A study of the recruitment of engineering apprentices in Coventry
This thesis conceptually, theoretically and empirically examines the needs of industry through a study of the recruitment of engineering apprentices in 107 firms. In recruitment employers are forced to consider what they look for in applicants - to concretely define their needs. The conceptual argument is that the needs that the concept 'needs of industry' refers to are labour power needs, but that the notion of needs in relation to labour power is incoherent. First, these needs cannot be specified in relation to the quality of labour power attributes to be socially produced or assessed in recruitment. Secondly, employers' statements of their needs are predicated on contradictions between aspects of labour power. For employers' needs to be met these contradictions require resolution, but there can be no ideal workers whose labour power is free of inherent contradictions. The theoretical argument starts from the question of why researchers and commentators have stressed that employers' statements of their needs are confused or contradictory. It is argued that contradictions in these statements reflect contradictions within labour power. The empirical argument starts from showing that engineering employers are not confused or contradictory in relation to the attributes sought in apprenticeship applicants. Furthermore, the relation between attributes sought in applicants and recruitment methods is generally consistent. Yet when attributes sought, other recruitment criteria (especially sex and race) and recruitment methods are scrutinised through the lens of recruitment channels - then the recruitment process becomes anarchic, as employers favour some applicants (sons of employees, owners and managers and clients/customers) and discriminate against others (especially female applicants) in relative disregard of the priorities established in their statements of attributes sought in applicants. The anarchy of the recruitment process rests on employers' social power, their power to discriminate, differentiate and give favour to applicants.