Social control in practice: the impact of learning employability skills

Liz Atkins

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Abstract

This paper explores notions of ‘employability’ in further education, a concept which is at the basis of much government policy associated with marginalised learners. Drawing on earlier empirical work by Atkins (2009) Atkins et al (2010) and Simmons and Thompson (2011) and working within a framework informed by Marxist concepts of Power and control, the paper problematises the term employability, arguing that in policy terms the term is ill-defined yet associated with a positive rhetoric about high pay, skill work which is in tension with the prospects of the marginalised group of students at whom it is directed. Despite the rhetoric, most employability programmes are far removed from the ‘genuine work experience’ advocated by Wolf (2011:130). They offer little in the way of conceptual knowledge or exchange value, but are resonant with earlier concerns about the structure of vocational PCET programmes as producing users who are socialised to work, rather than as citizens (Tarrant, 2001). The paper argues that employability programmes are little more than an exercise in social control which are productive of false hope that engagement with them will offer a route into high pay, high skill employment with the prospect of financial and career security. The paper concludes that this hope obscures the reality that such programmes at best may lead to low pay, low skill work and, at worst, form another stage in the ‘churn’ of young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training). The impact of such programmes is unlikely, therefore, to be one of progression to high pay, high skill careers, but rather to be one of class and labour (re) production as students are socialised into particular forms of casual and low pay, low skill employment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventDiscourse, Power and Resistance - Plymouth
Duration: 1 Jan 2012 → …

Conference

ConferenceDiscourse, Power and Resistance
Period1/01/12 → …

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