Ackers, George (2011) A review of the literature on working class young men’s experiences and perspectives of working in the service sector. In: Understanding the Social World Conference 2011, 13th - 15th July 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

My research will focus on young men exploring the motivations and experiences of working in non-traditional occupation and the implications of this work on their gender identity. As reflected in (Hakim, 2000) there are now significant trends toward both women and men working in non typical gender careers. However “whilst there is extensive literature on ‘token’ Women....there is relatively little research on men who perform what could be seen as ‘women’s work’ (Simpsons 2004 p350). In the service sector the requirement to be customer facing, manage emotions, and present a corporate aesthetic, can create real tension for many young working class men according to Nixon (2009). Lupton (2006) argues this is because many working class young men have a very entrenched view that a ‘real job’ is a ‘physical job’. My research aims to explore these theories within the Medway towns also whether the idea of a ‘real job’ is transferred within the relationship between young men and their former shipbuilder fathers. Further, this research is important as it explores young men in work, “a marked omission from the literature is the work experience of young men. Today, almost every teenager works in the USA. Work has become such an integral part of the American society” (Besen 2007 p 259).

The Medway town were one of the main manufacturing areas in the south east this was dominated by the dockyards in Chatham. In 1984, the five Medway towns had a population of over 200,000 and after the dockyard closed local unemployment rose to 34%, due to the number of people employed directly or indirectly in an industry dependent on the yard. In 1981 44.3% of the workforce were employed in the service sector by 1991 this had grown to 61.1%. Over the same period manufacturing declined by over 10%: from 31% to 20% of the population (Macintosh, 1996). The literature on deindustrialisation is still small, concentrating on setting in the North of England and Celtic fringes. The dockyard in Chatham has been widely neglected by academics so this study will provide a largely unheard narrative. The location, close to London and set in the south east, provides a unique case of deindustrialisation and the short and long term effect this is having on male work identity.

The research will use a qualitative methodology to gain ‘the inner experience of individuals, how they interpret, understand, and define the world around them’ (Faraday and Plummer 1979). This will consist of case studies of former dockyard families which will trace work and family patterns through the generations. Oral history interviews will explore dockyard working lives. Interviews and self kept diaries will examine the working lives of the current generation.

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