Presented by Dr Richard Gater
This seminar discusses my PhD research which explored the school-to-work transition and masculine identity of a group of marginalised working-class young men from the South Wales Valleys. The research was undertaken collaboratively with a youth centre and consisted of an ethnographic study of nine young men, plus interviews with youth workers and a schoolteacher. The research engaged with the themes of masculinity and social class, whilst also considering predicted future employment changes and the possible implication of these changes for the participants’ educational experiences and employment aspirations.
The participants were considered in relation to the 1977 research on ‘the lads’ conducted by Paul Willis. Although there were similarities to the lads, there were also notable changes in the young men’s views and behaviour, including a pragmatic approach to education as opposed to anti-learning, some deviation from a manual employment orientation, softer displays of masculinity and a rupturing of previous modes of being that derived from heavy industrial masculinity. The significance of this is that while previous research has identified opposition to neoliberal individualism, service sector employment and emotional labour among a previous generation of young men in the area (Gater 2022), the current research identifies significant generational changes.
In light of predicted future employment changes related to increased automation and new technologies, it is vital to consider how young men such as these might have access to better-paid and skilled employment. The results of this research allow us to consider employment futures other than low-skilled manual employment and potentially increase the life chances of marginalised working-class young men.
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