Thompson, Ron (2010) Learning on the margins: the ‘real lives’ of NEET young people. Discourse, Power and Resistance 9, University of Greenwich. In: Discourse, Power and Resistance 9, 30 March - 1 April 2010, University of Greenwich. (Unpublished)

This paper discusses findings from a one-year ethnographic study of young people attending Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes in the north of England. The paper locates E2E within the broader context of provision for low-achieving young people and of UK government policy on reducing the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Although discourses associated with NEET young people often present them in negative terms, the paper shows that this type of conceptualisation is inadequate to understand the lives of young people on the margins of education and employment. The 'risk factor' discourse commonly used in NEET policy recognises neither the positive characteristics of these young people nor the broader social and economic factors that constrain their lives and post-16 'choices'. Although programmes such as E2E can help young people to improve their confidence, basic skills and personal effectiveness, it needs to be recognised that employability is linked to factors other than individual abilities and dispositions. In adverse economic conditions, the programme is therefore unlikely to offer participants a labour market advantage, even in relatively low-skill, low-pay areas of work.