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Managing Work Experience

Work Experience as a labour market intervention

Labour markets are notoriously uneven and messy, made up of sometimes overlapping and sometimes quite distinct segments. Individuals' experiences within labour markets are affected by a range of societal influences and work experience is operating within this space. How work experience is managed has an impact on that way work experience functions and intervenes in the labour market.

The reading supplied in your pack on Anti-Oppressive Practice by Phil Mignot is designd to stimulate your thinking about the politics of work experience and how equality of opportunity can be pursued, or not, by the way we manage work experience.

Tony Watts has outlined 4 contrasting socio-political approaches to careers work that it is worth looking at here:

  Focus on Society Focus on the Individual
Focus on Change Radical (social change) Progressive (individual change)
Focus on the Status Quo Conservative (social control) Liberal (non-directive)

Watts, AG (1996) Socio-political Ideologies in Guidance' in AG Watts, B Law, J Killeen, J Kidd and R Hawthorn Rethinking Careers Education and Guidance. London: Routledge: 351-365

Whilst it could be argued than non directive approaches do actually lead to change, the important point remains that career and employability work, including work experience, can either support change or work against it.

It is worth reflecting on the extent to which the work experience schemes you manage support change. Do they:

  • Open up opportunities to those who have not had them?
  • Place people into organisations that they would otherwise struggle to access, thereby changing both student and employer persepctives?
  • or do they perpetuate the barriers for some by colonising work experience opportunities for the already privileged insider?

Work experience can act as a lubricant or a brake within the labour market. Schemes can act as a 'special escalator', in Mignot's typology, but may not challenge or change the labour market in any way.

Much work experience is framed by an individualistic discourse, particularly when it is linked to 'employability', a notion which transfers responsibility for the market (to provide job securty) to the indivudal (to maintain their own ability to participate in the job market)

An example of how these issues play out in one scheme's management is laid out in the paper I presented at the ASET conference in 2011:

(Word Document)Frigerio, G (2011) Widening Participation, Employability and Work-Related Learning – What Works
Paper presented at ASET conference, Leeds Metropolitan University, September 2011

Within that paper I lay out the pros and cons of a supported self-sourcing or a brokerage model of work experience management.




As you work through the issues and challenges in managing work experience, you are developing what Mignot calls the 'practical politics' of working against oppression and discrimination.