28 SES 16, Friendship, Career Counseling, Inclusion of Young People in Instruction
It is argued (Youdell, 2004) that the notion of the modern individual is necessarily underpinned by an individualism that is now so deeply embedded in popular discourse that its broad acceptance might lead one to conceive of a hegemony (Gramsci, 1971) of individualism (cf. Seddon, 2014). Farrugia et. al. (2014) locates the origins of individualisation into the global which they argue fragments collective classed identities and the increasingly global nature of flows of cultural symbols, creating a transnational ‘ youth culture’ or style. However globalisation is taking place somewhere (cf. Massey, 1994) and as Hall, Coffey and Lashua (2009) has recognised individualisation and globalisation are also embedded in continuity and connectedness.
My own and others previous projects (Rosvall, 2017; Rosvall, Rönnlund, & Johansson, forthcoming) created an interest to develop a new project in order to study how study and career counsellors deals with the complexity of hegemonic discourse of individualism in relation to connectedness (in terms of place and social relations). The previous projects referred to above describe rural youth as strongly affected of a hegemonic discourse of individualisation, nevertheless also strongly interrelated to the place they live and the individuals they socialised with there. Thus, both individualism and connectedness were dominant in most observations and youth interviews in the previous projects. In the earlier research findings individualism were for example shown in the importance for the rural young people to show independence in relation to family, peers, and place in order to fulfil the career dreams. On the other hand, most young people interviews contained a paradox since they also contained elements of connectedness to family, peers and place.
This paper reports on findings collected through interviews with study and career counsellors and has as specific aim to critically analyse how study- and career counsellors at different places describe their work and its content. The research questions below were formulated in order to guide the research:
(i) What does study and career counsellors see as important in their work? Can their discussions be related to discourses of individualism and transnationalism?
(ii) How does the study and career counsellors describe their own local place and how do they describe the young people’s possibilities to establish and have a work there?
(iii) Does the answers vary among the counsellors in relation to different places? If so, how can this be understood?
Politicians, researchers and media strongly argues that modernisation going faster and faster, which for instance affects how employees need to adapt to an ever-changing labour market. Life-long-learning is a common concept (Pépin, 2007) along with career learning or career management skills. Countries has implemented policy and/or organised towards these changes differently, for example in compulsory school. In Finland career learning is a subject with its own curricula and textbooks, while in Sweden most career learning is run through group information or individual appointments held by a trained study- and career counsellor. The concept ‘career’ is also among the European countries and individuals within them understood in different ways. For some it displays a positive direction while for others it is understood as lacking elements of solidarity (Sultana, 2011). These understandings is often traceable through a country’s, a place’s or individual’s history and context. To understand strong (global) discourses it is thus important to understand how they are understood, (re-)produced and/or contested in local contexts. How can variation among places be understood?
Sweden is politically divided into 290 municipalities covering both urban and rural reaches and by international standards particularly the rural municipalities are large in terms of area. These locations each represent an official category in formal definitions of the rural reach by national authorities such as Swedish Association of Counties and Municipalities (SKL, 2017). For the selection process three categories were selected to represent areas of different composition, category A1 large cities (over 200 000 inhabitants), category C8 rural area (less than 15 000 inhabitants in the municipality centre), category C9 rural area with a visitor industry. 17 study and career counsellors were interviewed representing 15 municipalities. The municipalities selected for the study were chosen to provide a variation in terms of north-south, demography, distance to higher education and classifications of the local labour market. All municipalities in Sweden does not have an upper secondary school of their own, therefor the questions of inquiry were put to counsellors in grade nine. Most of the counsellors were responsible for grade 6 to 9, however greater responsibility and in one rural town the counsellor were responsible for all pupils and students from grade 1 to adult education. The interviews followed an interview guide, i.e. they did not follow a given structure but were checked towards key focuses. This procedure were chosen in order not to bring up things that were not important to the interviewee and avoid (re-)producing stereotypes, but still make sure that all research questions were covered by interview questions in the end of the interview (Rosvall, 2015). All interviews started with a set of warm up questions that were followed by a question of how they carried out their work. This question were followed by questions as ‘can you describe further’ or ‘do you see other things as important’ to keep the interviewee discuss within the relevant focus of their work, their experience of the young students thoughts and place. The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. The analyse of the interviews were theoretically informed in relation to forms of individualism and connectedness (Youdell, 2004) and power geometry (Massey, 1994). The concept of power geometry is a useful tool investigating power relation in relation place and agency. Different groups and different individuals are placed in very distinct ways in relation to time-space compression and interconnections: “some people are more in charge of it; some initiate flows others don’t” (p149).
The answers of the study and career counsellors shows on few counter discourses towards individualism and transnationalism. Most of the study and career counsellors, all in the large cities group of respondents, paid first and foremost attention to the individual and held focus on matching the individual’s interest with a choice of upper secondary programme. Little attention were paid to young people’s interest to keep established social relations, or interest to continue activities connected to the particular local place. A few rural municipalities had activities to promote local employers and industries. Those activities addressed worksites that traditionally are associated both with men and women, even though activities mentioned were more commonly in male dominated trades, that is, heavy industry, building and construction and transport. It also correspond with the counsellors understanding that it were more young males than females that thought of the local rural place as a place to establish. In terms of transnationalism there were a solid understanding among the counsellors that the young people saw themselves as unconnected to place in terms of getting an employment. Embedded in the discourse of transnationalism is the discourse of metrocentrism. The counsellors said that they could see a pattern of most young people heading for the centre, meaning young people in cities were heading for schools in the city centre and young people in rural areas were heading for the next larger city, if the geographical, economic and social cost were not too high. The answers of the study- and career counsellors reveals that geographical mobility also implied social mobility where mowing away were more economical and social stressful for the less privileged in those terms. Analysis using Massey’s concept of power geometry effectively shows that geographical mobility and social mobility are closely intertwined (cf. Landri & Neumann, 2014).
Farrugia, D., Smyth, J., & Harrison, T. (2014). Rural young people in late modernity: Place, globalisation and the spatial contours of identity. Current Sociology, 62(7), 1036-1054. Hall, T., Coffey, A., & Lashua, B. (2009). Steps and stages: rethinking transitions in youth and place. Journal of Youth Studies, 12(5), 547-561. Landri, P., & Neumann, E. (2014). Mobile Sociologies of Education. European Educational Research Journal, 13(1), 1-8. Massey, D. (1994). Space, place and gender. Cambridge: Polity press. Pépin, L. (2007). The History of EU Cooperation in the Field of Education and Training: how lifelong learning became a strategic objective. European Journal of Education, 42(1), 121-132. Rosvall, P.-Å. (2015). ‘Lad’ research, the reproduction of stereotypes? Ethnographic dilemmas when researching boys from working-class backgrounds. Ethnography and Education, 10(2), 215-229. Rosvall, P.-Å. (2017). Understanding career development amongst immigrant youth in a rural place. Intercultural Education, 1-20. Rosvall, P.-Å., Rönnlund, M., & Johansson, M. (forthcoming). Young people's carrer choices in Swedish rural contexts in relation to social codes, migration and resources. Seddon, T. (2014). Renewing Sociology of Education? Knowledge Spaces, Situated Enactments, and Sociological Practice in a World on the Move. European Educational Research Journal, 13(1), 9-25. Sultana, R. G. (2011). Lifelong guidance, citizen rights and the state: reclaiming the social contract. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 39(2), 179-186. Youdell, D. (2004). Engineering school markets, constituting schools and subjectivating students: the bureaucratic, institutional and classroom dimensions of educational triage. Journal of Education Policy, 19(4), 407-431.
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