The transition from school to work in the Durham Coalfield
This study examines via questionnaire and interview data, various aspects of the transition from school to work experienced by young people in the Durham Coalfield during the 1980s. The aspects covered are those of education and careers guidance, unemployment, occupational choice, experience of work and its financial rewards, trade unionism, changes in family and leisure patterns, migration and certain political issues relating to youth unemployment. Analysis of data from prospective school leavers and young workers relating to these areas form the bulk of the study, but the context(s) foranalysis are also of crucial importance. Data are analysed within two related contexts. The first is that of the history of the Coalfield - its economy and culture, class structure, sexual divisions and internal spatial variations. Particular attention is given to the decline of an economy based on coal and steel, and the rise of a 'branch plant' economy where factory employment suffers from considerable instability. The recent collapse of the youth 1 abour market and its progressive replacement by state sponsored schemes provide the immediate context for the study. A second concern is to relate study of the transition to three major debates with industrial sociology, namely those relating toorientations to work, to labour market divisions and the issue of a 'dual labour market', and to the arrival of a 'post-industrial' society. Throughout, a critique is offered of empiricist and reductionist accounts of the transition and an attempt is made to provide a more adequate analysis based on concerns with structure, consciousness andaction as catalogued in the testimony of prospective school leavers and young workers. It is also argued that the exchange of labour-power provides a crucial element in the framework for understanding the transition.