Self-identities of young people on a course for those who are not in education, employment or training
2017-12-05T16:36:11Z (GMT) by
From January to March 2014, when this research was taking place, 774,000 young people aged 16-24 were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in England (Office for National Statistics, 2014). Even before the 2008 recession the NEET rate was rising, and despite criticism of the term it continues to be used as a service intervention label. Attempts have been made to try and understand young people who are placed into this category, and their experiences, however few studies have asked these young people how they define themselves and their situation. This research therefore explores the self-identities of a group of twenty seven young people on a course for those who are NEET in an area of the Midlands. The views of these young people were captured through the use of ethnographic research. While these young people attempted to reflexively create their identities (Giddens, 1991), not all choices about future lifestyles were available to them. Their agency was bounded (Evans, 2007) and they were constrained by their economic and social circumstances, as well as by dominant discourses. Discourses around youth, adulthood, unemployment and individualisation were evident in their narratives. While on the course, the participants built their identities around being students and attempted to show that they were ‘doing something with their lives’. Their future identities were focused around traditional ideas of adulthood. Yet they faced a number of barriers to achieving their aspirations. This research demonstrates that demands for young people to ‘take control’ of their lives ignores the wider structural issues and discourses which shape their experiences. Focusing on individual deficiencies limits the impact of policy and initiatives aimed at NEET young people.