• Comfort radicalism and NEETs: a conservative praxis

      Avis, James; University of Huddersfield (Informa UK Limited, 2014-07-29)
      Young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) are construed by policy-makers as a pressing problem about which something should be done. Such young people’s lack of employment is thought to pose difficulties for wider society in relation to social cohesion and inclusion, and it is feared that they will become a ‘lost generation’. This paper draws upon English research, seeking to historicise the debate whilst acknowledging that these issues have a much wider purchase. The notion of NEETs rests alongside longstanding concerns of the English state and middle classes, addressing unruly male working-class youth as well as the moral turpitude of working class girls. Waged labour and domesticity are seen as a means to integrate such groups into society thereby generating social cohesion. The paper places the debate within it socio-economic context and draws on theorisations of cognitive capitalism, Italian workerism, as well as emerging theories of antiwork to analyse these. It concludes by arguing that ‘radical’ approaches to NEETs that point towards inequities embedded in the social structure and call for social democratic solutions veer towards a form of comfort radicalism. Such approaches leave in place the dominance of capitalist relations as well as productivist orientations that celebrate waged labour.
    • HE in FE: vocationalism, class and social justice

      Avis, James; Orr, kevin; University of Huddersfield (Informa UK Limited, 2016-03-03)
      The paper draws on the Wolf (2015) report (Heading for the Precipice: Can Further and Higher Education Funding Policies Be Sustained?) and other quantitative data, specifically that derived from HEFCE’s Participation of Local Area (POLAR) classifications. In addition it explores key literature and debates that associate higher education in further education (HE in FE) with the pursuit of social justice. This enables an interrogation of conceptualisations of vocationalism as well as a consideration of its articulation with class and gender. Whilst the paper is set within a particular and English socio-economic context, it addresses issues that have a much broader global significance. The paper argues that whilst HE in FE has limited traction in facilitating social mobility it does serve as a resource in the struggle for social justice.
    • “It’s all about work”: New times, Post-Fordism and vocational pedagogy

      Avis, James; University of Huddersfield (Routledge, 2018-02-12)
    • Race and vocational education and training in England

      Avis, James; Orr, kevin; Warmington, Paul; University of Huddersfield; University of Warwick (Informa UK Limited, 2017-06-05)
      Black and minority ethnic students (BME) are a significant constituency in vocational education and training (VET) and FE in England. Despite this recent research on race and VET has become a marginal concern. Insofar as current VET research addresses social justice, race appears to be a supplementary concern. Although there is a substantial literature addressing race and education, this focuses primarily on schools and higher education. This paper examines why there is a need to develop a research agenda that analyses participation, outcomes and experiences of BME VET students, particularly those on ‘non-advanced’ programmes (equivalent to European Qualification Framework Level 1–3) with uncertain labour market outcomes and who are arguably being ‘warehoused’ in low status courses. The paper reflects on the historically specific reasons for the dearth of research on race and VET, drawing on a scoping exercise of the literature to evidence this. We conclude by offering a provisional analysis that identifies recent shifts in participation among BME groups, locating this in its socio-economic and historical context. Our analysis reaffirms that VET remains a significant educational site for BME groups, but it is a complex racialised site which makes the current neglect of race and VET in academic research deeply problematic.
    • Re-conceptualising VET: responses to covid-19

      Avis, James; Atkins, Liz; Esmond, Bill; McGrath, Simon; University of Derby; University of Nottingham (Taylor and Francis, 2020-12-30)
      The paper addresses the impact of Covid-19 on vocational education and training, seeking to discern the outline of possible directions for its future development within the debates about VET responses to the pandemic. The discussion is set in its socio-economic context, considering debates that engage with the social relations of care and neo-liberalism. The paper analyses discourses that have developed around VET across the world during the pandemic, illustrating both possible continuities and ruptures that may emerge in this field, as the health crisis becomes overshadowed in public policy by the prioritisation of economic recovery and social restoration. The paper concludes that, alongside the possibility of a narrowing of VET to its most prosaic aims and practices, the health crisis could also lead to a re-conceptualisation that develops its radical and emancipatory possibilities in both the global south and north.
    • Socio-technical imaginary of the fourth industrial revolution and its implications for vocational education and training: a literature review

      Avis, James; University of Huddersfield (Informa UK Limited, 2018-08-21)
      This literature review engages with a diverse and sometimes contradictory body of work, employing an analytic stance rooted in policy scholarship. It discusses rhetorical constructions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR), locating these in understandings of the economy rooted in a neo-liberalism which rests upon a capitalist terrain. The 4th IR is an ideological construct which reflects specific material interests and has particular implications for education and training. The 4th IR’s association with digitalisation and artificial intelligence is ambivalent. For some writers, this leads to technological unemployment while for others, even though there is labour market disruption, there is no employment crisis that cannot be resolved. The strong connection between the 4th IR and labour market requirements is softened by those writers who adopt a qualitative analysis of advanced manufacturing work. These scholars suggest that the relationship between technology and skill is rather more complex than the protagonists of technological unemployment describe. Neo-Marxist writers develop a qualitatively different account of the current conjuncture to the imaginary of the 4th IR. In this instance, the analysis turns towards the elimination of labour from paid employment, together with the falling rate of profit and bypasses the former arguments. This review concludes by arguing that technology and artificial intelligence are entwined with social relations, being sites of class struggle. How this is played out is an outcome of the balance of power, not only within the social formation but also globally. How far the development of the forces of production is compatible with capitalist relations is a moot point, as this is also a site of struggle. The paper draws out the implications for VET and considers progressive educational responses. However, such a practice needs to be set within a broader politics that is committed to the development of a socially just society.