Race, ‘warehousing’ and Vocational Education and Training
For the European Union and many other societies the route to economic competitiveness is thought to arise from the development of a knowledge economy. Similar claims have been made by the OECD (2014) with such notions becoming hegemonic and a feature of international policy debates. It is in this context that Vocational Education and Training (VET) has an important role to play. To that end a significant body of work has addressed the manner in which European VET systems develop in young people the competences, skills and dispositions required at work (Mulder and Winterton, 2016). A theme that is rather less emphasised in European research is an examination of the relationship between VET, social justice and inequality. In this latter instance the focus is on issues concerned with what could be described as the reproduction of classed and gendered relations, with some small recognition of ethnicity (see Beck et al, 2006; Hughes, et al, 2006) . This recognition of ethnicity has often been couched somewhat gesturally in terms of intersectionality and the articulation between race, class and gender. It is however important not to ignore that these processes are mediated by the specific social formation in which they are located. Virolainen (2015) and Jørgensen (2014) have noted the different VET strategies present in Nordic countries as well as the relationship of these to class and gendered processes. In Germany a number of writers have considered, or at least noted, the relationship of VET to class (Deissinger, 2015; Müller, 2014; Schmidt, 2010; Schneider and Tieben, 2011; Brown, Lauder and Ashton, 2011, chapter 7). Interest has frequently been directed towards marginalised and disadvantaged youth and in instances where race/ethnicity is addressed this has often been in terms of migration (see, Taylor, Foster and Cambre, 2012 for a Canadian example). Early English work that addressed race/ethnicity and VET is salutary and poses a number of important questions that have been submerged in current debates. A reconsideration of this work raises a number of significant questions for VET researchers. More than thirty years ago a body of research examined the manner in which black youth were marginalised in the English VET system (Newnham, 1986; Lee and Wrench, 1983; Troyna and Smith, 1983; West Midlands Youth Training Scheme Research Project, 1985; Hollands, 1990; Eggleston et al, 1986; Verma and Darby, 1987; Cohen and Bains, 1998). Subsequent research addressing such issues, whilst clearly visible in work on higher education and schools, has been far less visible in relation to VET and Further Education (but see for example, Chadderton and Wischmann, 2014). Wolf (2011), for example, has pointed towards the limited value of low level vocational qualifications. Whilst such processes have been examined in terms of disability and class, as well as their articulation with gender, there has been limited engagement with race/ethnicity. This paper seeks to redress this deficit and has set itself three key tasks. Firstly, to analyse the available statistical data with a view to exploring the relationship between race/ethnicity and VET - is there evidence of warehousing of black youth? How do these statistics articulate to those of class and gender? Does the English experience map onto that found in other western economies? Secondly, how can we make sense of and theorise these relations - are there particular features of the current conjuncture that need to be addressed and have contemporary analyses of “race and education” erased VET? What are the specificities that characterise other social formations? Thirdly, what would be an appropriate educational and political response?
Theoretically the paper mobilises policy scholarship and critical analysis and draws upon sensibilities set with critical race theory. Thus the paper is rooted in a critical analysis of the existing literature that addresses the relationship between VET and race/ethnicity. The starting point is with the early English VET research that suggested that Black youth had been marginalised. This work implied that black youth had been removed from the labour market and were in effect being ‘warehoused’, encountering low level VET course that had very limited purchase in the labour market. The paper interrogates this argument through a critical engagement with the earlier research as well as with contemporary European literature. In addition it draws on the available statistics generated by national and supranational bodies to explore the patterns of black engagement with VET as well as the relationship this has to class and gender. The paper’s statistical analysis will explore and examine the patterns present in England and will seek to compare and contrast these with those found in other European societies. This will enable us to address the specificity of particular societies and to examine whether or not ‘warehousing’ arises not only in England but also in other European formations. In addition we consider that in the event of warehousing, whether or not this pertains to particular societies or is of a more generic nature being mediated by particular ethnic and raced relations. This leads us into a consideration of the current stage of capitalist development and whether this represents a break with the previous stage. For example, Blackler (2013) has discussed the way in which the current stage of neo-liberal capitalism has shifted towards “a mode of elimination that targets most of us” (P.1), with Marsh (2011) adopting a not dissimilar argument. If these Ideas are accepted they raise important questions about the role of education in general and VET in particular, as well as the manner in which we examine the relationship between race/ethnicity and VET. The paper will develop a critical analysis to interrogate these notions.
The paper seeks to contribute to debate in three main ways.
Firstly, the paper will contribute to current theorisations of the relationship between race/ethnicity and VET. Whilst a significant body of work has examined the relationship between race/ethnicity, school based processes and those occurring in higher education, little research has specifically examined VET (FE) by placing race/ethnicity in a pivotal position. The paper will explore the manner in which we can make sense of and theorise these relations.
Secondly, the paper through its engagement with statistical material will assess the usefulness and levels of potential generality of the conceptualisation of warehousing.
Thirdly, the paper will examine whether there are particular features of the current conjuncture that need to be addressed in contemporary analyses of race/ethnicity and VET. What are the specificities that characterise other social formations? Following from this it the question of what would be an appropriate educational and political response will be posed?
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