02 SES 14 A, Ethnicity and Migration
Norwegian Vocational Education and Training (VET) is organized by a tripartite cooperation, which involves and commits employers, unions and the Government in collaborative three way processes. This means that collaboration and participation not only are enshrined in law, but also is recognized by a significant degree of workers ability to influence on their work conditions as well as on their every day work. Based upon this, Norway has a Vocational Education and Training (VET) system, conducted both in schools and in enterprises. The standard model for VET, is based on two years in Upper Secondary school and two years enterprise-based apprenticeship in a training establishment (Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training 2018). The dual-model creates a bridge between school and work life, meaning that VET is not only considered as a way of recruitment for enterprises – like in the building sector - but is a formal path of education. The Norwegian building and construction sector is known for high production, competence rooted in craftsmanship, safe working conditions and high wages (Friberg & Haakestad 2015).
According to a study by Friberg (2016), most of the Eastern European work immigrants in the Norwegian building and construction sector chose to contact an agency who arrange both jobs and residence so they can work and live together with fellow countrymen. This seems to be easier than using their own resources to learn Norwegian, search for jobs and accommodations (Friberg 2016). Because of long working hours - often six days a week, eastern constructors in Norway earn more compared with their wages back home. Still, their income are low compared to Norwegian wages and production costs in Norway (Friberg, 2012). Their rights as short time workers are few, and to be able to renew their contracts, some are forced to accept miserable work and housing conditions, low income, heavy bodywork, fragmented or sometimes also dangerous work tasks. The number of work accidents reflects these facts, and as much as 40 percent of those who died during work accidents in the Norwegian construction sector were immigrants (Byggmesteren 2017). After a decade with extensive labor immigration, it may be reasonable to compare the “usage” of eastern short time workers with principles of Taylorist management (Bravermann 1977; Haakestad & Friberg 2015). On one side labor migration shows structures of power and the unscrupulous treatment of foreign workers, - on the other side it also shows how marked forces can lead to extensive fragmentation of comprehensive work tasks (Braverman 1977). This move is not only a question of power and oppression, but emphasizes the question of how craftsmans knowledge shall be maintained and passed on to new generations. Hence, the large group of short-time workers in the Norwegian building-industry also poses a massive threat to Norwegian VET and the dual-model. This study is positioned between logics of production and logic of development, inspired by Friberg & Haakestad 2016, Ellström (2010), Bravermann (1977), Lave & Wenger (1991) and Wenger (1998). In this present paper, I investigate the following issue:
- How can European labor migration and short time workers present a threat to VET in the Norwegian building and construction sector?
- In what ways can linguistic and cultural groups of labor migrants establish autonomous communities of practice, that prevent interaction between skilled workers at the construction site?
- In what ways can labor migrants and new production logics in the Norwegian building and construction sector become a threat to the Norwegian Vocational Education and Training system?
This study has an ethnographic approach, based on six weeks fieldwork and interviews with apprentices and plumbers at three different building sites. My own background as a plumber gave me access to the construction sites, and an opportunity to be a part of the communities of practice. During every day work and communication with the apprentices and plumbers, I was able to blend in to normal situations and to observe the relationship between the Norwegian and their Polish and Danish colleges. To be a part of the Norwegian community of plumbers at the site, - gave me chances to study the workers behavior, work tasks and patterns between plumbers with different language and cultures. In my material, I have only interviewed Norwegian plumbers and apprentices. My data bases upon their experiences, my observations and unformal conversations with foreign plumbers. My background as apprentice, plumber and vocational teacher was my golden ticket into the more or less “inaccessible” vocational cultural environment between plumbers during every day work. Through participation in work, I was able to get an unique position inside the communities of practice at the site. My informants are four apprentices and fifteen plumbers. Among the plumbers, there were three Danish and two Polish plumbers. Two of my main informants were Norwegian apprentices and 16 years old at the time. They both had completed their first year of Upper Secondary School. All four apprentices had signed a contract of apprenticeship, and were employed by their companies. The Norwegian plumbers were permanent employees. The foreign plumbers were employed in the same company – but on short time contracts. My focus was primarily on the apprentices’ learning process, on specific situations, routines and patterns between my informants. To search for patterns and to densify the wealth of the texts, I used open coding described by Glaser & Strauss (1968) and later developed by Charmaz (2014). To ensure coherence during this analytic process, I used Alvesson & Skjöldbergs (2011) reflexive methodology from parts to a whole and vice versa from a whole to parts. Along this difficult analysis I consciously used my preunderstanding as a professional plumber, VET-teacher and participator as inside researcher, moving back and forward between pre- and new understanding during the meta-perspective analyze. Together with the transcribed interviews, the field notes presented a rich and nuanced material.
How new structures and ways of organizing workers and work, threaten the Norwegian VET dual model in the Building and Construction sector. Looking for differences between Norwegian and Foreign plumbers working for the same Plumbing agency. "To avoid the rush hour, the Norwegian plumbers start at 6 a.m. In this early hour, they plan and arrange the day’s work tasks and drink their morning coffee. Throughout the day, the Norwegian plumbers normally have one or two short brakes where they keep each other informed about the progress, - and socialize. From time to time, the Danish plumbers join the Norwegian plumber’s community of practice. During my fieldwork, I was aware that the Polish plumbers never participated in the community of Danish and Norwegian plumbers. At lunch, the Norwegian and Danish plumbers shared table in the barrack where they discussed and solved problems with the heating and sanitary pipe systems at the site, - discussed politics, news and family matters. The Polish plumbers joined at large group of other Polish constructors at the table next to their Norwegian colleges. When I tried to talk to the Polish plumbers, it was clear that they did not speak any Norwegian and very little English. When I asked one of the Norwegian plumbers how they communicated with their Polish colleges, he answered; “They don’t want to spent time and money to learn Norwegian. It’s a pity, because– we don’t understand each other and we can’t talk with them .. and after a while, we found it easier to avoid talking at all. Our communication is some kind of body language, and some few words in English. It is easier to let it be. And because of the language, there are so many misunderstandings during day - because we’re not able to plan and discuss our work.” "
Alvesson, M, Sköldberg, K. 2011. Tolkning och reflektion. (Interpetation and reflection) Lund: Student litteratur AB. Bravermann, H. 1977. Arbete och monopolkapital. Arbeidets degradering I det tjugonde århundradet. (Work and money, degradation of work) Stockholm: Raben & Sjøgren Bygningsarbeideren. 2016. (Journal) https://byggmesteren.as/2016/01/15/syv-omkom-pa-jobb-i-byggebransjen-ifjor/ Charmaz, K. 2014. Constructing Grounded Theory. (2. Edition) London: Sage Ellström, P. 2010. Practice-based innovation: a learning perspective. Journal of Workplace learning. Emerald Insight. Friberg. H.J. 2012. The Polish Worker in Norway. (Doctoral Theses). Institutt for sosiologi og samfunnsgeografi. University of Oslo. Friberg, H.J. 2016. Arbeidsmigrasjon. Hva vet vi om konsekvensene for Norsk arbeidsliv, samfunn og økonomi? Fafo-rapport 2016:2. Glaser, B.G., Strauss, A.L. 1967. The discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative research. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction. Haakestad, H., Friberg, H.J. 2015. Arbeidsmigrasjon, makt og styringsideologier: Norsk byggenæring i en brytningstid. (Changes in Norwegian Construction sektor) Søkelys på arbeidslivet: Nr. 3, 2015. Universitetsforlaget. Lave, J., Wenger, E. 1991. Situated learning – and other texts. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. UK: Cambridge University Press.
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