02 SES 06 A, VET Learning: Links and Transitions
This presentation reports on preliminary research in Ireland undertaken by researchers at Dublin City University and the University of Ulster that considered the limits and possibilities for meaningful workplace learning for young people to support their transition to sustainable employment in the post-Global Financial Crisis context. Funded by the Irish Standing Committee on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS), the project focused on the post-compulsory years of school in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
For Vickers (2008), whereas in the past education and employment might have been consecutive endeavours, each with its own preferred pedagogy, we have now reached a point where a new educational settlement is being forged. In the present, and into the future, education and employment increasingly overlap as employment begins before school ends and learning continues after full-time employment (to the extent that this can be secured) commences. The aim of the project is to test our theory that, in the context of this new educational settlement the transformative possibilities for workplace learning for young people are created, or not, by the learning ethos of the workplaces in which they engage and that this learning ethos is in part created by the presence of young people and the perspectives of teachers who contribute to these interventions. The project acronym relates to the idea that the three strands of learning: by young people, by their teachers, by workers in workplace learning sites, must be interwoven for transformative learning to occur.
The significance of the project lies in the broader socio-economic context. There is little argument around the perilous position of young people in transition to first-time employment in the context that has evolved in the wake of the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis (Scarpetta, Sonnet et al 2010; OECD 2011, O’Higgins 2012). In this context youth unemployment, always higher than adult unemployment, has soared. Youth now have to compete for limited employment opportunities with employees who may have secured extensive work experience through their prior employment. The severity of the situation has resulted in policy agendas such as the European Commission Youth Opportunities Initiative (http://ec.europa.eu). Yet as Jeffers (2006) notes, work experience programmes in schools frequently demonstrate very limited learning opportunities. For many young people, the chance to experience working and learning at the same time – a key attribute of the 21st Century labour market (Hodgson & Spours 2001) – will be limited to that which they gain through part-time jobs that they increasingly hold and which teachers may be unaware of or inclined to discourage, or through the forms of workplace learning organized by schools.
The research as presented will draw on Actor Network Theory (Latour 2007) to explore the kinds of gatherings (Law 2004) that we found in the research schools and the affect these had on the possibilities for workplace learning by the students, their teachers and the schools. This project is intended to provide the conceptual underpinning for a larger piece of research that could work with a multi-national organization committed to working with schools to explore what might be possible in using workplace learning as a key platform for successful transition in the globalized context.
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