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Employability, Talent and the Globalisation of Positional Competition Phillip Brown Cardiff University
Promise of the Knowledge Economy • Rise of Mass Higher Education/Wealth of Talent But • Stagnant/Declining Social Mobility; • Widening Inequalities within Occupational Groups (winner-takes-all markets); • Some Evidence (US/Japan; US Occupations)
Computer system analysts and scientistsUS hourly income for low, middle and high earners 1998-2005, all workers ($2005 US)
LawyersUS hourly income for low, middle and high earners 1998-2005, all workers ($2005 US)
Teachers, college and universityUS hourly income for low, middle and high earners 1998-2005, all workers ($2005 US)
‘War for Talent’ • Shift in understanding of ‘knowledge’ economy within business – McKinsey Consulting, etc. • ‘It’s more important to get great talent, since the differential value created by the most talented knowledge workers is enormous’ (Ed Michaels, et al. McKinsey Consultants, 2001). • ‘The post-industrial society, in its initial logic is a meritocracy. Differential status and differential income are based on technical skills and higher education.’ (Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, 1973).
Time to Rethink Basic Assumptions • Employability in a Global Economy; • A Meritocracy of Talent?; • Conceptual Starting Point: Positional Conflict Theory; • An Agenda for Research
Employability in a Global Economy • Methodological Nationalism • Duality of Employability – Absolute (Skills Upgrading; Hard/Soft Currencies, etc.) Relative (How One Stands in Relation to Others. • The ‘Relative’ is Now Global; • It’s Now a Competition Based on Quality and Price (Global Auction).
Employability and the Global Economy Cont’d • TNCs: Widening Access versus Widening World; • Global League Tables ‘Recruit the Best of the Best’; • Reinforced by Reputational Capital of Universities; • People as Product within Knowledge Organisations.
A Meritocracy of Talent? • ? Ascription Meritocracy • Ideology of Meritocracy Ideology of Performocracy (both based on ‘achievement’); • Neo-Liberalism and the Market for Talent; • Markets Reward ‘Success’ Not Fairness;
Conceptual Starting Point • Sociological Critique of Positional Consensus (Baby/Bath Water!) • Positional Conflict: Exclusionary Tactics of Elites; • Avoid ‘Content Free’ Reproduction; • Restructuring of (Re)Production of Middle Classes in Comparative Perspective
Social Construction of Talent • What does the ‘war for talent’ tell us about the (re)production of class and gender relations in education and employment? • What does it tell us about positional competition and the middle classes from a comparative perspective?
Research Aims • To undertake a comparative study of the social construction of ‘talent’; • To investigate the relationship between ‘talent’ and ‘meritocracy’ as understood by university students and leading employers; • To assess whether ‘talent’ is understood, nurtured and rewarded differently in Britain and France; • To examine the relationship between education and the recruitment of elites in different national contexts; • To contribute to the development of new concepts and theoretical insights required to account for the changing relationship between education, jobs and rewards in cross-national perspective.
Research Questions • Is there evidence of an International Convergence around the War for Talent? • Are those defined as ‘talented’ treated differently in terms of special schooling, career tracks, etc.? • How do the proportions of those deemed to be ‘talented’ vary in different contexts? • Is what you need to know to be talented the same in different countries? • Is talent defined and rewarded differently in various countries? • Do women need to be more ‘talented’ than men in Britain or France to have their talents recognised?
Pilot Fieldwork in France/UK • Interviews with 10 leading employers (5 from each country) matched by sector (legal profession, civil service or investment banking). • Interviews with 40 final year undergrads (20 from each country) from elite universities aiming for these careers. • Plus, background research on the social structure of competition in Britain and France.