Tag Archives: employment

Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment #YWW15

By Sarah Mills, Loughborough University

Today marks the start of ‘National Youth Work Week’ (2nd – 8th November 2015). This annual event is a celebration of youth work and its achievements, but is also a time to reflect on some of the challenges across the youth work landscape. Paul Miller, interim Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, stated at the event’s launch that:

“Youth Work Week is a time when people from every part of the sector can come together to celebrate and promote what youth workers do and the transformative contribution they are making to young people’s lives.” (NYA, 2015)

This was the case at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club in Manchester in the 1950s and 1960s, the focus of my recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. As part of a wider national post-war reconstruction effort for the organisation as a whole, one group in Manchester took a radical step of employing a professionally trained youth worker – Stanley Rowe (Figure 1). During his employment, Rowe completely revived and rejuvenated the Club and it became a crucially important space in the lives of hundreds of young people living in the city (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Rowe’s background in youth and community work inspired a new emphasis at the Club on young people’s ‘voice’ and they established their own Club Committee. Indeed, young people’s voice is a theme still very much on the political agenda, as both the theme for this year’s National Youth Work Week and the 2015 UN International Youth Day in relation to ‘youth civic engagement’.

In the article, I use the historical example of the JLB & C to make a series of wider arguments about youth work, volunteering and employment more broadly. Both Rowe and his voluntary base encouraged young people to volunteer in their local communities, both as a route to employment but also as a response to faith-based duty (although it is interesting to note that Rowe himself was non-Jewish). More importantly however, the paper considers some of the opportunities and tensions that arise between volunteers and employees when they work alongside one another, under the same remit here of providing a service to young people.

The current landscape of organised activities for young people outside of formal education in the UK is composed of diverse schemes funded and delivered by the state, voluntary organisations, charities, religious institutions, neighbourhoods, families or a combination thereof. Most of these spaces and schemes are sustained through a mix of paid and unpaid labour, with a complex relationship between volunteering and employment. Indeed, this dynamic has become increasingly politicised in the UK, for example in the provision of libraries and other public services. This paper emphasises some of the emotional challenges of volunteering and employment and the sheer volume of work involved in sustaining these types of spaces through holding them together in place.

Overall, this article explores the spatialities of informal education, drawing connections between the historical record and contemporary youth work practice.

About the Author:

Sarah Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Loughborough University.


books_icon Mills, S. (2015) Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment: the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and Club in post-war Manchester, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40 (4): 523-535

60-world2 National Youth Agency (2015) ‘NYA launches Youth Work Week 2015’ Available at: http://www.nya.org.uk/supporting-youth-work/youth-work-week-2015/

60-world2 UN (2015) ‘2015 International Youth Day: Youth Civic Engagement’ Available at: http://www.un.org/en/events/youthday/

Studying Abroad and the Neoliberal ‘Cult of Experience’ in the Youth Labour Market

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

Figures released this week have shown that more UK students than ever are travelling abroad as part of their degree programmes.

Last year, 15,566 UK students studied in another country as participants in the European Union’s Erasmus programme. This was a 115% increase in the number who took part in 2007, when the scheme was first extended to the UK. Large increases in students travelling to China, India and the USA have also been observed.

The figures were released ahead of the British Council’s annual ‘Going Global’ conference for leaders of international education. Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, said, “This latest evidence confirms that a growing number of the UK’s students are recognising the huge value to be gained from international experience… The UK needs graduates who have the skills and confidence to compete globally, and can compete against foreign talent that may speak more languages, and have wider international experience.”

An Erasmus promotional video highlighting the professional benefits of studying abroad.

Clare Holdsworth addresses the seemingly uncontroversial nature of such statements in a recent article for Area. Holdsworth argues:

Young people are called upon to make themselves employable through engaging in a range of experiences that may include: volunteering, work experience, paid work, internships, travel, leisure and membership of organisations. This fetishizing of experience is becoming so normalised that it is rarely contested. It appears self-evident that in order to protect themselves against an absent future, young people need to not only complete more education and/or training, but they have to acquire experiences to stand out from the crowd.

Holdsworth takes issue with the commodification of experience, suggesting that experiences gained in order to guarantee a better future are ‘conventional and passive’, and have little to do with experimentation, creativity, exploration or learning. Holdworth’s main focus, however, is with the popular notion that the acquisition of experience is a solution to the difficulties of the current youth labour market:

The prevailing popular discourse of youth is one of failure against the need to do better. Thus if academic grades increase, this is because of grade inflation; if more young people are out of work, this is because they do not have the correct skills; if graduates cannot get jobs, this is because they have not acquired the right ‘experiences’… This failure to see beyond the supply side of the labour market is having profound effects on young people’s lives… Not only are young people still faced with the difficulty of finding a job, they are having to do so in direct competition with their peers in a ever-growing globalised labour supply… Thus programmes for work experience, placements, volunteering, internships etc. are rolled out in order to compel young people to invest in their own futures…The cult of experience reinforces this charging of responsibility and passes over other solutions that target the demand side of the youth labour market.

The article highlights the arms race-like nature of the neoliberal youth employment market: as experience is seen as increasingly necessary in order to compete with one’s peers, young people are compelled to engage in more and more homogenised ‘experiences’, effectively ‘running faster in order to stand still’. Invariably, those who win this experience arms race are those with the greatest financial means.

This article also raises important questions for university geography departments; fieldwork has long been seen as a crucial part of a geography degree, but how, in a neoliberal educational establishment, can the experience of fieldwork be elevated above that of a CV-enhancing commodity and turned into a ‘genuine’ learning experience, encouraging students to explore, experiment and consider their own subjectivity?

 Clare Holdsworth, 2015, The cult of experience: standing out from the crowd in an era of austerityArea, DOI: 10.1111/area.12201.

Content Alert: New Articles (17th February 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

The Geographical Journal Banner

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Decolonising the diaspora: neo-colonial performances of Indian history in East Africa
Jen Dickinson
Article first published online: 13 FEB 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00496.x

Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x


The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x

A different spin on immigration

By Jenny Lunn

A migrant arrives in the country every minute and the UK population will pass 70 million by 2028. To keep the population of the UK below 70 million, immigration must be reduced by 70%. These are some of the basic facts on immigration in the UK, according to MigrationWatchUK.

Unsurprisingly, immigration is one of the hot topics in the current general election campaign. Each of the parties are trying to ‘talk tough’ with different approaches to tackling it – Labour with a points-based system and an extra charge on visa applications for non-EU migrants, the Conservatives with an annual cap on numbers and a tightening of the student visa system, the Liberal Democrats with the reintroduction of entry and exit checks and a stronger National Border Force.

The political canvassing and media coverage focuses our attention on the domestic aspects of immigration. Similarly, traditional theories of migration concentrate primarily on understanding the situation in destination countries, looking at the socio-economic impacts on a national or local scale. In contrast, Lusis and Bauder’s article in Geography Compass (January 2010) calls for a wider perspective. Rather than concentrating on the domestic impact, they look at transnational scale to consider how socio-economic processes that operate at the global scale also influence the employment trajectories of immigrants.

When we hear the speeches and spin over the coming weeks, which build on a sense of threat and fear that immigration poses to the nation, we would do well to think in a different light. Think about immigration from the immigrant’s point of view. Consider the country they have come from and the economic and educational status they held there. And consider how an immigrant feels when the only employment they can secure is dirty, dangerous or degrading jobs that no one else wants to do. Consider how migrants use networks of co-nationals for advice on finding employment and coping in a different culture. But equally, consider how migrants maintain connections with their home communities.

In reality then, migration is a complex web of transnational interactions. The domestic situation is only part of the picture; a full understanding comes from understanding the various linkages, flows and connections.

Visit the MigrationWatchUK website

Read Lusis and Bauder’s article in Geography Compass

The geographies of ‘good’ motherhood: Kinder, Kuche, Kirche – Kaput?

By Jo Norcup

The run up to International Women’s Day (8th March) provides an apt opportunity to consider the fundamental way geographies of motherhood affect the way families, societies, and cultures conceptualize and create the interrelated worlds of work, home, and leisure.  By looking at two recent newspaper articles links will be made to the way various research groups of the Royal Geographical Society have been looking at the geographies of power that play out differently due to constructions of gender and motherhood across different geographical times, spaces and scales.

In her recent New York Times article The Female Factor, Katrin Bennhold discusses the profound geographical difference that gender plays in terms of life opportunities for working mothers in the 21st century.  Taking Germany as her geographical example, Bennhold observe that:

Across the developed world, a combination of the effects of birth control, social change, political progress, economic necessity has produced a tipping point: numerically, women now match or overtake men in the workforce and in education.

Bennhold’s article gives examples of the complex ways in which conservative ‘traditional’ attitudes towards motherhood in and across different regions of Germany are being challenged.  By looking at the structure of a school timetable in Germany, Bennhold raises question at how ‘traditional’ rhythms of everyday life were created for mothers and how in turn this is being challenged through the increasingly needs and desire of mothers to take up forms of economic employment. Such challenges have in turn created new employment opportunities, revolutionising the everyday lives and power relations of families and societies across Germany.

Another recent news article, this time by Lizzie Davies’s written from Paris observes from through the research finding of Philosopher Elizabeth Badinter  a different geographical angle how feminism is being attacked with the promotion of particular constructions of ‘good’ mothers’ as being ‘slaves to their children’.

Social and cultural geographers at the RGS-IBG have long concerned themselves explicitly with the complex power geographies of gender since the formation of the Women and Geographies Study Group (WGSG) 30 years ago this year, considering the conflicting tensions of different opportunities to mothers depending on a mother’s respective everyday cultural, ethnic, economic and social geographies.  The recently formed Geographies of Children, Youth, and Families Working Group (GCYFWG) similarly looks at the profound impact of life stages and non-work based social structures in affecting how people conform or subvert the everyday geopolitics of life, while the Sexualities, Space and Queer Working Group (SSQWG) has amongst its research investigated the changing roles of parenting within and beyond heterosexual relationships. Of particular note is the work of Professor Linda McDowell at Oxford University whose research has been crucial in engaging with such geographies.  Her 2001 paper ‘Father and Ford: gender, class and employment change in the new millennium complements and challenges some of the ideas in Bennhold’s recent article, in particular negotiating the elusive and entangled problematics of ‘work/life balance’.

New York Times article

Guardian / Davies article


McDowell L (2001) Father and Ford Revisited: Gender, Class and Employment Change in the New Millennium. TIBG New Series 26:4 pp 448 – 464.

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