02 SES 17 A, Pathways to Higher Education
The attractiveness of upper secondary vocational education (VET) in Sweden has been declining for a long time (SOU, 2015:97). The number of applicants was remarkably reduced in connection with an upper secondary school reform conducted in 2011, from over 50 percent to just under 40 percent, and has since then declined further (SCB, 2017). In the reform, higher education eligibility was removed as previously applicable to all upper secondary education programmes, including vocational programmes. Students consequently have been seeking higher education preparatory programmes, especially students with high grades (SCB, 2017).
The consequence is that there is a major shortage in Sweden of many skilled professionals. The issue of the attractiveness of VET for young people is therefore relevant, and several initiatives have been taken by the trades and the government to make VET more attractive, such as informational campaigns, the year of VET and vocational competitions (Skolverket, 2017). Whether these efforts will have the effect of encouraging more students to apply to the VET programmes is not yet statistically visible, but so far, it seems that these measures have not had a significant impact on the number of applicants for the VET programmes. While the interest in VET is on the decrease among young people, attempts are being made towards adult VET, especially in vocations where there are shortages of skilled labour. Adult education also provides equivalent skills and courses as the upper secondary VET programmes.
The vocations of interest in this paper are green jobs in horticulture and gardening. Those vocations attract very few young people, while they are expanding strongly in adult education. This situation initiated our interest for studying what could affect the attractiveness of VET-education in gardening for young people as well as adults.
The questions are as follows:
· How can different conceptions about gardening affect the attractiveness of gardening?
· What starting points appear to be important in deciding on horticulture and gardening VET?
Using socio-cultural perspectives (Vygotsky, 1978; Wenger, 1998; Engeström, 2001; Czarniawska, 2004), we analyse the respondents’ narratives about their paths to gardening interrelated to the historical development of gardening in Sweden. The division of labour and the status of various garden professions and the actual conditions that characterise them is described and provides a basis for the analysis.
A basic condition is Sweden's geographical location and the varying conditions that are thus possible for gardening. Seasonal employment is the main form of employment and only in the most southern parts of the country are the conditions suitable for permanent employment in gardening (Stridsberg, 2007). The availability of garden VET is another circumstance where there are no VET-programmes for gardening in the north of the country. To get access to trained employees, the garden trade has developed a system for validating and certifying skills acquired through the working life (TCYK, 2018). This certification system is linked to the upper secondary VET-programme and creates accesses for professionals to validate and develop their professional skills and to qualify their work (NYN, 2006). These opportunities and adult VETs in gardening provide flexible opportunities for lifelong learning.
Another important condition is how the division of labour affects the different vocations in gardening and how it is manifested in education, where university educations are leading to professions dealing with planning and managing the work, while upper secondary VET is directed at implementing gardening. This explicit division of labour can cause tensions between different vocations in gardening (Engeström, 2001). A university education in gardening does not have the same problem with attractiveness for education.
The study is based on qualitative interviews (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). To provide as wide a representation as possible of gardening's attractiveness and the gardening content, we chose to interview trade representatives, teachers and students in horticultural education. A total of 1 trade representative, 4 VET-teachers, 12 students in upper secondary VET and 6 students in adult VET were interviewed. Respondents represent 6 different schools. The interviews were semi-structured; some parts of the interview had the characteristic of openness and other parts were more specific (Alvesson, 2011). Interview guides were constructed, with a common part with questions for all respondents and, in addition, there were specific questions for the different respondent categories (Kvale & Brinkman, 2009). Questions about how the interest in gardening profession awakened and respondents' routes into the profession and how the respondents from their perspective look at the attractiveness of gardening were common questions. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Respondents’ descriptions of their pathways to and experience of gardening and education provide various personal narratives (Czarniawska, 2004; Robertson, 2005). These personal micro-narratives also reflect different ideas about gardening and experiences of gardening. In order to put the respondents' narratives in a broader context, a literature study of the historical development of the gardening work was carried out. Representations of gardening in literature and media were used to reflect different ideas about gardens and gardening. In the analysis, the micro-narratives are situated in broader contexts of the historical development of gardening and its structures as represented in the division of labour between different gardening vocations through the socio-cultural analysis (Engeström, 2001). The respondents’ micro-narratives concurrently contribute to the creation of the historical macro-narratives of gardening. By situating the historical development of gardening regarding the present situation and the respondents’ narratives, we were able to distinguish three different representations that can be expressed as metaphors (Alvesson, 2011) for gardening that could affect the VET attractiveness. These metaphors provide a basis for the discussion and suggestions for efforts to strengthen the attractiveness of gardening in VET.
One metaphor symbolises gardening as unqualified. This understanding of gardening is often formed by young people during their summer vacation work, but also is emphasised as a positive opportunity for the unemployed to gain access to the labour market. Another metaphor reveals gardening as qualified and diverse, providing great opportunities for various professions. This metaphor represents a more informed view of the field of gardening, and is primarily the image of the trades and teachers. The third metaphor is what we call the natural philosophical and romantic. Here gardening is described as closely linked to nature, ecology and local producing. The historical gardener, described as a widely knowledgeable person with high status, emerges as a representative of and influencer for this perspective of gardening. To a large extent, this image is represented through media and various TV gardening programs. Initially, the respondents were influenced by these representations of gardening, but through experiences and VET education in gardening the performances were transformed to be more diverse and led to the recognition of diverse openings in the profession. Opportunities for continuous learning and further studies also create possibilities beyond the boundaries between different gardening professions in the division of labour. Gardening appears to be physically demanding, but the growth of technological development, more rules for the work environment, new tools and technology are gradually improving this situation. In the conclusions we set up some possible initiatives that can be taken to increase the attractiveness of gardening VET-education among young people. These include concepts that provide a more visionary image of gardening. A main attraction of gardening is to work close to nature. School gardens are also highlighted as vital to create interest in gardening and for its educational role in various aspects (Moore & Wong, 1997; Blair, 2009; Johnson, 2001; Åkerblom, 2005).
Alvesson, M. (2011). Interpreting Interviews. London: SAGE. Blair, D. (2009). The Child in the Garden: An Evaluative Review of the Benefits of School Gardening. The Journal of Environmental Education, Vol 40:2. Czarniawska, B. (2004). Narratives in social science research. London: SAGE. Engeström, Y. (2001) Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work, 14:1, 133-156. Gatrell, J., Jensen, R, Patterson , M., Hoalst-Pullen, N. (red.)(2015). Urban Sustainability: Policy and Praxis. Springer. Johnson, S (2001). Models of gardening in education. Doctoral thesis. Reading: University of Reading. Kvale, S. & Brinkman, S. (2009). Den kvalitativa forskningsintervjun. [The qualitative research interview]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Moore, R. C., & Wong, H. H. (1997). Natural Learning: the Life of an Environmental Schoolyard. Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature's Way of Teaching. Berkley, CA: MIG Communications. NYN 2006. Grönt Kort enligt NYN-modellen. Nationell modell för kompetensbeskrivningar inom lantbruk. [Green Card according to the NYN model. National model for competence descriptions in agriculture]. Naturbrukens yrkesnämnd [The Committee of Natural Resources]. www.nyn.se Robertson, A. (2005). Narrativanalys.[ Narrativ analysis]. In G. Bergström and K. Boreaus (eds.) Textens mening och makt. [The meaning and power of the text]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. SCB 2017. Välfärd 2017:3. Statistiska Centralbyrån. [Welfare 2017:3. Statistics Sweden's switchboard]. www.scb.se National Agency for Education 2017. Redovisning av uppdrag om insatser för att höja yrkesutbildningens kvalitet och attraktionskraft. [assignment for efforts to raise the quality and attractiveness of vocational education]. www.skolverket.se/publikationer?id=3849 SOU 2015:97. Välja yrke. Slutbetänkande av Yrkesprogramutredningen. [Choose a profession. Final report of the Professional Program Study]. Utbildningsdepartementet. Stridsberg, Nathalie (2007). Säsongspåverkan i trädgårdsföretag - följder som kan leda till kompetensförlust inom näringen. [Seasonal impact in gardening companies - consequences that can lead to skills loss in the trade]. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Alnarp TCYK 2016. Yrkesbevis. Trädgårdsnäringens Centrala YrkesKommitté. [Profession Certificate. Horticulture's Central Professional Committee]. www.yrkesbevis.com Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. London: Harvard University Press. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge university press. Åkerblom, P. (2005). Lära av trädgård. Pedagogiska, historiska och kommunikativa förutsättningar för skolträdgårdsverksamhet. [Learning by Gardening. Educational, Historical and Communicative Conditions for School Gardens]. Doctoral thesis. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Uppsala.
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