23 SES 07 C, Education and Employment
This paper focuses on school-to-work transitions support for secondary school pupils. School-to-work transitions services support young people to make decisions about post-school education, training, work, careers and the labour market as they move through school towards a working life and futures beyond school. These services provide a variety of different kinds of support, such as advice, guidance, information, education, training, career management, careers learning, work experience and job training and preparation courses. The services not only take different forms in different parts of Europe, they also change over time in response to shifting political, economic, social and cultural conditions.
School-to-work transitions support responds to the economic, political and social context. In this paper I refer to the work of Isabell Lorey (2015) as a framework for analysis. Building on the work of other scholars such as Foucault and Butler, Lorey has argued that we are living in a ‘state of insecurity’. The state of insecurity is characterised by what Lorey refers to as precarization, ‘living with the unforeseeable, with contingency’ (p.1). As others, including myself have suggested, over the last forty years via the introduction of neoliberal politics, the notion of security has shifted away from welfare and towards control and surveillance, police and military safeguarding (Harvey, 2006). Austerity measures introduced across Europe mean there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between the state and the insecurity of the population. In fact, insecurity in patterns of living, learning and working is becoming normalised structurally (Lorey, 2015). In liberalism, freedom and insecurity were opposites, and freedom meant freedom from insecurity. Under neoliberalism in contrast, insecurity is constituted as, and promoted as freedom, linked to notions of flexibility, individuality and liberation from more traditional modes of exploitation (Lorey, 2015; Vujanovic, 2016). Precarity and insecurity is no longer structurally confined to women, lower classes and minorities. Rather, as Lorey argues, precarization ‘is not a marginal phenomenon’ (p.1), it is the rule rather than the exception, and affects all social classes, genders and ethnic groups, even those who have previously been more secure and more privileged. Previously, under Fordist employment conditions, the norm was threatened and unsettled by the other, the precarious, but it was not insecure itself. Now, the norm is insecure as well (Lorey, 2015, p. 67). The traditional markers of security are becoming ever more rare or threatened: permanent, well-paid jobs, home-ownership, a public safety-net in the form of a welfare state, and are available to ever fewer groups and individuals.
The research focuses in particular on the government careers strategy (Department for Education 2018) in England and asks the following questions:
- What discourses and norms are being cited and promoted by the government guidelines?
- What kinds of expectations of the economy and the labour market are being constituted?
- What kind of lives and job roles are young people being encouraged to aspire to via the strategy?
- What kind of subjects does the strategy aim to produce?
This paper reports on a policy analysis of the two most recent policy documents relating to career guidance in England, ‘Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents’ (DfE, 2017) and ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers. Statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff’ (DfE, 2018).
I argue that the government careers strategy for young people aims to contribute to shaping the precarious subjects which inhabit the state of insecurity, by encouraging them to internalise neoliberal values and subjectivities which accompany governmental precarisation. I suggest that throughout the careers strategy, neoliberalism functions as performative or hegemonic norm which is cited to constitute notions of ‘good’ or ‘normal’ labour market arrangements, aspirations and selves. I suggest that this strategy is an example of ‘cruel optimism’ (Berlant, 2011), which constitutes a fantasy of a ‘good life’ which is in fact likely to be unattainable to many young people, especially the more disadvantaged, in the current European context of austerity.
Berlant, L. (2011) Cruel optimism. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Department for Education (2017) Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664319/Careers_strategy.pdf Department for Education (2018) Careers guidance and access for education and training providers. Statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672418/_Careers_guidance_and_access_for_education_and_training_providers.pdf Harvey, D. (2006) The limits to capital (2nd ed). London: Verso. Lorey, I. (2015) State of insecurity. Government of the precarious (A. Dereig, Trans.). London, Brooklyn, NY: Verso. Vujanovic, A. (2016) On precarity and the freedom from security. Social Text Online. Retrieved from https://socialtextjournal.org/state-of-insecurity/
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