Title

Transacting Community as a Foundation for Employment

Presenter Information

Rebecca M. Aldrich

Start Time

24-10-2008 12:00 PM

End Time

24-10-2008 2:00 PM

Abstract

In both popular and academic perspectives, long-term unemployment has historically been approached from one of two vantages: it has been viewed as a result of either personal deficiencies (such as a lack of education) or environmental factors (such as a lack of available jobs). Although certain disciplines have tried to integrate these explanations, their modified approaches still tend to unduly privilege either personal or societal factors as explanatory mechanisms, rather than offering holistic accounts of their interplay in fostering unemployment. As an oft-ignored subset of long-term unemployed individuals, 'discouraged' workers' and their employment status are discussed in similarly dichotomous terms. 'Discouraged' workers-who want to work, but do not have jobs and have stopped looking for them-are estimated to measure up to 1 million persons during times of economic recession. To understand why these individuals stop looking for the work they desire, it is necessary to develop truly holistic explanations of the factors that influence their job searching occupations. I sought a preliminary understanding of these factors through ethnographic inquiry and participation in a faith-based community job skills program. Participant observation revealed community building as an important foundation for unemployed persons' successful job seeking endeavors. The concept of transaction provided a useful framework for interpreting the community building observed in the group. The transactions of students and staff members created a community in which students could secure individualized support: students and staff mutually shaped each others' experiences, which, in turn, created a community of problem-solving and personal assistance. These transactions provided students with more than a mere set of job skills: they offered students the chance to problematize the intersection of important personal and societal factors involved in employment, and also gave them an opportunity to rehearse job seeking occupations. This brief ethnographic inquiry suggested that transacting community filled a need in students' lives and created new opportunities for successful occupational performance. It also suggested that future research on workers' paths to discouragement ought to be considered through a lens of community, an important site of occupational transaction.

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Oct 24th, 12:00 PM Oct 24th, 2:00 PM

Transacting Community as a Foundation for Employment

In both popular and academic perspectives, long-term unemployment has historically been approached from one of two vantages: it has been viewed as a result of either personal deficiencies (such as a lack of education) or environmental factors (such as a lack of available jobs). Although certain disciplines have tried to integrate these explanations, their modified approaches still tend to unduly privilege either personal or societal factors as explanatory mechanisms, rather than offering holistic accounts of their interplay in fostering unemployment. As an oft-ignored subset of long-term unemployed individuals, 'discouraged' workers' and their employment status are discussed in similarly dichotomous terms. 'Discouraged' workers-who want to work, but do not have jobs and have stopped looking for them-are estimated to measure up to 1 million persons during times of economic recession. To understand why these individuals stop looking for the work they desire, it is necessary to develop truly holistic explanations of the factors that influence their job searching occupations. I sought a preliminary understanding of these factors through ethnographic inquiry and participation in a faith-based community job skills program. Participant observation revealed community building as an important foundation for unemployed persons' successful job seeking endeavors. The concept of transaction provided a useful framework for interpreting the community building observed in the group. The transactions of students and staff members created a community in which students could secure individualized support: students and staff mutually shaped each others' experiences, which, in turn, created a community of problem-solving and personal assistance. These transactions provided students with more than a mere set of job skills: they offered students the chance to problematize the intersection of important personal and societal factors involved in employment, and also gave them an opportunity to rehearse job seeking occupations. This brief ethnographic inquiry suggested that transacting community filled a need in students' lives and created new opportunities for successful occupational performance. It also suggested that future research on workers' paths to discouragement ought to be considered through a lens of community, an important site of occupational transaction.