Discourses and Understandings of Employability in Vocational Education : A Comparison of Swedish and Catalan Policies and Student Perspectives
Abstract: The concept of ‘employability’ is an important aspect of the link between education and the labour market. This thesis describes, in the Swedish and Catalan contexts, the conceptualization of employability in the discourses of vocational educational policy trough the analytical categories of representations of the world, social order, and social identity. It then examines vocational education students’ understandings of the concept through the themes of career building, experiences, and, employment outlook. Using critical discourse analysis, I collected and examined data from policy documents to analyse policy discourses regarding employability. On the other hand, I interviewed six vocational education students and used thematic analysis to build students’ understandings of employability. The results portray different pictures for the two contexts examined. While Swedish policy discourse includes on its account of employability some ‘humanistic’ values, such as democracy and human rights, the Catalan policy discourse focuses mainly in ‘market’ values such as competitivity and productivity. On the other hand, students in both contexts understand apprenticeships and personal attributes as key elements of employability. Two main conclusions are drawn from this study. First, the world represented in policy documents strives to reproduce relations of economic production and cultural hegemony. Second, by placing emphasis on apprenticeships and personal attributes vocational students have adapted to the goals of policy documents. Further research on the topic should explore the existing material contradictions between labour policy and vocational education policy.
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