23 SES 07 C, Education and Employment
Strategies and instruments aiming to facilitate young people´s school-to-work transitions, e.g. career education and counselling (CEG) have become central policy matters at national level and in the European Union (Bengtsson 2016; Jørgensen et al. 2019¸ Sultana 2012; Watts & Sultana 2004). The raised political interest in CEG rests on assumptions that they may serve economic, learning and social purposes. Research has shown that they may have such effects (Hooley et al. 2014; Hughes et al 2016). While CEG always has had to relate to working life, school-choice and privatization of education (Verger et al. 2016) means that schools, career practitioners and students in many countries also have to overview and engage in local and regional educational markets. However, the knowledge is still sparse how career-learning curricula, in particularly concerning working life matters, are affected by this double market situation (see however Hooley et al 2018).
Sweden constitutes an interesting case, as compulsory school students currently not only have to choose among upper secondary programs, but also between a myriad of competing public and private (“free”) upper secondary schools, intensely marketing themselves e.g. via large school fairs, open houses, prospects, homepages and school visits (Lundahl et al. 2013). In contrast, Swedish teenagers have gradually had reduced access to working life experience, e.g. through school based work experience (“prao”) and vacation jobs (however 2 weeks of “prao” has recently become mandatory). From the mid-nineties, the state does not regulate the forms for working life orientation in compulsory school, and presently, systematic collaboration between schools and working life actors is largely lacking. This is puzzling, considering the shortage of skilled workforce, decreased attractiveness of upper secondary VET and scarce apprenticeship training despite many expansion efforts (Jørgensen et al. 2019). Entrepreneurial learning being part of the national curricula should also speak in favour of initiatives to strengthen career learning. According to the Swedish national curriculum, professional and impartial CEG is a responsibility of the whole school. In reality, the career counsellors receive this task, and there is no school subject or hours in the time schedule specifically assigned to career learning (Swedish Parliament 2018).
The aim of this paper is to understand how key features of present working life and the highly decentralized and marketized education context interact with and shape the informal curricula of Swedish career education in compulsory school. For practical reasons we delimit the analysis of working life actors to the employers and their organisations.
We want to answer the following research questions:
(1) How can one describe and understand schools´ engagement (or lack thereof) in career learning about working life and occupations?
(2) How can one describe and understand employers´ engagement (or lack thereof) in career learning about working life and occupations?
(3) How does the school market situation influence Swedish career education curriculum more generally, and what possible consequences does it have on career learning about working life in particular?
Even though this is not a comparative paper, some outlooks are made to Denmark, Finland and Great Britain.
Bernstein´s (2000) curriculum theory is useful for analysing power and control (classification and framing aspects) of the career education curriculum and its dominating pedagogic discourses. Further, the paper uses parts of Stanley and Mann´s (2014) theoretical framework for employer engagement in education to analyse the relationship to the school curriculum (supplementary, complementary or additional) and the intended results on young people´s career development in terms of human capital, social and cultural capital.
The paper is mainly based on (1) A web-based questionnaire to career counsellors in 70 compulsory schools situated in a large variety of municipalities (N=81). (2) Case studies in five schools from five different types of municipalities. These studies included observations, interviews with head teachers, counsellors and a selection of teachers, and analysis of written material, (3) Analysis of homepage contents and other material from schools and organisations/representatives of the labour market identified in the career counsellor survey and in the case studies. (4) Data from a questionnaire study among 1522 grade 9-students in 70 municipalities. Several of its questions are identical to those of a previous study in 22 OECD countries, however not including Sweden (Sweet et al., 2014).
Career development activities related to the impending choices of upper secondary schools and programs dominate the informal career-learning curriculum. Swedish grade 9 students report fewer acquired career competencies inside and outside school than Finnish and Danish students (Sweet et al. 2014), but information about educational programs constitutes an exception. Grade 9 students and their career counsellors express a need for more career learning opportunities before making the choices of upper secondary path. Eighty-four percent of the grade nine students report that they have had 1-2 weeks of school based work experience, making it the most common work related career-learning activity. Three quarters of the schools have invited at least one external actor. Half of the activities mainly consisted of one-hour career talks, i.e. rather marginal elements of school-life. It is most common to invite organisations that have specialised in young people´s career choices and work on behalf of private and public employers and employer organisations. Almost equally frequent, schools invite representatives of single firms or occupations. Only half of the students have made study visits to a place of work. The input to school CEG from working life actors resembles the characterisation of the British equivalent in Hughes et al. (2016): “short duration, episodic, and unintegrated into any programme of study with defined learning outcomes” (ibid. 34). Similarly, one may question the degree of state commitment to career education about working life. Instead, a considerable part of the counsellors´ time is assigned to helping students navigate in the dense school jungle, and to high extent, the out-of-school career activities focus choice of upper secondary alternatives. Overall, there is a resemblance to the British situation in the case of vocational education and training (VET), i.e. a combination of low state engagement and low employer involvement (c.f. Busemeyer & Vossiek 2016).
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