Opportunities for work-related learning are now seen as essential for young people to gain the practical experience so they can successfully transition from education to work. Research has shown that class advantaged youth engage in “experience-based” work while they are studying. These may be volunteer or very poorly paid positions but provide experiences which enhance networks or provide skills which are valuable for their future careers. Economically marginalized youth, by contrast, are more likely to engage in paid work which allows them to generate funds to pay for education or living expenses; many of these positions offer little opportunity for learning and be unrelated to their education. This division in work opportunities deepens rather than lessens systemic social and economic stratification. The focus of this paper is on the experiences of work-related learning amongst economically marginalized youth living in the highly competitive and supposedly meritocratic city-state of Singapore. Their experiences suggest that some young people manage to gain access to meaningful internship and work opportunities despite their class disadvantage while others are forced to engage in jobs that provide little potential to cultivate networks and skills for future meaningful careers. Our results explore four factors which allow economically marginalized young people to leverage work-related learning opportunities effectively (support of mentors or parents, the ability to excel academically, compulsory or built-in internship opportunities and race/gender privilege and three factors which hinder young peoples’ efforts (racism, poor academic performance and the need to economically support family during teen years).
Kiran Mirchandani, University of Toronto, Canada
Alessia Cacciavillani, University of Toronto, Canada
Stream: South-East Asian Studies (including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)
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