Wintrup, Julie and James, Liz
Personal change, job prospects, learning to ask why: students’ reflections upon the worth of their Foundation degree.
In, Society for Research into Higher Education Postgraduate and Newer Researchers Conference, Liverpool, UK,
08 Dec 2008.
This paper examines how emergent themes from a qualitative study are testing assumptions within a Foundation degree in health and care. As participants reflect upon their education in relation to employment, new directions for future inquiry are emerging.
Although the programme is well positioned to address economic drivers for higher-level workplace skills (Leitch, 2006), unpredictable, often hierarchical working environments mean employer support fluctuates. We anticipated issues such as poor job opportunities and resistance from professional colleagues, as the programme attracts mainly local, female students who seek career progression from low-paid caring roles.
Instead, early analysis suggests participants use personal change as their reference point and gateway to future employment (unlikely now to revolve around one employer or skill set). A symbiotic increase in knowledge, confidence and self-worth is described as transformative. A sense of ‘taking responsibility’ has encouraged the questioning of established practices, leading to reciprocal learning through work relationships indicative of ‘communities of practice’ (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Choice of modules within a broad curriculum is also valued as a means of developing greater capability (Fraser & Greenhalgh, 2001), contradicting some employers’ (and commissioners’) encouragement of early specialisation.
Following this early analysis, we discuss how employability as defined by Yorke & Knight (2004), is likely to conflict with employers’ objectives to upskill and retain what has been seen as a stable section of the workforce.
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