02 SES 08 C, Transitions, Career Learning And Work Experience Placements
Parallel Paper Session
Since the banking crash of 2008, there has been a growing international debate on what the OECD refers to as ‘the jobs crisis’ (OECD, 2009). Countries across the world are considering a range of social, educational and labour market policies designed to facilitate young people’s transition from education into work (e.g. Duell, 2008; Symonds et al., 2011; UKCES, 2011) because of the ‘permanent scars’ that spells of unemployment have on young people and, particularly, on the most disadvantaged (Bell and Blanchflower, 2009).
Here we discuss a possible new way of looking at this issue through an ecological framework, focusing on what we term ‘local learning ecologies’ (LLEs). We propose the concept of LLEs as a means of understanding the interaction of a range of multi-level factors that play out at the local level to either constrain or support the participation, progression and transition of young people within upper secondary education and into higher study and employment in England. In particular, we focus on a 'fluid' concept of the locality to support lower and middle attaining young 14-19 year olds who have the most complex and difficult trajectories between education phases, institutions and into employment.
The concept of LLEs has been developed from the fusion of five theoretical approaches: Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) multi-level ‘ecology of human development’; Finegold’s (1999) notion of a ‘high skill eco-system’; conceptualisations of ‘place/space and young people’s identity and agency’ in urban settings (e.g. Raffo, 2010); models of weakly and strongly collaborative 14-19 local learning systems (Hodgson and Spours, 2006); and finally, debates about localism that attempt to reconceptualise the relationship between national, regional, local and institutional levels of governance (e.g. Pratchett, 2004; Hodgson and Spours, 2011). The concept of the LLE allows us to examine the influence of factors from the ‘micro’ level of the learner through the ‘meso’ level of the learning environment, to the local and regional ‘exo’ systems levels and right to the ‘macro’ influences of national and international economic and education and training policy.
While the framework has wider international significance, this new multi-level conceptual framework is used to ask four major questions in the English context:
1. How do changes in the economy, national policy and policy levers impact on localities, institutions and young people to affect their patterns of participation, progression and transition into the workplace?
2. What are the mediating influences (Coffield et al., 2008) of the various stakeholders and institutional formations at the different ecological levels?
3. How might the concept of local learning ecologies help us to better understand both 1 and 2?
4. What are the factors that assist the movement from ‘low opportunity and progression equilibria’ to ‘high opportunity and progression eco-systems’?
Bell, D.N.F. and Blanchflower, D.G. (2009) ‘What should be done about rising unemployment in the UK?’ IZA Discussion Paper n. 4004, Bonn. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Coffield, F., Edward, S., Finlay, I., Hodgson, A., Steer, R. and Spours, K. (2008) Improving learning, skills and inclusion: the impact of policy (London: Routledge/Falmer). Duell, N. (2008) Pathways to work: current practices and future needs for the labour market integration of young people: case study Germany, in Paparella, D. and L. Savino (eds), Report for the European Commission. Finegold, D. (1999) ‘Creating self-sustaining, high-skill ecosystems’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 15, 1, 60-81. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2006) The organisation of 14-19 education and training in England: beyond weakly collaborative arrangements, Journal of Education and Work, 19, 4, 325-342. Hodgson, A. and Spours, K. (2011b) Three versions of ‘localism’: implications for upper secondary education and lifelong learning in the UK, Journal of Education Policy, 24, 1, 1-18. OECD (2009) Tackling the jobs crisis: the labour market and social policy response (Paris: OECD). Pratchett, L. (2004) ‘Local Autonomy, Local Democracy and the 'New Localism' Political Studies, 52, 358-375. Raffo, C. (2010) Educational equity in poor urban contexts – exploring issues of place/space and young people’s identity and agency. British Journal of Educational Studies, 59, 1, 1-19. Symonds, W.C., Schwartz, R. B. and Ferguson, R. (2011) Pathways to prosperity: meeting the challenge of preparing young Americans for the 21st Century. Harvard: Harvard Graduate School of Education. UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) (2011) The Youth Inquiry: employers’ perspectives on tackling youth unemployment. London: UKCES.
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