"NEET" or left out?, disadvantaged young people, everyday experiences of marginalisation and "accelerated" transitions in urban Scotland

  • Dorota Stanislawa Szpakowicz

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


While social, economic and political transformations inscribed in current neoliberal capitalism have significantly changed contemporary young adulthood, social divisions continue to shape young people's lives and transitions. A considerable body of research has linked socio-economic inequalities with experiences of a group of young people often described as being 'Not in Education, Employment or Training' (NEET). Yet, comparatively little is known about the everyday lives and transitions of young people identified as NEET from their own perspective and in a distinctive Scottish policy context.;This thesis aims to address this gap by exploring : (1) young people's everyday lives and circumstances, and their relationships with place, institutions and others ; (2) their school experiences and impact of these experiences on their transitions ; and (3) their practices of looking for work and learning. Moreover, the role technologies playin lives and transitions of young people identified as NEET is critically examined. This additional dimension to youth transitions was of particular interest because it has beenso far under researched in relation to this group, while policy responses frame technologies as a panacea for erasing socio-economic inequalities.;The thesis employs narrative inquiry methodology and adopts thinking tools from Pierre Bourdieu. The data from qualitative interviews with 22 young people aged 16-24, who were predominantly white and identified as NEET allowed for the intimate study of their everyday lives and transitions, how they understand and relate to the world around them. The Bourdieusian framework positioned young people within unequal power structures and broader socio-economic and political contexts. Interviews with 11 service providers overseeing youth transitions offered an additional dimension into how the policy agenda is implemented and exercised 'on the ground' in Scotland and what consequences this has for young people's trajectories.;A number of significant findings emerged from the study. Participants' everyday lives and circumstances were complex and diverse, and so were the ways they made sense of themselves and the world around them. Yet, the thematic analysis also identified a set of commonalities in the young people's lives and transitions through and into employment, and in their labouring subjectivities (the way the self is constructed and performed in relation to the labour market). Particularly, participants relationship with schooling was that of unease and struggle, resulting in most cases in 'accelerated' transitions towards vocational pathways. Furthermore, segregation processes embedded within the education system and the post-16 transitions policy and practice landscape were found to strongly shape their trajectories.;Concurrently, uncertainties about the rules and presuppositions of the realm of work, the 'proper' ways of conduct and of performance of the self, constituted a strong feature of the young people's labouring subjectivities. Consequently, seeing the labour market as an 'alien' environment was also reflected in the ways the young people engaged with technologies while looking for opportunities. Specifically, while the young people described complex patterns of technology use in their everyday lives, their engagement with technologies for accessing opportunities was underpinned by uncertainties and struggles that derived from their distinctive (classed) social identities. However, even when participants acquired (digital) employability skills through engagement with numerous skills initiatives, these had very little impact on their career choices, transitions and chances of accessing secure employment.;Once again, social divisions combined with other external factors proved to be of much stronger influence. Consequently, the findings provide significant evidence on the real challenges faced by young people who find themselves not in education or employment from a relatively young age and identifies recommendations for policy and practice, in addition to future opportunities for research.
Date of Award30 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorDaniela Sime (Supervisor) & Claire Lightowler (Supervisor)

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