02 SES 05 C, Gender Differences, Social Inequalities and Segregation in VET
Nowadays education systems are being challenged to teach students key competencies and prepare them for a professional life that requires flexibility, autonomy and self-responsibility, as well as the willingness to be mobile and engage in life-long learning (European-Communities 2007). However there is not much knowledge as to how apprentices experience these competency requirements, how they evaluate their own predispositions to fulfil them, and to what extent these requirements imply new gateways for social inequality.
The aim of our paper is to analyse these questions in the context of training networks (TN), a new form of VET. In German-speaking countries TN have been promoted by the national departments of VET since the 1990s. A training network is a coalition of several companies that train apprentices together. A lead organisation (LO) is responsible for the recruitment, employment and support of the apprentices. Various features of TN require and nurture the flexibility and autonomy of apprentices: (a) Rotations: Apprentices exchange their training company several times (every ½-1 year). b) Shared support: Apprentices receive support from two parties: The current training company and the LO. (c) Additional training elements: Many TN offer additional training elements that focus on self-responsibility and life-long learning.
What are the opportunities and risks for apprentices in TN regarding these key competencies? What is the impact of social factors such as social background, gender, and age?
Comparing TN to traditional apprenticeships, the specific features of TN (particularly the rotations and shared support) place greater demands on apprentices. Apprentices are required to exhibit high degrees of self-control, self-commercialisation and self-rationalisation, as described by Voß/Pongratz in the concept of the 'entreployee'. For apprentices from socially disadvantaged families this can be an opportunity: They have the chance to acquire qualities usually attributed to members of the more educated classes (autonomy, sovereignty, the willingness to take on risks and to be mobile). On the other side however there’s substantial risk that they are being overstrained by this type of education, since their milieu of origin is less likely to provide them with the predispositions necessary to cope with these requirements.
Our paper builds on the cultural sociology of Bourdieu (Bourdieu/Wacquant 1992) as well as on the French sociology of conventions (Boltanski/Thévenot 1999, 2006). Bourdieu’s approach allows an analysis of experiences and competences of apprentices from a perspective of unequal social positions. The sociology of conventions has developed as a critique of Bourdieu’s epistemological standpoint und rejects the idea that social action depends on individual’s dispositions. Instead its proponents envisage an actor who has the competence to orient himself in a social world shaped by uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity, and to decide and act adequately. Especially in the project world (Boltanski/Chiapello 2005), which – on a small scale – can be found in TN, the class habitus (so they say) has lost its relevance for social reproduction.
The consideration of these opposite epistemological positions opens up the field for analysing the opportunities and risks of network-oriented VET organisations for apprentices from low educational background.
Boltanski, Luc & Chiapello, Eve (2005). The New Spirit of Capitalism. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 18:161–188. Boltanski, Luc & Thévenot, Laurent (1999). The Sociology of Critical Capacity. European Journal of Social Theory, 2(3), 359–377. Boltanski, Luc & Thévenot, Laurent (2006). On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre & Wacquant, Loïc J.D (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. European Communities (2007). Key Competencies for lifelong learning. European Reference Framework. Belgium. (source: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/publ/pdf/ll-learning/keycomp_en.pdf) Pongratz, Hans J. & Voß, G. Günter (2003). From employee to ‘entreployee’: Towards a ‘selfentrepreneurial’ workforce? Concepts and Transformation, 8, 239-254. Yin, Robert K. (2009). Case Study Research. Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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