form of a low pay, no pay cycle whilst also ensuring t hat t hey lack t he agency or cult ural capit al t o quest ion t he st at us 13 | P a g e
16/ 04/ 2015 15: 28: 39 Liz At kins DRAFT PAPER: PLEASE DO NOT CI TE WI THOUT PERMI SSI ON quo and t hus cont ribut e t o t heir own dom inat ion in t he cont ext of a syst em of educat ional and labour classificat ion which, in direct t ension wit h it s explicit claim s, serves only t o preserve t he power of t he elit e and t o `nat uralise t he st ruct ures of dom ination' ( Wacquant in Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 13) . Re f e r e n ce s Ainley, P. ( 1991) `Educat ion for Work' in C. Chit t y, ( Ed.) Changing t he Fut ure London: The Tufnell Press At kins, L. ( 2009) I nvisible St udent s, I m possible Dream s: experiencing vocat ional educat ion 14- 19. Stoke-on Trent : Trent ham Books At kins, L, Flint , K. And Oldfield, B ( 2010) Pract ical m at t ers: what young people t hink about vocat ional educat ion in England London: Cit y and Guilds Cent re for Skills Developm ent At kins, Liz ( 2010) Opport unit y and Aspirat ion, or t he Great Decept ion? The Case of 14- 19 Vocat ional Educat ion Power and Educat ion Volum e 2 Num ber 3 Ball, S.J.; Maguire, M. and Macrae, S. ( 2000) Choice, Pat hways and Transit ions Post - 16 New Yout h, New Econom ies in t he Global Cit y London: Rout ledge/ Falm er Bat es, I . A j ob which is right for m e: social class, gender and individualizat ion in Bat es, I . and Riseborough, G. ( 1993) ( Eds) Yout h and I nequalit y Buckingham : Open Universit y Press Bat hm aker, A- M ( 2001) `I t 's a Perfect Educat ion': Lifelong Learning and t he Experience of Foundat ion- level GNVQ St udent s' in Journal of Vocat ional Educat ion and Training Vol. 53, No. 1 pp 81- 100 Bourdieu, P. ( 1990) The Logic of Pract ice Cam bridge: Polit y Press Bourdieu, P. and Passer on, J- C. ( 1990) Reproduct ion in Educat ion, Societ y and Cult ur e 2nd Edit ion London: Sage Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant , L ( 1992) An I nvit at ion t o Reflexive Sociology Cam bridge: Polit y Press Brown, P., A. Hesket h, and S. William s. 2003. Em ployabilit y in a Knowledge- driven Econom y. Journal of Educat ion and Work 16, no.2: 107-126. Callaghan, J. ( 1976) Towards a Nat ional Debat e speech given at Ruskin College, Oxford Oct ober 18 1976 available at ht t p: / / educat ion.guardian.co.uk/ t hegreat debate/ st ory/ 0,,574645,00.ht m l accessed 07/ 03/ 2012 Chit t y, C. ( 1991b) `Towards New Definit ions of Vocat ionalism ' in Chit t y, C ( ed) Post - 16 Educat ion St udies in Access and Achievem ent London: Kogan Page Cit y and Guilds ( 2012) Em ployabilit y and Personal Developm ent Qualificat ions ONLI NE available at : ht t p: / / www.cit yandguilds.com / 61583.ht m l accessed 27 March 2012 Clarke, J. and Willis, P. ( 1984) `I nt roduct ion' in I . Bat es et al Schooling for t he Dole t he New Vocat ionalism London: Macm illan Publishers Lt d Cohen, P. (1984) `Against t he New Vocat ionalism ' in I . Bat es et al Schooling for t he Dole the New Vocat ionalism London: Macm illan Publishers Lt d. Confederat ion of Brit ish I ndust ry (1989) Towards a skills revolut ion - a yout h chart er ( CBI , London) Confederat ion of Brit ish I ndust ry (2007) Tim e well spent : Em bedding em ployabilit y in work experience, Confederat ion of Brit ish I ndust ry Conference Board of Canada ( May 2000) Em ployabilit y Skills 2000+ , May 2000 Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills ( 1 Decem ber 2011) New Challenges, New Chances Furt her Educat ion and Skills Syst em Reform Plan: Building a World Class Skills Syst em London: Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills ( 1 Decem ber 2011) New Challenges, New Chances Skills invest m ent st at em ent 2011- 2014: invest ing in a world class skills syst em London: Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills ( 2010) Skills for Sust ainable Growt h St rategy Docum ent London: Depart m ent for Business, I nnovat ion and Skills Depart m ent for Educat ion and Skills ( 2003a) 14- 19 Opport unit y and Excellence London: The St at ionery Office Depart m ent for Educat ion and Skills ( 2005a) 14- 19 Educat ion and Skills Annesley: DfES Publicat ions Depart m ent for Educat ion and Skills ( 2005) Re a l i si n g t h e Po t e n t i a l : a review of t he future role of Furt her Educat ion Colleges ( Fost er Review) Annesley: DfES Publicat ions Depart m ent for Educat ion and Skills ( 2006) Furt her Educat ion: Raising Skills, I m proving Life Chances Norwich: The St at ionary Office Depart m ent for I ndust ry, Universit ies and Skills ( 2008) Higher Educat ion at Work: High Skills, High Value ONLI NE at : ht t p: / / www.bis.gov.uk/ asset s/ biscore/ corporat e/ docs/ m igrat edconsult at ions/ higher% 20educat ion% 20at % 20work% 20% 20high% 20skills% 20high% 20value% 20consult at ion% 20docum ent .pdf ( 29 March 2012) Ecclest one, Kat hryn and Hayes, Dennis ( 2009) The Dangerous Rise of Therapeut ic Educat ion. London: Rout ledge Ecclest one , Kat hryn ( 2007) Resist ing im ages of t he `dim inished self': t he im plicat ions of em ot ional well- being and em ot ional engagem ent in educat ion policy, Journal of Educat ion Policy 22 ( 4) 455-470 Ecclest one, K. (2004) Learning or Therapy? The Dem oralisat ion of Educat ion, Brit ish Journal of Educat ional Studies. 52 (2) 112-137 Ecclest one, Kat hryn ( 2002) Learning Autonom y in Post - 16 Educat ion The Polit ics and Pract ice of Form at ive Assessm ent . London: Rout ledge/ Falm er 14 | P a g e
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L Atkins

File: draft-paper-please-do-not-cite-without-permission.pdf
Title: NimbusSanL-Regu
Author: L Atkins
Author: Liz Atkins
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