‘Social-Class and the Link with Employability’

MM33920 – Management Research Methods Assignment 1 Select a research topic of your interest and explain relevance of the selected topic. Clearly define how it will benefit the industry and/or society. Also provide literature review. Robert Sumnall Aberystwyth University Tel: +447581448829 Aber E-Mail: ros27 Research Area: ‘Employability’ Research Topic: ‘Social-Class and the link with Employability’ General Research Question: ‘Is a Graduates Socio-economic background a determinant on their employability? Throughout this assignment I will be writing about my proposed research model in three sections. The first section will be the relevance of my selected topic of research; this will be written to give the reader a clearer understanding of what the research will consist of, as well as the reasoning behind doing it. The second section of my assignment I will clearly define how it will benefit the industry/society, by doing so it will help explain what my research can bring to the table, in terms of coming to a resolution or developing upon already existing resolutions.
The final section of my assignment will be a literature review. The ideology behind a literature review is a means of reviewing the main ideas and points already known about the research relating to my area of interest, it also shows that I have a deepened understanding of the current literature and I am competent in the subject area. (Alan Bryman, 2011) 1) Explain relevance of Selected Topic So why choose employability and social class? What relevance does this topic have?
To start with, being a under-graduate myself who has a genuine interest in this topic simply due to growing up in what I would consider a ‘middle class’ family, there were also those around me who had life harder financially, or could be considered a lower class family. I always remember they struggled with certain areas of schooling and my thought process has now led me to be curious about whether those backgrounds can affect employability as a graduate.

Before I go in to commenting on why this research will be beneficial for my chosen area, let us first dissect the topic. As stated in the prior paragraph, my topic is focusing on Employability and Social class. The topic itself has a variance of sub-topics and questions that can stem from it, as social-class stretches across a lot of issues, and employability stretching even further.
Some examples of sub-topics could be employability for international graduate students and their financial backgrounds, what top level CEO’s socio-economic background was like, and then stretching into more in-depth thought processes such as do school children who had free school meals show a correlation between employability and their peers who were without free meals, later on in their life.
That last sub-topic has been considered from TeachFirst’s application handbook which had statistical data to show that “Just 16% of pupils eligible for free school meals make it to university, compared to 96% from independent schools” (TeachFirst, 2013). Exclusive of the relevance to me personally, the relevance also stretches to my academic subject of study: Business & Management, the main reason being that because a keen eye for efficient ‘Employability’ in a person is one of the most crucial skills a business manager can have sometimes (Employing the correct employees for the job). Andrews. J, Higson. H, 2008) (McQuaid, R. W. , & Lindsay, C. 2005) those two articles develop their research and text on the fundamentals of employability and its relevance to success, and what contributes to that success. Bringing that back to the relevance of my own topical research, by being relevant and effective in my course it holds a heightened level of relevance to me both personally and academically. So what relevance does the topic bring to the reader?
More importantly than just writing about the relevance of the topic generally, what relevance does this topic have on the reader? This is not to get confused with the benefits which will be addressed in the next paragraph. After the research has been completed, the reader will be able to take away a much clearer understanding of the results, this can both inspire and motivate the reader to create or carry out their own research into the topic, or at very least bring them to start looking into the topic themselves.
A topic like Social-Class and the implications on Employability is a relevant topic because every person comes from a certain financial/socio-economic backgrounds themselves, and typically everyone wants to be employed at some point. The research will open the reader’s eyes into the advantages or disadvantages of coming from certain backgrounds, and sometimes the truth can be harsh. The potentially harsh truth of the research will hold validity to the reader, and give them something to work with themselves to counteract such harsh truths from affecting their own lives.
To summarise my last paragraph, the reader will hold a personal similarity with the research somewhere down the line because everyone has their own background they can relate to. The research can be confusing and frustrating to the reader, but there are benefits to this topic being explored, and I will cover those now. 2) What benefits will the research have on the industry/society? Before going into the benefits of the research, I feel it is appropriate to say that the research can only benefit the industry/society if it is noticed.
By this I mean that all the research in the world can be done on a topic, but if nobody reads it or sees it, or inspires someone to put the research into an outcome, it will not benefit anybody. With that said let us get to the benefits, the research is based upon employability and social-class, the topic is broad and covers a lot of grounds. The first and foremost obvious form of benefit would be an increase in knowledge on the topic for the society, with increased knowledge people are more comfortable with understanding the topic and how to get more from it.
For example, should the government be informed of the research on employability and social-class, it may spur them on to solving the problems of unemployment with creating schemes or models, as both topics are amongst the government’s list of problems to resolve in the UK. Where the government could step up would be in education centres like primary and secondary schools and certain colleges, ensuring those students who come from financially struggling backgrounds have an equal chance of success in their future as their peers, who are better off.
A statistic from Labour Force Survey (2011), shows that a staggering 20% of 16-24 year olds are classified as NEET (Not in education, training or Employment). (BBC, 2011) That’s approximately 1/5th of all teenagers and young adults essentially doing nothing with their lives in terms of employment, for one reason or another. Let us compare that figure with the statistic that nearly 50% of children who claim free school meals achieve no GCSE passes above a D-grade, (Cassen and Kingdon, 2007).
This existent research has helped to create charitable (non-government funded) services such as FirstTeach to prevent these statistics increasing. By the government being notified of the research it may increase the likelihood of the government bettering the educational system to ensure that there are no students left without, simply due to their financial backgrounds. I understand that there are other variables that will affect a student’s chances of success, but the current statistics are appalling and the knowledge increase can bring about a resolution.
Without getting too philosophical in terms of whether there are benefits of increased knowledge to mankind, let us consider this research to be done in an altruistic sense to help those who aren’t going to succeed or their chance of success is hindered. Another benefit to the industry from conducting the research is to help those existing educational improvement foundations which use the statistics and research to fuel their business goals, or even use them to motivate people to join.
As already mentioned, one service that set out to provide every chance of success to students whose socio-economics background is limited is TeachFirst, they employ graduate students to teach. Founded in 2002 they have built their way up the ladder to being 4th in the Times graduate employers, whilst the teachers they employ have helped hundreds of thousands of students achieve success (FirstTeach, 2013). In terms of making an impact on employment and social-class issues, they are killing two birds with one stone.
They help under-privileged younger students whilst employing graduates. Services like this will benefit from the research through relaying back to graduates to motivate them to join, ultimately growing and helping more and more younger students. A potential outcome of this research is that it ends up in the eyes of an inspired individual who wants to give back to the community; they set up their own version of TeachFirst and go about helping younger students, even though an extreme instance it would not be able to come about without the topical research.
Ultimately the aim of this research is to bring to realisation the problems that lower-class/socio-economically disadvantaged students may face, and to then improve the employability and prospects of those students. 3) Literature Review The idea behind writing a literature review when writing research is to understand what is already known about the subject you are going to be researching, it helps to show where the existing knowledge is strong or weak and what other author’s mistakes in the field were.
On top of these it can also help to inspire the researcher and develop their research direction more if their precise question of research is not yet set in stone. (A. Bryman, E. Bell. 2011). Whilst reviewing the literature on graduates employability based on social-class, it became evident that a set of particular trends were continuously showing up throughout the research, interestingly my original considerations of what would be a factor affecting employability was matched slightly (employer’s wish to hire the best people from the best socio-economic background), but with other interesting factors.
The major trends involved with the literature are broken down as follows: Students from a disadvantaged socio-economic background/lower social-class lacked the same level of confidence as their advantaged peers, students from a lower social-class struggled to build there CV/employability with voluntary work experience due to funding and availability and students who aren’t a custom to having the middle/upper-class role models found it difficult to associate themselves with those higher level jobs, e. g. ad no contacts in a professional field and had no one they could relate to/look up to back home. As there are similarities throughout the literature, there are also common limitations to the research, which are equal throughout the reading also. I go into further details of this literature below. Since employability and social-class/socio-economic background take on such a wide range of factors and variables, to save word space this literature review is going to look mostly at graduates employability status and their socio-economic backgrounds and ‘social class’ factors whilst at university.
Considering the statistics that were written earlier, it is argued that there is a correlation between social class and employability, particularly from a younger age (taking into account the school meals and pass rates). Greenbank and Hepworth’s research that took place highlighted three key areas for a graduate’s employability; those were financial issues, networks and values.
They stated that usually financial issues that lower-class students were faced with is the availability to do un-paid voluntary work to boost their CV, however not being able to do so, due to working paid part-time jobs to have some income that just get them by. Ultimately this is not increasing their employability. However their study showed that in this report’s circumstance it was not the financial issues that prevented them from working voluntarily, but more that the lower-class students did not realise that employers valued that type of experience.
In terms of ‘networks’ the rationale of their study was that working class students were disadvantaged in the graduate market because they lacked the presence of social capital, unlike their middle-class peers who were more frequently around professionals and the lack of a ‘role-model’ meant the students desire and optimism to reach such a level was lower. (P. Greenbank, S. Hepworth, 2008).
However, there are limitations to this research, the first major one being that the research was taken place at one individual university institution, to make their research more viable on a wider-spread case they would have to involve other universities, maybe other local universities to get an area specific set of data. There is already controversy on certain universities holding higher or lower amount of distinct social-classes.
A Similar result was found by Cheri, their analysis which was constructed from a survey and HESA statistics, on ‘the factors determining graduate employability and how these effect employment prospects of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, from ethnic minorities and mature students’. Their findings establish graduates from socially-disadvantaged groups do less well in employability due to the institutions they attend, the subject choice of study, the class of the degree they obtain and the entry qualifications the higher education (GCSE, A-Level).
The analyses also showed that regardless of those factors being controlled for, socio-economic background will have an effect upon employment. Similar to Greenbank’s findings, Cheri found graduates that participated in substantial work experience whilst in higher education had employability benefits to all students, however the type of work that differed between the lower-class and socio-economically disadvantaged and he middle-class resulted in work experience being obtained but not really useful in terms of boosting employability. To conclude their findings, socio economics background, ethnic background and age all had indirect effects upon employability through the institution such as type, subject of study, entry qualifications and degree classification. Even when the above factors were controlled for, those with a disadvantaged socio-economic background were still not doing as well as their middle-class and above peers.
Inclusive is a table (table: 1) which represents ‘factors which are associated with successful employment outcomes’, it clarifies that the socio-economically advantaged student has an employability advantage over their disadvantaged peers, as they are able to access the employment outcomes easier. I have also included a chart (chart: 1) which represents ‘the effects of social origin on the graduates’ labour market situation’; it highlights factors which are likely to have a direct relationship between biographical background and employability.
The chart includes parent’s social status and education, ethnicity and age of entry as determinants to ‘success’ in the labour market. (Cheri, 2002). As with Greenbank’s research, this study was taken out on a single university this time it was the Open University. Although the research is extensive, it is very singular, and the research would be made more wide-spread viable if it was conducted in various institutions, it was also taken in a questionnaire form which has potential limitations of students not telling the complete truth in their answers due to embarrassment or fear e. . not wanting to admit they come from a disadvantaged background. There is further clarification of lower social classes being disadvantaged in Forsyth & Furlong’s research on socio-economic disadvantage in further and higher education. Their theorem and research was that lower social class members of the UK typically lacked confidence to go after more prestigious courses of study or qualification and almost tolerated going for a less advanced course.
They argued that certain lower-class students didn’t pursue the longer period courses (Architecture or nursing which are 5+ years in some institutes) simply because the student didn’t want the extra years of debt, and the way the student finance support was set up Forsyth claimed the research showed ‘the current student finance policy tends to push the most talented disadvantaged school-leavers towards courses well below their full academic otential’ This research backs up the already existent evidence (Cheri, Greenbank) that lower social-classes are disadvantaged for various reasons, each researcher has mentioned some slightly different reasoning. Inclusive of the research which showed that a high percentage of upper-class students were studying a degree by the time they had left school (70% studying a university degree, 15% Not studying at all and 15% studying a HND), these figures showed that the lower-class students had a lot of competition, paired with their employability disadvantages meant for a hard time post-university to get ahead in the labour market.
The Bar graph was created from a study with 198 full-time students. (Forsyth, 2003) This research was more widespread unlike Greenbank and Cheri’s, as this was a continuation of research already conducted from 1999, this brings about a limitation that the previous research could have changed from that time making it out of date, and this research was then based off that out of date work. The research was taken out on around 400 pupils who had left secondary school in 1999, this meaning that they were basing results on what that graduate year had done with their lives after school.
Limitations present here would mean that it could be coincidental that certain social-class backgrounds of that graduate year went onto university and those with lower social-class aren’t in education or at a degree level of education. Below are some charts and tables to further clarify what has been written in the literature review. Tables and Document Related Charts Chart: 1 (Cheri, ‘the effects of social origin on the graduates’ labour market situation’, 2002) Table: 1 (Cheri, ‘factors which are associated with successful employment outcomes’, 2002)
Bar Graph: 1 (Forsyth, Social class and final destination. 2003) Bibliography Alan Bryman, E. B. , 2011. Business research Methods. New York: Oxford. Alan Bryman, E. B. , 2011. Business research Methods. New York: Oxford, Chapter 4, Page: 103. Andrews, J. & Higson. H. (2008). Graduate Employability, “Soft Skills” Versus “Hard” Business Knowledge: A European Study. Higher Education in Europe, 33(4), 411-422. Doi: 10. 1080/03797720802522627 BBC, 2011. ‘NEET’ youths figure at second-quarter high. [Online] Available at: http://www. bbc. co. k/news/education-14644613 [Accessed 13 March 2013]. Cassen, R. & Kingdon, G. (2007). Tackling low educational achievement. Joseph Rowntree Foundation (pp. 1-94). London. Cheri, I. (2002). Access to what: analysis of factors determining graduate employability, a report to the HEFCE by the centre for Higher, (November), 1-8. Cheri, I. (2002). Access to what: analysis of factors determining graduate employability a report to the HEFCE by the centre for Higher, (November), 1-8. Page 8, Table 1: ‘Factors which are associated with successful employment outcomes’ Cheri, I. (2002).
Access to what: analysis of factors determining graduate employability, a report to the HEFCE by the centre for Higher, (November), 1-8. Page 13, Chart 1: ‘The effects of social origin on the graduates’ labour market situation’ City And Law Leaflets, (2013), TeachFirst ‘The challenge starts here’, London. (Published: 2013) [Online] Available at: http://www. teachfirst. org. uk/TFhome [Accessed 13 March 2013] Forsyth, A. , & Furlong, A. (2003). ‘Losing out? Experience in further and higher education’. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Policy Press (pp. 1-68). Bristol Forsyth, A. & Furlong, A. (2003). ‘Losing out? Experience in further and higher education’. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Policy Press (pp. 1-68). Bristol, Page 13, Figure 3: Social class and ‘Final’ Destination. Greenbank, P. & Hepworth, S. (2008). Working class students and the career decision-making process. (January) McQuaid, R. W. & Lindsay, C. (2005). The concept of employability. Urban studies, 42(2), 197-219. DOI: 10. 1080/0042098042000316100 TeachFirst, 2013. ‘Our history’ [Online] Available at: http://www. teachfirst. org. uk/ourhistory/ [Accessed 13 march 2013]

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