Research Output
Young people’s expectations of work, and readiness of the workplace: Two sides of the same coin?
  Since the 2008 economic downturn, the education-to-work transitions of young people have been a concern for governments across Europe (Coppola & O’Higgins 2016). Young people may experience complex, delayed and insecure education-to-work transitions. They may also become trapped in poor-quality, insecure and unstable work (Hardgrove et al. 2015). The effects of this precariousness have not spared highly qualified and/or skilled young people (Murgia & Poggio 2014) who are the focus of this paper.

At the same time, workplace design, patterns of working and the nature of work are changing, with important implications for young people’s leadership expectations and the development of workplace relationships. Psychological contracts are increasingly formed on the principle of transactional, as opposed to traditional relational factors (Deepthi & Baral 2013). Workers also need to be prepared to participate in increasingly automated workplaces, holding communication skills and digital literacy, alongside personal attributes (Manyika et al. 2017).

Drawing on ongoing in-depth qualitative research undertaken in Scotland with young people aged 16-18 years in full-time education, employers and key informants; this paper examines what young people value in terms of their future working lives. Specifically, the paper focuses on ‘high-potential’ young people i.e. young people who demonstrate key leadership qualities and attributes, such as a sharp mind, self-efficacy, drive, entrepreneurial spirit, emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal communication skills (Michaels et al. 2001; Ready et al. 2010). The expectations of young people on the cusp of making their education-to-work transition will be compared with employers’ expectations of future young employees in order to assess contemporary workplace readiness for the emerging workforce and whether young people’s expectations correspond (or not) with the skills and attributes required in modern and future workplaces.

The Capability Approach provides the theoretical lens for this paper. It frames individuals as autonomous persons who should be able to decide what they wish to achieve, based on their own understanding of a ‘good life’ (Sen 1985). This approach offers a perspective on the employment experiences and expectations of young people that is concerned with their freedom to make choices that they value, rather than focusing solely on outcomes. The Capability Approach emphasizes the importance of considering how external factors shape individual capabilities (Sen 2009). As such an embedded approach to understand young people’s experiences and expectations is taken in this paper; uncovering what young people value in terms of their future working lives, examining how young people imagine possibilities for their future working lives, and how does this affect how they act in the present.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    12 April 2021

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland


Egdell, V., Grant, K., & Vincent, D. (2021, April). Young people’s expectations of work, and readiness of the workplace: Two sides of the same coin?. Paper presented at The 39th International Labour Process Conference, University of Greenwich, London



Young workers, Generation-Z

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