Linking Past and Present: Working with Andy Furlong to Examine Changing Youth Labour Markets 1985-2012

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
John GOODWIN, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Henrietta O'CONNOR, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Since 2011 we had been working with Andy Furlong on two ‘restudies’ revisiting key themes and data from his early work on school to work transitions. While Andy’s work has always been central to our analyses and understanding our recent restudies led to collaborations focusing on a need interrogate 'past' transitions data. More specifically, by linking past and present data in our research (Making the Precariat: ESRC) we sought to examine how the working lives of young people have changed between two key periods of economic instability in the UK: the 1980s and 2008 recessions. In our most recent project with Andy (Youth Opportunities?: British Academy) we revisited key themes from his PhD (1987) focussing on youth unemployment and Youth Training Schemes (YTS). Here he argued that ‘the main short-coming of the YTS in Leicester lies in its failure to attract young people destined for low-skilled jobs (Furlong 1987: 227)'. However, he also found that those who joined the schemes regarded them favourably and as a route to the jobs they wanted, albeit dependent upon local labour market conditions. What happened to those who did YTS? What were the long-term career and life ‘impacts’ for those who participated in YTS during the 1980s? Were these ‘tacky’ job substitution schemes or did they provide gateways to real and meaningful work?

Based on our collaborations, this paper has three aims. First we present an overview of the 'Making the Precariat’ project and the arguments developed with Andy for the book Young People in the Labour Market. Second, we reconsider some of the findings on YTS offered by Andy in his thesis via the reflections of those who participated in them. Finally, we consider the position of our collaborations with Andy in his broader scheme of work.