Young People’s Alternative Career Pathways: A Discovery of Purpose for Young People

If social policy does not support  young people who want to enter employment and therefore gain some form of adult status and continued biography after finishing compulsory education, how will this affect young people in the future?

One-way young people may seek to take control of their lives is through the alternative career pathways or as Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) suggest ‘alternative centres’ of drug and alcohol use, teenage parenthood, criminal engagement, etc so that young people can make sense of and have a continued biography.

Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) discuss the theory about ‘fair exchange’ and discover how young people trade ‘fair exchange’ for fairer exchange’ that young people find in youth cultures or sub-cultures. ‘Their connectedness into street life is an expression of identification with friends and broader networks of peers, and with place…these strong connections provide an ‘alternative centre’ (Hay, 1997) for youth participation’. Where young people can find some form of belonging and involvement and valuable alternatives when aspiration are unworkable and inaccessible (Bottrell and Armstrong, 2007: 364). Jones (2002) explores this by suggesting that young people will either enter the ‘fast track or slow track’ to adult status. Walther et al (2005) also contributes to this thinking through the developments in alternative support networks and the theory behind this.

However Craine (1997) suggests that young people developing alternative career paths are to some extent, illustrating, that this pattern had elements of free choice, which Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) echoes as fair exchange, under a canopy of inequality as described by Beck (1992) as choice biographies and recognised by Kelly (1999) as the ‘DIY project of self’.

Jones (2002) points out that young people are still trying to follow the traditional transitional routes of their parents or grandparents. This polarisation of experiences in youth is now seen as the fast tract to adult status. This can lead to non structured non linear pathways of a young person’s biography. Wyn and White (1997) illustrate that young people operating in informal economic spheres as Kelly (1999) suggests as ‘wild zones’ where there is a deficiency of a national context for policy where all the population is governed, is due to the downturn of the main economic sphere. In addition Craine (1997) adds that young people may try many different career paths for example early parenthood, substance use, working on the side, drug dealing, other criminalised activity etc, to produce some form of chosen employment as recognised by Beck, (1992); Kelly (1999). However Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) suggest that this has now been seen as ‘quasi-offending’ viewing young people as high risk youth.  Henderson et al (2005) points-out the different, ‘leisure and pleasure landscapes’ that young people experience within their alternative employment, which is echoed in many of the research papers reviewed for this study.

All of the young people involved in Craine’s (1997) research had experienced in some shape and form the Black Magic Roundabout effect, of cyclical transitions or in this case, trajectories. This research is also echoed in Johnson et al (2000) snakes and ladders paper. With young people standing back from formal structures of employment and finding a shared sense of identity with these alternative career paths. In the findings of Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) they found that this is due to the fair exchange through educational exchange that make happen the opportunity to progress into employment. Craine (1997) continues,these career paths where long standing trade mechanisms, which where already part of the irregular economy. Evidence also illustrates how young people’s present day understandings (here and now) of local labour markets and their emerging social futures can greatly influence their sense of inclusion and therefore their willingness and ability to take non alternative life courses (Craine, 1997) and to comply to the norms.

Wyn and White (1997) suggest, this is down to the spheres of work or activity environment, illustrating that young people can be vulnerable in many different spheres, formal or non formal. Similarly Cieslik and Pollock (2002) suggest this as the ‘risk society’ young people are now experiencing. Illustrated by Jones (2002) that there are many reasons why young people may follow these alternative career paths. Recognising that the stepping stone jobs for young people, no longer exist in today’s society. Therefore young people will search out alternative ways of supporting their adult status and biography. Henderson et al (2007) gives some reasoning for this and suggests its how young people can feel adult in one sense and childish in another. This depends on their competence, responsibilities and financial autonomy within their domestic and social situations. Therefore, the recognition of these competences by their family, peers, institutions and professionals can have a major impact. On how young people view their adult status or even their independent status as they continue with their biography. This understanding has been echoed through many of the research projects undertaken in the past and touched on in this study. However Bottrell and Armstrong (2007) suggest that young people choose to take these alternative biography trajectories due to the lack of ‘fair exchange’ in the formal and social structure young people encounter. Illustrated in Barry (2004), research about drug taking, the new normality, she finds that in some areas of high socio economic depravation with high unemployment or even the low prospects of employment for young people as an impact on this normality. The drug economy has replaced legal employment as a provider of occupation and status. This could be an interpretation of the alternative career paths of young people in today’s society. That illustrates some of the social barriers young people face when tying to enter the employment market and gain some form of interdependence from their parents, which affords them a degree of adult status.

A report by Maclnnes (2009) found that there is an increase of unemployed young people, which has now reached 18% and now affects 16-24 year olds being the most at risk of unemployment, which is the highest since 1993. This rising amount of unemployed young people would suggested, to gain meaningful normalised paid employment, in the current continuing economic downturn, will have a major impact on young people in the here and now and in the future. (new figures may be higher than this).

Giddens (1984: 21) illustration of ‘social life’ suggests that (young) people will formulate rules that give them some form or meaning in the here and now status of ‘various specific qualities’ that alternative career pathways can bring due to the lack of fair exchange for young people today (Bottrell and Armstrong, 2007). Giddens (1984: 22) suggests that all ‘social actors’ are skilled in knowledge of the day to day activities and social encounters that (young) people need to negotiate every day. Giddens (1984) standpoint of structuration (in this case informal or alternative structure) would be that the social interaction that takes place and needs to be understood as a form of biographic research perspective that gives reality to the here and now of social activity and social agency that some young people may adopt. In making sense of their space, place and time of being and the informal rules that inform the daily interaction of the alternative social structures adds meaning and membership for those involved.

About YouthworkB98

I am a reliable professional youth worker with over 10 years experience working with young people. I work with young people to address their needs, rights, responsibilites and apirations, through innovative solution focused interventions.  I'm a social agent working with young people in the social context of the here and now. Supporting young peoples emotional, social and personal development. 
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