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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Education + Training, Volume 53, Issue 7.
The goal of social inclusion policies is to address a set of linked inequalities, which prevent individuals from participating fully in the social, political and economic life of the societies in which they live. The roots of social exclusion lie in the interaction between poverty and a lack of access to housing, education, health and other services, sometimes caused by discrimination and sometimes by other, more subtle, forms of segregation (Commission of the European Communities, 1993).
Vocational education and training has the potential to address several of these causes. As the papers in this special edition show, vocational programmes can provide access to education for individuals from groups, which have been marginalised within society in some way. By providing skills which are directly relevant to the workplace, targeted initiatives can also help individuals to achieve inclusion in the labour market.
This special edition explores a number of aspects of the relationship between vocational education and social inclusion. The papers jointly address issues including:
whether vocational education and training can support social inclusion by supporting movement out of unemployment or low-wage work;
what barriers to vocational education and training are faced by individuals from marginalised groups, and how vocational education can be made more accessible to them;
what evidence there is that vocational education and training improves the prospects of individuals and communities; and
what needs to change about the way vocational education and training is delivered to support access and progression.
The first paper, by Patrick Lim, Sinan Geminci, John Rice and Tom Karmel, considers the challenge of identifying those who need targeted support to break the cycle of multiple deprivation. They show that area-based measurements of social deprivation in Australia hide significant differences in socio-economic status amongst individuals at the point of making the transition from compulsory education, and suggest using new sources of data to improve the flow of resources to those who most need them.
The second paper, by Erica Smith and Andy Smith, looks at the role that training in the workplace can play in addressing social exclusion. It looks at how the expansion of vocational qualifications delivered in the workplace in Australia has affected two groups which are at high risk of social exclusion, aboriginal groups and the unemployed, and assesses whether vocational training in the workplace can “remove the glue from the ‘sticky floor’ of low-paid work” (Rainbird, 2007).
The third paper, by Rahim Sail, Zoharah Omar, Steven Krauss and Ismi Ismail, provides evidence that vocational education can provide the basis for large improvements in social inclusion for participants under the right employment circumstances. This paper looks at a group of “late bloomers” in Malaysia, who did not qualify for university entrance following high school but went on to achieve significant career progression after gaining a vocational qualification.
The final two papers are case studies. The paper by Viviana Sappa and Laura Bonica examines transitions into work for young people in Italy who have undertaken vocational courses after dropping out of high school. The learner voices captured in this paper show how finely balanced the process of developing the confidence and sense of competence needed to integrate into the workplace is. Conversely, the paper also shows how young people can become marginalised, pushed either into low-skilled work, or out of the workforce, if their learning and social support needs are not adequately supported by employers during the transition to work.
The final paper, by Paul Jones, Christopher Miller, David Pickernell and Gary Packham, looks at a similar issue from the perspective of employers. It presents a case study of an initiative designed to address the issue of social exclusion by raising the skills levels of workers in a disadvantaged region of Wales through work-based vocational education programmes. It addresses the lack of opportunity in labour markets in disadvantaged areas and the low-skills equilibrium that often results, and considers what needs to change in the design and delivery of training in order for employers to engage in training.
Kathleen Collett and Kate Shoesmith
Commission of the European Communities (1993), Background Report: Social Exclusion – Poverty and Other Social Problems in the European Community. ISEC/B11/93, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg
Rainbird, H. (2007), “Can training remove the glue from the ‘sticky floor’ of low-paid work for women?”, Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 555-72