Choosing to Labour?

Choosing to Labour?: School-Work Transitions and Social Class

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Choosing to Labour?
    Book Description:

    Through a qualitative study of academic-track high school students and participants in youth apprenticeships in Germany and Canada, Lehmann shows how the range of available school-work transition options are defined by both gender and social class. Highlighting the importance of the institutional context in understanding school-work transitions, particularly in relation to Germany's celebrated apprenticeship system, which rests on highly streamed secondary schooling and a stratified labour market, Lehmann argues that social inequalities are maintained in part by the choices made by young people, rather than simply by structural forces.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7560-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    Let us begin by looking at three high-school students in Edmonton. Tim has just completed his first year of a high-school-based youth apprenticeship and is excited about continuing a family tradition of employment in the trades. Trent has decided to attend university, partly in reaction against his father’s experiences of hard physical labour on construction sites. Lisa, too, is planning to attend university to become a teacher like her mother, whom she greatly admires. Some key questions regarding the relationship between social-structural determinants and active choice in school-work transitions emerge from these three cases. How did the career plans of...

  7. 1 When Structure Met Agency
    (pp. 14-33)

    Despite the massive expansion of the Canadian post-secondary education system in the past four decades, and a resulting wider range of educational outcomes within each socio-economic category, aggregate Canadian data show that ses is still the strongest determinant of educational attainment. Whether measured by high-school dropout rates, achievement on standardized tests, or university attendance, working-class youth do not fare as well as do youth from middle- and upper-class backgrounds (Davies 2004: 139). Recent stratification research in Canada has found that the influence of class-based structural variables on educational attainment has persisted over time (Andres et al. 1999). Compared to young...

  8. 2 Institutional Context: “And It Was Kind of Hard to Get Information”
    (pp. 34-66)

    Across Canada, the federal government and most of the provinces and territories, as well as schools and the private sector have been involved in developing special programs to assist young people in making the transition into the workforce (Lehmann 2000). Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has funded initiatives such as Youth Internship Canada, Youth Services Canada, and the Youth Information Initiative. High schools offer career, technology, and vocational programs and increasingly forge partnerships with the local business community. Co-operative education, internship, and youth apprenticeship programs have received growing attention as alternative forms of improving school-work transitions. Youth apprenticeship...

  9. 3 Gender: “Men Work, Women Have Children”
    (pp. 67-80)

    The previous chapter focused on institutional features that both helped and hindered young people in their transitions from high school to further education and employment. Obviously, education systems and labour markets are key institutional features. Gender also emerged as a powerful aspect related to institutional features, in the sense that welfare-state arrangements, educational practices, employment and hiring preferences, and cultural factors variously affect young people’s career dispositions.

    Gender is implicated in all of the experiences discussed by the young men and women in this study. Gender is implicated in streaming processes from primary to secondary education in Germany and in...

  10. 4 Social Context: “It’s Just What My Family Does”
    (pp. 81-113)

    The previous chapters have highlighted a key empirical and theoretical dilemma: despite individuals’ narratives of independent decision making, career and educational dispositions were clearly affected by social status. Not surprisingly, the young people in this study overwhelmingly felt that career and educational success depended on motivation, talent, and hard work. In the questionnaire administered at the end of interviews and focus groups, participants were asked to rate the importance of various factors for achieving career goals. Structural factors were represented by family background, race or ethnicity, and gender. Individual factors included “having the right attitude,” “being willing to make some...

  11. 5 The Role of Policy: “We’re Supposed To Be Learning”
    (pp. 114-139)

    Proponents of youth apprenticeships point to their function of creating useful institutional structures for transitions (Evans, Taylor and Heinz 1993) and of providing youth not entering post-secondary schooling with meaningful career alternatives, thus ultimately promoting greater equality in the labour market (Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board 1996; Buechtemann, Schupp, and Soloff 1994; Economic Council of Canada 1992; Evans, Taylor, and Heinz 1993; Hamilton 1990). Such programs, however, have also been charged with streaming lower-class students into dead-end career options that do very little to facilitate long-term success in the labour market and may actually reinforce existing social inequalities (Geißler...

  12. 6 The Role of Theory: Choosing to Labour?
    (pp. 140-172)

    Policy debates are rarely informed by any theoretical understanding of how the implication of programs is constrained by institutional structures and how the programs contribute to the maintenance of various forms of social inequality. In most instances, policy debates and programs are situated in what might best be described a social vacuum. Even though programs such as rap are variously debated as helping at-risk students or focusing on the middle majority, the conditions of being a member of these groups is rarely discussed or understood. Yet the scholarly literature on school-work transitions has long been concerned with the interplay of...

  13. APPENDIX A Profile of Participants
    (pp. 175-180)
  14. APPENDIX B Data and Methodology
    (pp. 181-194)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 195-198)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-214)
  17. Index
    (pp. 215-221)