22 SES 02 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
For some time, the health and social care field across Europe has adopted a strategy of supporting its workforce of non-registered practitioners (healthcare assistants or support workers, for example) to engage in higher education. In England, ongoing skills development and role extension has been one underlying motivation for some degree level study (see for example, Beacock, 2009, Griggs, 2012). Some health and social care organisations support existing non-registered practitioners to engage in pre-registration training programmes such as nursing courses (NHS, 2010) as a way to “grow their own” registered practitioners from existing staff. However, the availability of educational opportunities does not ensure involvement but rather depend upon the individual’s construal and engagement.
Two premises frame this exploration of construal of, and engagement with higher education. First, Biesta and Tedder’s (2007) ecological conception of agency suggests that an individual’s construal of and engagement in higher education will be shaped by their interrelationship with their social milieus (for example, their employment, home and leisure settings). Second, drawing on Emirbayer and Mische (1998), Biesta and Tedder (2007) argue that agentic orientations towards learning opportunities reflect a predominant orientation either towards reiterating past practice or creating alternative futures within the demands of the present. Drawing from Giddens’ (1991) work, this conception of agency can be reframed as a process of identity work in which the individual predominantly identifies with past practice or an imagined future. Striving to act in ways consistent with this identification takes place within the supports or constraints of a particular learning milieu. This paper explores the tension-filled and socially situated process of identity work involved in the construal of, and engagement with, higher education.
Beacock, S. 2009. 'Developing the Associate Practitioner Role - A Regional Approach To Mental Health and Learning Disabilities'. Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 6(2), pp.205-210. Biesta, G. & Tedder, M. 2007. 'Agency and learning in the life course: towards an ecological perspective'. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(2), pp.132-149. Emirbayer, M. & Mische, A. 1998. 'What is agency?' American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), pp.962–1023. Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press. Griggs, C., 2012. Mentoring community-based trainee assistant practitioners: a case study. British Journal of Community Nursing, 17(7), pp.328-332. NHS. 2010. Widening participation in pre-registration nursing programmes [Online]. Available: http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/documents/digitalasset/dh_116655.pdf [Accessed 25 January 2013].
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