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When Training Is Not Enough : Preparing Students for Employment in England, France and Sweden

Nicolas Charles

Centre Émile Durkheim, Université de Bordeaux, 3ter place de la Victoire, 33076 Bordeaux, France

Available online 30 October 2015 on Science direct
doi : 10.1016/j.soctra.2015.09.008

The proliferation of work placements and the rise of professionalisation in higher education are, in France, frequently condemned as evidence of a quest for greater employability, driven by a skills-based approach. A comparative analysis of the methods used to prepare students for employment shows the degree to which the social mechanisms are homogeneous in England (employability) and in Sweden (bildning). In France, the transition from higher education to employment entails a process of pre-professionalisation. This is characterised by the dominant role of professional skills and their incorporation into the structure of initial higher education itself. Rather than the outcome of a process of marketisation, this mechanism of pre-professionalisation is explained by the persistence of an idealised conception of “matching” that still profoundly marks the relations between education and employment in France.

Keywords : Transition-to-Work ; Professionalisation ; Higher Education ; International Comparison ; France ; Sweden ; England.

Article Outline

  • 1. The conception of professional qualification under the English and Swedish systems of relations between education and employment
    • 1.1. In England, higher education to develop student employability
    • 1.2. In Sweden, the interweaving of education and jobs, the keystone of bildning
  • 2. In France, from the imperative of transition-to-work to the principle of pre-professionalisation
    • 2.1. “Professionalising” programmes as systems of transition-to-work
    • 2.2. Pre-professionalisation incorporated into initial higher education and focused on professional skills
  • 3. The persistence and dissemination of an idealised conception of “matching”
    • 3.1. How can a perfect match between education and jobs be achieved ? The sources of the “adequationist” approach
    • 3.2. The private sector, today the main beneficiary of pre-professionalisation, offers no institutionalised guarantee of social positions
    • 3.3. The French misunderstanding of the goal of the imported term “employability”
    • 3.4. Is France the precursor of a trend that is spreading across Europe ?
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du travail
Volume 57, Supplement 1, November 2015
Translated by John Crisp