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Employability Engagement and Support Provision and the Labour Market Transitions of Young People

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 14, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The Scottish Government has rolled out a variety of employability initiatives (e.g. Employability Fund; Foundation Apprenticeships, Modern Apprenticeships; Fair Start Scotland, Activity Agreements) intended to facilitate young people’s transition from school to employment. Despite recent progress in lowering youth unemployment including in areas of high unemployment, such as Clackmannanshire, challenges remain in sustaining transitions. Scottish Government employability services are often supplemented by employability supports from third sector organisations through informal volunteering and formal opportunities like Community Jobs Scotland. It is not clear however whether Scotland’s multi-layered, multi-sectoral employability offer provides complementary supports, addressing the different aspects of employability, or manifests as unnecessary and/or ineffective duplication. Nor is it clear how young people navigate options and services or how these feature in the decisions they make around preparing for work. There is a need for a better understanding of the variety and interactions of informal/formal (employability) provision, of the conceptualisation of employability that underpin services and how the mosaic of provision is experienced by young people themselves.

Through a longitudinal qualitative case study of young people’s engagement with employability services in Clackmannanshire this project will cast light on these issues. First, the study will map the types of supports they access and examine how employability is conceptualised in the international academic/ policy literature. Second, the study will conduct two waves of interviews with young people to unpack their decision making around engagement with, and perceptions of, employability services. The aim being to identify the value young people place on different types of ‘employability’ activity and actors in this policy field and examine how this effects the choices they make. Finally, additional interviews will examine how employability is conceptualised by service providers and other policy actors and how this shapes provision of formal and informal supports and perceptions of institutional constraints and opportunities over time. The findings will feed into a knowledge exchange workshop with stakeholders to facilitate collaborative reflection on future employability provision in Clackmannanshire and Scotland.

Funding Notes

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria
• A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component and some training in qualitative research methods.
• Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of theories around unemployment and employability and familiarity with developments in labour market and social security policy in the UK. Some knowledge of employability and skills programmes in Scotland would also be desirable.
• Have a good grounding in qualitative research methods. Any prior experience of conducting semi-structured interviews and/or focus groups would be desirable.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:

Award Details:
The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process and candidates will be advised to undertake either option depending on their prior training to date. The programme will commence in September 2020.

The award includes:
• an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (in 2019/20 this is £15,009)
• fees at the standard Home rate
• students may also be able to draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant from the Scottish Graduate School in Social Science, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year.

Other information:
The student will be encouraged to engage throughout the project with academic and non-academic audiences and to disseminate the findings of the PhD project to policy makers, practitioners and lay audiences.

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by Monday April 21st 2020. Interviews will take place on Tuesday May 5th 2020.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Edinburgh’s Social Policy subject area in the School of Social and Political Science. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

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