Understanding vocational education and training
Speakers: Prof Linda Clarke (University of Westminster)
Date: 29 Apr 2015 Venue: Downing College Regent Street Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB2 1DQ
Time: 16:30 - 18:30
Type: Seminar Fee: Free to attend

Time for upheaval? VET for construction in Britain in a historical and European context

All the political parties are lining up to make 'substantial contributions' to vocational education and training (VET). But the sheer complexity of VET makes for difficult policy formation, and the last two decades are littered with spectacular failures. This lecture will help bring people to an understanding of the subtlety and complexity of policy formation in VET, through a fascinating, in-depth look at a specific sector.

Professor Clarke outlines changes in VET and the labour process in the construction industry since WWII to show how the training system has become ever more inadequate to the further development of the sector and of a productive and engaged labour force. 

From her detailed studies of construction across Europe she draws out the distinctive nature of the British system in its understanding of skills and competences, increasingly narrow qualifications, and employer-centred governance. This distinctiveness is attributed to the low labour market currency of qualifications and their weak educational content, as well as to the output-based wage system, unregulated employment, and fragmented character of the labour market. 

Linda concludes with an inspiring sketch of what occupational qualifications need to look like if they are to act as a bridge between the education and labour market systems and meet the demands of a low energy future.

Speaker biography

Linda Clarke is Professor of European Industrial Relations at the Westminster Business School (WBS), she is the co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment, which is a joint research centre spanning WBS and the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE). Additionally she is on the Board of the European Institute for Construction Labour Research. Professor Clarke has extensive experience in comparative research on vocational education and training (VET), qualifications, labour, labour history, equality and diversity, skills, employment and wage relations in Europe, with particular expertise in the construction sector.

Her most recent projects have concerned oral labour history (Constructing post-war Britain: building workers’ stories 1950-70), VET and qualifications for different construction and wood occupations in a range of European countries and for low energy construction, and employment conditions and subcontracting.

Relevant co-authored publications include:

  • 'Are women 'not up to' working in construction – at all times and everywhere?' in building the future: women in construction, The Smith Institute 2014 (with Christine Wall)
  • Knowledge, Skills, Competence in the European Labour Market: What's in a Qualification? Routledge 2011
  • Bricklaying is more than Flemish bond: bricklaying qualifications in Europe, Brussels/London: CLR 2010 (with Michaela Brockmann and Christopher Winch)