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Springboard and bridge : a study of a career program and its mature women graduates Morley, Jean A. 1993-12-31

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We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardSPRINGBOARD AND BRIDGE: A STUDY OF A CAREER PROGRAMAND ITS MATURE WOMEN GRADUATESbyJEAN ANNE MORLEYB.A., University of London, 1952A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENTOF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Administrative, Adult and Higher EducationTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAMarch, 1993© Anne Morley, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of 0 d v1,1, ^ L_ C7) Cct.,,_The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate^1 Lc. ,f cDE-6 (2/88)AbstractThis is a study of a career program in a British Columbia two year post-secondary college andthe program's mature women graduates. The writer is a graduate of the program, she worked in thefield, and later became a member of the program's faculty. She acknowledges her subjectivity in that"she chooses a particular point of view from which to ask questions and a particular lens throughwhich to see answers" (Gaskell 1192, 31). Gaskell's respect for the subjects of her studies, herstudies of women's skills, and her analysis of individual educational programs provided the writerwith understanding and models for this study.Examples from the literature of women's work use qualitative methods appropriate to thisstudy, where the writer seeks not "the right or ultimate answer" (Wollcott 1991, 146) but rather anincrease in understanding of the problem. A survey of graduates elicited information about theirwork and provided criteria for selecting twelve mature women graduates as participants in the study.Each took part in an in-depth interview and subsequent telephone conversations. Analysis of theinterviews and study of the literature led to further development of the research question.The initial question centered on the skills used by the participants in the workplace and on theconnections between these skills and the women's program, pre-program, and post-programeducation and experience. Analysis of the interviews led to an examination of the women's visibleand invisible skills and re-directed the question towards the interaction between the program and thewomen's working lives. The question became "What role did the program and its culture play in thewomen's working lives?"Examination of the data emphasised the difference between institutional employment and self-employment; the continuous thread of experience and education woven through the women's lives;the importance of general education, particularly writing, for students in the career program; and theessential but devalued and unrecognised part played by the women's invisible skills, both in theprogram and their work. The program is indeed a bridge to a new workplace for the womengraduates and it provides a model of that workplace's view of women's skills. The study concludediiby recommending that the program and the college, rather than modelling society's blindness towardwomen's skills, take a leadership role in affirming, recognising, and valuing them.The study recommended that research to acquire detailed information about graduates' careers,their work places, and the visible and invisible skills used by the graduates would provide valuableinformation for the program's future directions.iiiTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract^ iiTable of Contents^ ivList of Tables viList of Figures^ viiAcknowledgements viiiChapter 1: Introduction^ 1Framework. 3The Research Question^ 5Chapter 2: Methods^ 8Justification of the research method.^ 9Method^ 11Gathering background material. 11Selection of participants for the study.^ 12Data collection.^ 14Use of supplementary data from a pilot study (1990). ^14Data analysis. 15Chapter 3: Background^ 17The College 18The Program^ 21The workplace. 23The women. 26Chapter 4: Theoretical Perspective ^ 33Theoretical Perspective on Skills 34ivChapter 5: Visible Skills^ 47Pre-program skills 48Program Skills^ 52Skills acquired after the program.^ 57Chapter 6: Invisible Skills^ 62Invisible Skills 63Institutional employment.^ 63Self-employment. 66Within the program. 70Synthesis^ 72Chapter 7: Conclusions 74Skills in the lives of the study's participants.^ 75Institutional employment and self-employment. 78The Program.^ 79Policy questions 81Conclusions. 83Implications for further research.^ 84References^ 86Appendices 90Appendix 1^ 91Appendix 2 93Graduate Survey.^ 93Appendix 3^ 99Excerpt from Bridgnorth College Calendar, 1969^99Educational Resource Technician^ 99VList of TablesTable 1.^Participants' education, employment, and family status^ 27Table 2. Distribution of women and men by workplace^ 94Table 3.^Estimated monthly earnings of those in the field 95Table 4. Estimated monthly earnings from institutional employment ^96Table 5. Estimated monthly earnings from self-employment 97Table 6. Estimated monthly earnings from other media employment ^98viList of FiguresFigure 1. Distribution of women and men by workplace^ 94Figure 2. Eatimated monthly earnings of graduates 95Figure 3. Estimated monthly earnings of graduates in institutional employment ^96Figure 4. Estimated monthly earnings from self-employed graduates^97Figure 5. Estimated monthly earnings of graduates working in other media fields ^98viiAcknowledgementsI wish to thank many people for their contributions to my study. I am grateful to Dr. AllisonTom, my research supervisor. She has extended the range of my understanding and has beenunfailingly supportive while I wrestled with the analysis of data, the frustrations of writing and re-writing, and the completion of this study. Dr. John Dennison's vision of community collegesinspired me to become a graduate student. His guidance and his wealth of knowledge have beeninvaluable to me. I wish to thank the members of my graduate research committee, Dr. Allison Tom,Dr. John Dennison and Dr. Deirdre Kelly. They have been acessible to me and generous with time,encouragment and advice. I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Jane Gaskell, the External Examiner,for the inspiration that her work has been to me and for her thoughtful response to my study. I thankCynthia Flood and Susan Fraser for their comments on drafts of this study, and Jean Cockell formany hours of shared learning, listening, and friendship. I am grateful to the women of Ournet fortheir support. My thanks are also due to Stuart Sellars for his patience in formatting thisdocument,and to my son, Tom, for all the cheerful, constructive criticism he gave me.Above all, I am deeply grateful to my husband, Peter, for his undemanding and kind support,which has sustained me throughout the whole process from proposal to completion.viiiChapter 1: IntroductionSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 1All research involves the researcher, in that she chooses a particular pointof view from which to ask questions and a particular lens through which tosee answers" (Gaskell 1992, 31).My own history places me close to the heart of the following study. Had some other personbeen its author, I might well have been one of the participants. In 1974, I, a 43 year old marriedwoman with three children, enrolled in the Media Program at Bridgnorth College. Aftergraduation from the program in 1976, I was employed by a suburban school district in a staffposition as the district media technician. In March 1982, I returned to the Media Program atBridgnorth College', as the laboratory supervisor, a faculty position; in 1985, I became aninstructor; and from 1986 -1989, I was also the program co-ordinator. I supervised the students'month long work experience for two years and, as co-ordinator, acted as liaison with theprogram's advisory board whose members were drawn from employers and representatives ofthe field served by the program.While working in the program, I became concerned about the low priority given to trackinggraduates in the workplace. The college planning department surveyed graduates approximatelytwenty months after graduation, but admitted that the return rates were low and that therespondents were not asked to state whether they were male or female. Because I had been amature woman graduate, I was particularly interested in the progress of similar women. Iobserved them with respect and admiration as they juggled multiple work and domesticresponsibilities, tried to get employment, struggled to acquire more skills, and worked insituations where their skills were often not recognised or were under-utilised. I felt that there wasan anomaly between the performance of the mature women in the program and the place thatthey occupied in the work world after graduation. I undertook this research in order to examinethe women's lives and their work more closely.2Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 1FrameworkJane Gaskell's work has helped more than any other in my search for meaning in thecomplex fabric of the womens' lives which are woven from strands from their childhood,education, early adult experience, training at the college, and subsequent experience andemployment. Their lives are also coloured by social, political, and economic events in BritishColumbia since 1975. In her writing Gaskell does not flinch from looking at the array of factorswhich affect the way people handle their lives. She examines the pushes and pulls betweenteachers' personal vision for their students, desire to make students employable, and defense oftheir own jobs and department. Her picture of the ambiguities and contradictions evident inpeople's lives is not coloured by disapproval or judgement. She recognises the partiality whichcolours the researcher's thinking:We stand in our historical time, place, and culture. We stand in traditionsof thought that have been thoroughly dominated by men and thebourgeoisie. And we come face to face with basic questions of value, ofpower, of women's place in the world (1992, 148).Gaskell's examination of the ways in which we understand and value skill has helped myanalysis of this slippery subject in the lives of the mature women graduates who participated inthis study. For these mature women, an educational program was a bridge from one stage of lifeto another, as it was for the women discussed by Gaskell who were participants either in a citytraining program (1991, 374), or a high school business program (1987, 153). They all hopedskills learned in an educational program would lead to employment.Acker, in her introduction to Gender Matters from School to Work, noted that much ofGaskell's work is concerned with "transitions and journeys"(1992, 1). Her work deals with theongoing journey of life where transitions are made from one phase to the next through thecompletion of an educational program. Transitions also prevailed in my interviews with thewomen, transitions from full time mothering to paid employment, and from one type of work to3Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 1another. With these came changes in understanding about themselves and society. The sense ofjourney or transition was present in comments about change in family relationships,employment, technology, and their own aging.Gaskell connected personal everyday events in the lives of young women in high schooland later in their first jobs, to patterns of education and lives of teachers, and further to relationsof power in society. Her analysis helped me to examine my observations and experience as astudent, worker, teacher, and program co-ordinator. Gaskell's examination, although grounded inthe study of one group in one place, has application for other inquiries about the effects ofprogram design and teacher practice, particularly in the lives of women. It gave me the courageto grasp the knot which baffled me. This knot was tied from strings of the women's skills,education and experience; the program's formal and informal teaching; and the women'ssubsequent careers. Her work helped me to place this knot in the context of the way society andeducation shape the understanding of women's skills and the value attached to them.The participants in the study were all graduates of a program that prided itself on openingthe media workplace to women by accepting at least as many female as male applicants. Fromits early days, the program included mature women among its students. However, the view thatwomen were equal to men was embodied in practices that assumed that they functioned in thesame way. This understanding of gender carried over into discussions of the workplace. Long-time instructors rebutted suggestions that the workplace was different for women graduates andthat the program's offerings might be able to respond more constructively to this difference.I also observed that male students responded in a hostile manner to a woman guestspeaker's comments when she differentiated between the workplace environment for women andmen. Progress in the workplace for her had been a matter of endurance, courage, and silence. Thedifference was also clear to me in field-trips to graduates' work sites and visits to employers4Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 1where I found women graduates serving refreshments, a role never assumed by the men. Theprogram modeled a situation where:Gender blindness means silence on gender issues. It accepts the existingstructure of the school and its subjects as a given, excluding discussion ofthe 'private' issue of gender (Gaskell 1992, 146).I had been troubled by such scattered observations but Gaskell's work provided a framework forexamining and starting to make sense of what I had experienced and seen.The Research QuestionThe formulation of the question for this research has been an evolutionary process. Theinitial question for this study was "What skills do the mature women graduates of the MediaProgram use in the workplace?" It began with my concern that, after graduation from theprogram, the mature women used their pre-program skills at work more than those acquired fromthe program. For example, I heard women graduates talking about acting as receptionists inmedia production houses. Yet the act of applying to the program was in itself an act of resistanceagainst a societal expectation which would have kept the women either at home or directed themtoward clerical work. During the two years of the program, the mothers among the womenwaged an internal war: a battle between the demands of program and their determination to learn,on the one hand, and, on the other, the demands of love and responsibility at home. All thewomen wanted to work in a sector of the workplace which was not typified as belonging towomen workers. They saw the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge as a key step formoving into this field. It would be ironic if, as I suspected, the women moved into a women'spart of the media field.Analysis of the program application forms and of the responses to a questionnaire which Ihad mailed to all available graduates, convinced me that the original question was too restrictive.Fifty three percent of the women and 51% of the men replied to the question. Based on thisinformation, I saw that the workplace for women differed in kind and earnings. Women and mencompleted the same program. The women were either in institutional work or self-employed.5Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 1The men also worked in these areas,but in addition were employees of corporations and mediaproduction houses. The women earned less and held fewer full-time, permanent positions. Andyet seven years of observation and experience in the program assured me that the women'sgrades were as high as the men's. Examination of the original question, like peeling the skins ofan onion, revealed other questions. "Was there a relationship between parts of the program, otherthan course content, and the women's location in the work world ?" "How were the skills that thewomen used in their work linked to their previous education and experience?" "What more didthey have to learn to get into the workplace and to stay there?" These questions were the basisfor in-depth interviews with the 12 mature women graduates of the program.As the interviews progressed, it became clear that my first perspective was indeed toonarrow. My attention was drawn to the program as a whole, rather than to the skills learned froma series of courses. The program was the bridge between the women's past and present. It was acatalyst. The overarching research question concerned the career program in its dynamic role asbridge and catalyst in the lives of the women. The question became " What role did the programand its culture play in the women's working lives?" Analysis of the interviews from thisperspective revealed further questions. "How does the value placed by society on women's workaffect the women's esteem for their own skills?" "How does family life affect theiremployment?" "How does the design of this particular post-secondary career education affect themature women?" What became most interesting and fruitful was to see the braiding of skills,experience and education which have brought the women to where they are today.Focussing attention on the program led to questions about the impact of government policyand society upon it. "What are the pressures on the program to frame its offerings in a certainway?" "What are the connections with employers?" Since 1991, the British Columbia HumanResources Development Project has been working "to develop a policy framework for the futureof all forms of education, training and learning for adults in our province" (1992, 1). How will itsrecommendations and its understanding of education affect the mature women students in career/vocational programs at the colleges?6Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 1The introduction to "Springboard and Bridge" makes clear my position in relation to thestudy. It discusses Gaskell's work as a valuable model for a study which examines women, theplace of education and skill in their lives, and the pressures of society and policy on educationalcontent and environment. Finally, I describe the evolution of the question from a focus just onthe skills used by the women in the workplace, through a series of questions, to an examinationof the connections between the women, their skills, their work, the program, and the externalenvironment of society and educational policy. These questions are pursued in the followingchapters.In Chapter Two, I describe the methods which I selected in response to the needs of thestudy. In Chapter Three, I describe the setting for the study. This includes a description of theMedia Program, the marketplace served by the program, and a discussion of the participatingwomen. Chapter Four provides a theoretical perspective for the study, grounded in the work ofGaskell and other relevant literature. In Chapter Five, I discuss connections between theparticipants' skills learned before, after, and from the program. In Chapter Six, I discuss theparticipants' invisible skills and note links between the invisibility of their skills and theireducational experience in the program. In both Chapters Five and Six, I structure the studyaround the categories of institutional employment and self-employment. In Chapter Seven, Iconclude that it is important to articulate and value the women's invisible skills within the twoyear college program. I note the connection between the program's training and the HumanResource Development Project being completed at present under the aegis of the Ministry ofTraining and Post-secondary Education, and its implications for women. I find that this studydemonstrates the need for further program based research about women graduates' success, orlack of success, after they complete the program. Although career programs cannot guaranteegraduates' employment, careful tracking of graduates over a number of years would be a sourceof valuable information about the fit between program and workplace.Endnotes' Pseudonyms for institutions and the participants are used throughout the study.7Chapter 2: MethodsSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 2In this chapter I discuss the suitability of choosing a qualititative approach for a study ofthe mature women graduates of the Media Resources Program. I describe steps in thedevelopment of the project. I conclude with a discussion of the themes emerging from theanalysis and the structure that they suggested for this study.Justification of the research methodI chose a qualitative approach for this study because this type of research uses thesubjectivity of the researcher to seek understanding of the question; endeavours to unravel subtleand ambiguous connections within the area being studied; and has been used effectively in otherresearch dealing with womens' work and education (Gaskell and McLaren 1987; Statham, Millerand Mauksch 1998). An outline of my personal background is included in the Introduction, bothto acknowledge and define my subjectivity and to clarify that "the beliefs and behaviors of theresearcher are part of the empirical evidence for (or against) the claims advanced in the results ofresearch" (Harding 1987, 9). The autobiographical outline responds to Harding's dictum that:[T]he class, race, culture, and gender assumptions, beliefs and behaviorsof the researcher her/himself must be placed within the frame of thepicture that she/he attempts to paint (1987, 9).Wolcott supports this stance by stating that he, rather than attempting "to establish adetached objectivity . . . opt[s] for subjectivity as a strength of qualititative approaches" (1991,131). The twelve women who participated in this study reflect many of my own experiences. Asa researcher, I locate myself among the participants. My perception is undoubtedly coloured bymy own experiences working in the field, although I do not refer explicitly to them.During nearly twenty years of observing the careers of the mature women, from theperspectives of sister student, worker in the field, colleague, and, finally teacher, I became awarethat they were tapping a reserve of skills which were unarticulated either by them or by theprogram. In exploring the web of women's skills, I found Wolcott's perspective on qualitativeresearch useful. He writes: "I do not go about trying to discover a ready made world; rather Iseek to understand a social world we are continuously constructing" (1991, 147). He stresses a9Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2process of learning and an uncovering of information, in which he does not purport to find acorrect answer but rather to increase understanding of the problem:What I seek is something else, a quality that points more to identifyingcritical elements and wringing plausible interpretations from them,something one can pursue without becoming obsessed with finding theright or ultimate answer, the correct version, the Truth. . . . For the present,understanding seems to encapsulate the idea as well as any other everydayterm (Wolcott 1991, 146).Understanding women's work is the focus of The Worth of Women's Work (1988). Theeditors, Statham, Miller and Mauksch, bring together thirteen papers whose authors usequalitative methods to examine women's work in a range of occupations. They note that "theresearchers often had personal experience to draw upon in understanding and interpreting whatthey saw" (11), and that the great strength of a qualitative approach is "its ability to highlightsubtle, sometimes opaque connections"(11). In their work, as in Wolcott's, "conscious effort toinclude primary data in my final accounts" (Wolcott 1991, 129), the words of the participants arerespected and used to ground the studies. Miller, Mauksch and Statham link qualitative researchwith effectively studying the "labor of powerless groups" where women often occupy serviceroles. They argue that:{T]he active role of women in the social construction of a work reality thatis uniquely theirs would have remained beyond the grasp of thoseadhering to a deductive, positivistic perspective (1988, 310).Miller, Mauksch, and Statham also find qualitative methods useful for revealing theambiguous implications of emotional work for women (work that I include in the category ofinvisible skills), and use these methods to gain "insight into the lived labor of women" (312)where these ambiguities prevail.I intended to explore the place of skills in the women's lives. I wanted to stay close to theirlives by using their voices to increase understanding of their contributions to the workplace andto raise questions about the value attributed to their work. The examples provided by other10Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2researchers convinced me that qualitative research was best suited for a study where I aimed tolook for understanding rather than correctness, to see the world as socially constructed, and toexamine the connections between womens' skills, their education, and their work.MethodThis study "Springboard and Bridge", was completed in five overlapping phases: gatheringbackground material; selection of participants; data collection; the use of supplementary datafrom a pilot study (1990); and data analysis.Gathering background materialAs background for a study of the mature women graduates of the Media Program and toprovide the program itself with information, I first established a wide overview of all theprogram graduates and their work experience, reaching back as far as possible. This includedexamining applications to the program and surveying program graduates by means of aquestionnaire. The Media Program gave me free access to department files and the college paidfor mailing From the resulting information I was able to locate possible participants and toestablish criteria for their selection.The most comprehensive account of graduates' work available when I started the study inSeptember 1991 was the program's 1982 telephone survey of graduates, compiled in a booklet.To augment this information, I used addresses available from the program and college records tosurvey program graduates. I chose to survey only those who graduated before 1990 because myexperience has shown that graduates are often unsettled during the year following graduation.I surveyed the graduates by means of a questionnaire (see Appendix 1) which was mailedto the 85 women and 119 men listed as graduating from 1971 to 1989. The questionnairerequested information about the respondent's date of graduation, work history, and an estimation11Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2of her or his present monthly salary. Replies were received from 53% of the women and 51% ofthe men'. (See Appendix 2 for details about the responses to the questionnaire.)Selection of participants for the studyI have chosen to define a mature student by the classification frequently used in AdultEducation:The adult can be distinguished from a child or adolescent by his or heracceptance of social roles and functions that define adulthood. The roles ofwage earner, marriage partner, parent, decision maker, and citizen alldenote the independence characteristic of adulthood (Darkenwald andMerriam 1982, 77).Past experience with women students in the program led me to select 26 years old at entry as thebench mark for "mature". By this time, the women have settled in their adult roles. They haveexperienced paid employment or have been full-time mothers. For them at this age, entering theprogram is a well considered decision entailing significant changes in their lives. This contrastswith younger women for whom entering the program may well be another step in an educationalcontinuum.Of the 28 mature women who were mailed the questionnaire 21 replied. I asked 13 of thesewomen to participate in the study. Criteria for selection were:-A. The participant was at least 26 years old when she applied to the program.B. The participant was still (1991) committed to employment in a fieldrelated to the program's teaching.C. The participant lived within easy travel distance, that is in the LowerMainland or Victoria.D. The participant's response to the questionnaire was completed fully, thusindicating an interest in a study of the program graduates.12Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2Eight of the 21 women did not fit the criteria: four were working in other fields, two werefull time mothers, one lived too far away, and one did not complete the questionnaire. One of thethirteen possible participants dropped out near the start of the study when she moved to anotherpart of the province. She had decided to return to her previous non media career.Information about applicants' ages was derived from written application forms, whichwere available only for students applying to the program after 1980. When I examined thereturned questionnaires, I realised that four of the women who met the criteria had graduatedbefore 1980. Consequently, I did not know how old they had been when they entered theprogram. I telephoned them to confirm that they had been at least 26 years old at that time.The twelve participants who met the criteria represent a wide range of mature women whochoose to enter the Media Program. Their ages ranged from 26 to 41 years at entry into theprogram. Their formal education ranged from two who did not complete high school to threewith bachelor's degrees. Nine of the participants were mothers, five were married, and sevenwere single women. All had worked in paid employment at some time before entering theprogram. Women from the fields of health, education, and social services have been attracted tothe Media Program. For example, in 1988 two of the four mature women in the program at thattime had been educators, one as an elementary school teacher, the other as a park ranger. In1987, two of the four mature women graduates had previously been employed in social services.Among the selected participants for my study were two nurses and two other women workersfrom health-related fields of education and practice. (See Chapter 3 for details of participants'lives.) The wide diversity of the women's previous occupations and education was representativeof the program as a whole. The mature women entering the program shared an understandingthat they were not specialists. They were eager to make themselves marketable by harnessingtheir previous experience with technological skills to meet the needs of a workplace that theyperceived to be expanding.I cannot claim that the participants in this study are representative of all mature womenentering a career/ vocational program at a post-secondary college in British Columbia. By using13Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2information from the application files and questionnaires, I selected the twelve women asrepresentative of mature women graduating from the program and of the variety of workplacesinhabited by them. I quote Gaskell's words about her study of high school students enrolled inbusiness classes as a model for this study. She writes: "This research must be treated as a particularcase study in a particular setting, not as a report on a representative group" (1987, 154).Data collectionData were collected from unstructured interviews with each of the twelve participants. Irequested each woman's participation through a formal letter explaining the purpose of the studyand asking for her help. I followed this with a telephone conversation with each of them toanswer questions and establish a place and time convenient to them for an interview. Interviewswere held in places selected by the participants. Eight suggested their homes, three otherinterviews took place in restaurants and one in a shopping mall None declined to participate.The interview schedule was unstructured but was designed to cover the participant's workhistory, what she did in her work, where she had worked, how she valued and used the skillslearned in the program, how she gained access to work, and how her previous experience relatedto her current employment. The interviews were recorded and lasted between one and two hours.Use of supplementary data from a pilot study (1990)To extend my understanding of some questions raised by my analysis, I contacted threewomen who had been participants in a 1990 pilot study of three mature women who werecompleting the last semester of the program. I spoke with them and requested their permission toquote from the 1990 interviews. The conversations gave me an opportunity to talk about theirpresent work and raised questions about their visible and invisible skills.14Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2Data analysisI examined the interviews for themes and topics. Relevant quotations were collected oncards in various categories, for example "pre-program education", "pre-program work","technical skills", "program acquired skills", "skills used in work place". I constantly referredback to the interviews and related the experience of the women to perspectives provided by theliterature. Analysis of the interviews led me to enlarge my original question from a focus on theskills employed by the women in the workplace to an exploration of the skills learned at differentstages in their lives. In pursuing this wider question, I found connections between the valueplaced by society on the womens' skill contributions and the way this was reflected in thewomen's view of themselves and their work. One theme emerged continually: that there was adisparity between the essential nature of the women's contributions to the workplace and therecognition and value which are attached to them both by society and by the women themselves.The effects of being unvalued were noticeable, appearing for example, in discussions of"confidence" in six of the twelve interviews. The women linked the topic of confidence to othertopics such as payment for work, using equipment, being a woman in the media industry, tensionbetween the mother and worker roles, and getting older. I then started to make connectionsbetween the women's lives in the workplace and in the career/vocational program which directedthem towards the media workplace.Themes relevant to women graduates arose out of the twelve women's interviews and fromthe responses to the graduate survey. One important theme was the difference between the publicsector (institutional) and private sector workplace. In contemporary society, private sector workfor the participating women means freelancing, or self-employment. Only the institutionallyemployed participants retained employee status in 1992. The differences in the workenvironment in the two sectors offered a useful structure for organising the discussion of thewomen's skills. A second theme concerned the weaving of many skills from the participants'lives in order to find and maintain a position in the workplace. A third theme was theproblematic effect upon the women of the value placed by society on their invisible skills. Thesethemes are traced in the following chapters.15Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 2The methods which I have chosen for an examination of "Springboard and Bridge" haveallowed me to use my own experience as a base for exploring the way in which twelve maturewomen have used their inventory of skills in the world of work. The women's interviewsimpelled me to look at the way society recognises women's skills and to make connectionsbeween this and their education. At a time when society and spokes-people for government urgemore training and acquisition of specific skills, it is important to assess what is useful to thelearners who pay to acquire them.Endnotes' Seven questionnaires addressed to women and seven addressed to men were returned because thegraduates were no longer at those addresses.16Chapter 3: BackgroundSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 3This chapter provides information on the setting for the study. First, I discuss thecommunity college and one career/vocational program, the Media Program, where theparticipants in this study acquired their media skills within the 1970 -1989 time-frame. Second, Idescribe the different kinds of workplace, connected with the media, in which the participantswork. I draw on information from the responses to the questionnaire mailed to all programgraduates (see Chapter 2, 11). I conclude the chapter with a discussion of the participants.The CollegeThe time period framing this study has been one of great expansion in the VancouverRegional District. For example, the population for Vancouver's metropolitan area has grownfrom 826,798 in 1961 (Canada Year Book 1990, 2.22) to an estimated population of 1,473,700 in1992 for the same area (Canadian Markets 1992, 548). Bridgnorth College opened in 1968during this period of growth. It was one of the two year colleges envisaged by J.B. MacDonald inHigher Education in B.C: A Plan for the Future, in which he called for another level of educationbetween those offered by the university and the secondary schools. Although the emphasis of hisstudy was to preserve the universities for professional schools and graduate studies, he saw theneed for "technological and semi-professional courses designed for students who want formaleducation beyond high school but who do not plan to complete the requirements of a degree"(MacDonald 1962, 51). He stated that a body of technologically trained people would beessential to the province's economic viability.The two year colleges were designed to fill this need. They were also opened in response toenergetic lobbying by British Columbia citizens eager for educational opportunities. They sawthe colleges as a way to democratise access to education more than as a way to meet theprovince's economic needs.The colleges were founded on a widely supported philosophy directedtowards the provision of a wider range of opportunities for a greaternumber and variety of people . . . . they should be a democratisinginfluence, that should emphasise the worth of people irrespective of careerdirections (Beinder 1983, 11).18Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3These two perspectives still exist in tension with each other. The first links educationclosely to the economic needs of the province, while the second has a broader purpose as notedin Soles' discussion of the technological college courses.[C] ollege education must be guided by more than mere utilitarianpurposes. If we seek only the social adjustment of our students to theworld in which they must live, we betray them, for the world in itselfprovides no real standards of values. Surely our task is to educate ourstudents, not simply to train them in a technology, or process themtowards a degree (Soles 1970, 220).The colleges have made it possible for mature women to change their lives throughaccessible, affordable education while the universities were closed to them by academicrequirements, distance, and cost. An interview with one of the study's participants provided anexample of this. The university to which she had applied before entering the program threwobstacles in her way which alienated her from attempting to channel her aspirations throughacademic university studies. Despite a bachelor's degree and some professional writing, she hadbeen told that she must take undergraduate courses before entering a master's program. Shecould not afford to do this. She commented sardonically to me, "What was all this about re-entryfor women?"In contrast to the universities' narrow understanding of qualification for further education,the Academic Board for Higher Education in British Columbia (1965) stressed the importance ofthe diversity of skills, beyond the specifically technical or academic, brought by students tocollege programs.They [students] may surpass many university graduates in their ability todeal with people; their ability to manage practical and technical affairs;their artistic, musical or dramatic talent; their capability and initiative toget things done; and in terms of sheer good sense, judgement andresponsibility (1965, 3).My experience shows that the tension between MacDonald's focus on technologicaltraining and the Academic Board's more liberal view of education continues to be felt by facultyin career/ vocational programs, particularly by those instructors who joined the colleges in the19Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3early days. On the one hand, the instructors feel pressure to meet the system's economicdemands. On the other hand, they feel pressure to meet the needs and aspirations of individualstudents.In addition to the tension between pressure from the external environment and students'individual needs, there is a tension between technical training and general education. TheAcademic Board for Higher Education had expected this to be resolved in the colleges'curriculum. The members of the Board saw this as a way "to counteract the false distinction thatis commonly drawn between academic and technical education." They hoped that:Within a college program these may be merged in ways that enablestudents to comprehend their fields of study not merely as academic ortechnical but as powerful social and intellectual forces that are deeply andwidely influential in human affairs (Academic Board for Higher Educationin British Columbia 1965, 11).Even for technical students, the curriculum was intended to "meet the needs of the present andfuture by enlarging the students' cultural and intellectual scope and interests while providingproficiency in a technical field" (Academic Board 1966, 11).This broad view of college education was challenged in the economic recession of the late1970s and early1980s when, as Beinder commented,Suddenly our provincial leaders began to insert the term 'marketableskills' into discussions of priorities for community colleges. . . . Boardsand administrators share the exasperation brought on by the increasinginsistence of government on the primacy of technical /vocational trainingover general and academic education. They are forced to submit to theprecedence of employer demands over student needs and expectations(Beinder 1983, 18-19).In response to cuts in college funding, departments were obliged to decide where coursesshould be cut. In order to maintain credibility, they preserved specific technical courses,providing visible skills to graduates entering the workplace, at the expense of the generaleducation components.20Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3The ProgramThe earliest notice of the Media Program is on page 56 of the 1969 college calendar whereit is called the "Educational Resource Technician Program". It enrolled its first students in 1969.The 1969 description of the Program's courses reflected the Academic Board's (1966) liberalapproach to curriculum. Courses on "Resource economics of British Columbia", "Philosophyand organisation of the B.C. school system", and "Current economic issues" were included withtechnical courses (see Appendix 3).From its inception, the Program has aimed at enrolling equal numbers of women and men.The 1969 material states; "The program is ideal for men and women alike"(56). One of theprogram's original instructors told me that the determination to ensure equal access to theprogram opened, for women, the field of work related to the media; its production, distribution,and use, in both the public and private sectors. Mature students have also been readily acceptedin the program and have been attracted by its mix of technical, intellectual, and creativecomponents.By 1971 the program was called Audio Visual Resources program and, in 1972, receivedits present title, the Media Program. The 1969 college calendar stated that:The graduate from this program will be proficient in the field of graphics,photography, and the maintenance of audio and visual equipment. Inaddition he [sic] will be skilled in the production, care, organisation anddistribtion of audio visual materials. He will also have experience ininstructing workshop groups in the various audio visual skills.Specific courses have been included to provide the necessary backgroundwhich will enable the graduate to work in schools in a para-professionalrole with teachers.Educational Resource Technicians will also be prepared to take positionswith management, business, and industry, assisting in the promotion ofproducts and services (1969, 56).The specific character of the 1969 calendar description changed over the years to becomemore comprehensive. In the 1991-92 college calendar, the educational field was just one of many21Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3employment areas served by the program. There is a shift toward private sector self-employment.Graduates are currently working in a variety of settings as mediaproducers and A/V directors for a variety of educational institutions,private companies, and other organisations; production and administrativestaff; news and film editors; and freelance producers (149).The mix of technical and more general education is described by the calendar.The core of the program is production training Students are taughtstandards of excellence and effectiveness in all forms of educationalproduction work. Basic technical skills are taught in all media areas, and alarge number of projects are completed by students during their training. . . The program involves more than technical skills. Courses also developknowledge and skills in communication, learning theory, instructionaldesign, the uses of media in education, the maintenance and purchase ofequipment and resources distribution (1991, 149).It is in the area of non-technical learning (communication, learning theory, and the uses ofmedia in education) that allocation of time has been eroded by pressure from the externalenvironment and by the number of technologies with which contemporary students must befamiliar to be considered media generalists. The increase in the program's technical content isillustrated by the following example. Where the 1969 program outline specified training ingraphics and photography, the 1992 calendar, in contrast, specified training in photography, film,audio, video, and computer technologies . Two more examples illustrate the scope of thisdifference. First, students used to design a show, sequencing a series of single images for oneprojector. Now, they program at least nine projectors, making visual sense with sequencing,abutting, overlaying, and pacing images. Second, students used to deal with each mediumseparately. Now, they design and program video, film, and still images which are conjoined tocreate multi-media productions. At present, video and computer technology overarch theprogram. Ten years ago video was just one form of media; now industry practice dictates it as thecommon distribution medium for all forms of media.Communications courses, one in the first and one in the second year, promote verbal andwritten communication skills as well as giving students practical contacts with the mediaindustry. Graduates of the program must have some degree of competence in all the program's22Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3technologies if they are to speak the language of the media workplace and be acceptable toprospective employers. In order to graduate, students complete 72 credit hours and 60 laboratoryhours, which are used for production. The program finishes with a four week practicum in aworkplace chosen by the student and approved by the practicum supervisor.Continuing funding pressure on the program and the need to incorporate more newtechnology in the curriculum have led, through the 1980s, to a decrease in time for thoseacademic courses which allowed a wider critical view of media, and of its use in society andeducation. This content was covered in nine credit hours assigned to the Media Applications andResearch Methods Courses (1969-1884). In 1985 they were reduced to six credit hours (CollegeCalendar, 1984-85, 94). They have been squeezed thin and lie in the shadow of the program'stechnical offerings.The program's faculty are committed to the program's "generalist" approach because itoffers the graduates the widest range of options for employment and for more specialisedtraining in the future. The term generalist is applied to program graduates because they are notspecialists in any one medium. Frequently media generalists have been hired to work ineducational and other public sector institutions where they are required to understand theoperation and appropriate use of a variety of media.The workplaceIn the early 1970s, graduates' employment was primarily in the field of educational media.They were employed by universities, colleges, schools, and hospitals for work in their audio-visual departments. They worked as producers, writers, operators and selectors of equipment,informal teachers, and co-ordinators: they were media generalists. Of the 30 respondents to thequestionnaire, women and men, who graduated during the 1970s, 20 (eight women) were firstemployed by institutions in this capacity. Thirteen of them (five women) are still institutionallyemployed, including those who have become managers, co-ordinators or teachers. Four, althoughnot institutionally employed, are still working in the field of education.23Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3The situation has changed for those who graduated after 1980. Of the 71 graduates fromthe 1980s who replied to the questionnaire, only 14 are institutionally employed (six women,eight men). Only two of the six women have full-time positions. Seven of the eight men havefull-time positions. The increase of part-time work for women is noted overall by StatisticsCanada in the 1992 Canada Year Book:Women are also much more likely than men to hold part-time jobs,generally with fewer benefits and less security. In 1988, about one in fourworking women held a part-time job, compared to one in 10 working men(1992, 146).The purpose of this study is to examine the work world of the program's mature womengraduates, not to make comparisons with the men's work world; however, the prevalence of part-time work status for women warrants emphasis.In the private sector, graduates who are most successful develop a special, conspicuousskill. For instance, they may become video editors, sound track designers, script writers,programmers for multi-image, or producers. Based on this special skill, they build a reputationwhich attracts clients. Establishing a good reputation takes a network of contacts, high demandskills, persistence, and luck.In the 1980s big slide-sound productions were in demand. This trend culminated in Expo'86, a major world fair hosted by Vancouver. Pavilions promoting different nations and regionsrelied on visual media to deliver their messages vividly. One Canadian corporationcommissioned a show which called for visuals from more than 100 projectors to be harnessed bycomputer with moving images and other special effects. Local audio-visual production housesemployed many of the program's graduates for two or three years in preparation for Expo '86and to maintain the shows during the exposition. Such audio-visual production and staging arevery costly, while costs are lower for distribution and staging of video productions. As a result ofrising costs and the economic slump after Expo '87, one of Vancouver's two major audio/ visualproduction houses closed in 1988. At one time six graduates of the Media Program were on its24Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3staff. The remaining large company has been restructured. It retains a small core ofadministrative staff and hires other employees on a contractual basis as self-employed workers.Media production has moved more to film and television. Edwards, in an article inVancouver Step, an entertainment industry magazine, states:Statistics from the BC Film Commission show that Vancouver's film andTV industry has grown from $12 million in 1978, to $300 million lastyear. The business employs an estimated 4,000 people, and BC is home to193 film and video companies, 40 talent agencies, 18 post productionfacilities and 15 shooting stages (Edwards, June/July 1992, 27).Only two graduates responding to the questionnaire reported working steadily within themajor film and television industries'. Mature women find the environment alien. In herinterview, one of the study's participants reported being unable to handle four consecutive 15hour days, being required to pick up cigarette butts, and being tested. She was exhausted andhumiliated and decided to look for work in another media area. Male workers in the industryhave told me that they also are aware that "women are treated badly". Another one of the study'sparticipating women, Janet, who is working in a specialised field and well established in the filmindustry, said in her interview:I think it's really hard in the film industry for women. Because it's a boys'club and the men support each other. . . . They still don't really like towork with you because it changes the tone of everything, jokes changewhen you're around. . . . And they treat bad male directors far better thanthey treat fabulous female directors.Other aspects of work in the media industry are also tough. The volume of work in the cityis erratic. Competition for work is very keen. When I supervised students' work experience, Iobserved that many of the facilities are very small and run on a razor's edge budget. In order tobid low on projects, and so to remain viable, companies shaved salaries. One of the participantsconfirmed my observations when she told me in an interview that she had been offered a full-time job, in just such a business, as receptionist/secretary/ video editor for $1,100 a month. It wassuggested to her that the working day might well exceed eight hours.25Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3As for the rest of Canadian workers, there is an increase in self-employment for theprogram's graduates. In the 1970s and early 1980s graduates were hired as employees byproduction houses and corporations. The trend to self-employment, particularly for women, isnoted in the 1992 Canada Year Book: "Since 1975 the number of self-employed women hasrisen three times as fast as the number of self-employed men (146)". For Media Programgraduates, men as well as women, self-employment is now the norm. Forty-five percent ofwomen and 41% of men responding to the questionnaire and graduating after 1980 reportthemselves as self-employed.The workplace for Media Graduates is difficult to categorise. Information from theCanadian Index of Occupations (based on information from the 1988 census) focuses on themajor trades and top administrative positions in the entertainment industry. It does not include ordifferentiate between the many "assistant" positions, such as researchers, production co-ordinators, production assistants, and others who support this amorphous and labour intensiveindustry. However, employment for all Media graduates falls in the Service Sector category,along with other industries such as retail, law, education, health, entertainment, and undertaking(British Columbia Business and Statistical Review 1990, 111). Statistics Canada reports that, in1988, the average annual earnings of women in the Artistic and Recreational sector and in theService sector were approximately half those of men in this sector. The responses to thequestionnaire do not make an accurate assessment of earnings possible, but they do show aconsistent pattern of lower earnings for women graduates. (See Appendix 2 for details.)The womenA discussion of the women's skills and how they use them must be placed in the context oftheir lives. In this section of Chapter 3, I discuss how the women balance different aspects oftheir lives. Table 1, 27 provides specific information about the women, their age when theyentered the program, their family status and amount of education, when they graduated from the26Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3Table 1. Participants' education, employment, and family statusPre-Program^ Post-Program-ctE'ta)EducationEmploymenta)inst FT PT PR FT PT SE c.)Stella 42 '75 • 4 inc • • • 4 • • • • 1 FamilyJane 34 '75 2 • inc • 2 • • • • Inst. FTDiana 30 '77 • 1 • • • 2 • • • 4 SEPhyllis 32 '79 2 • • • • 2 • • 1 Inst. FTJennifer 28 '82 • • • • • • 1 Inst. FTPenny 29 '85 • 1 • • • 1 • • 1 SESylvia 42 '86 • 4 • • • • • 4 • • • SEMorag 31 '86 • • • • • 1 • • • 2 FamilyNaomi 42 '87 • • • • • • • • SEJanet 31 '87 inc • • • • SELiz 41 '89 • 1 • • • • SESheila 36 '89 • • • • • Inst. PT/SEKEYProfessional - work requiring formal education and certification"helping" - work relating to health, education or social servicesMarried / partnered - married or in a stable heterosexual or lesbian relationshipFamily - not seeking employment at present because of family obligationsInst - institutional employmentPR - private sector employmentFT - Full timePT - Part timeSE - Self-employedInc - Incomplete27Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3program, and their subsequent and present employment. It includes the number of dependentchildren when they entered the program, started their media careers, and now in 1993. It showsthe increase in self-employment for the more recent graduates.Table 1, 27 does not offer any estimate of earnings because I found that only the womenwho were institutionally employed were able to state their earnings with any certainty. The self-employed womens' stated monthly earnings varied from less than $1,000 to over $6,000. Thelatter was an exception to the general pattern; all the other self-employed women estimated thatthey earned less than $3,000. The highest earning woman thought that assessing earnings on amonthly basis was not useful because:I get paid a lot when I'm working but I can't keep that pace upcontinually. . . . It's very hard and stressful and I can't really do it fulltime, all year round, any more. You're working 12 to 16 hour days, sevendays a week. You're given six or eight weeks and the film's got to bedone. . . .So I have to get paid a lot because it takes me another month torecuperate. When you start spreading that money out over the year, I'mnot making that much money.She also talked about the vulnerability of the independent free-lancer in the film industry.Sure, you sign a contract but if you're a free-lancer, you can't afford totake someone to court. I mean, maybe you've lost thousands of dollars,but to take someone to court? You can't afford that. You have no recourse.It's too big to go to small claims court. And you don't have a union behindyou, if you do they're not going to back you up anyways.I also chose to exclude earnings from Table 1 because their inclusion re-enforces theperception that the value of what women do equates with the amount of their earnings. It deniesthe seamlessness of women's lives and the value of lives where achievement in the workplace isbalanced and blended with family and social life. All of the eight mothers mentioned the effectsof mothering on their working lives, although the impact was less noticeable in the lives of thosewhose chidren were older. Even these women were still closely involved in their children's lives.For example, one woman played a significant role caring for her grandchild, thus supporting herdaughter's achievements. By doing this, she gave her daughter the opportunity that she did notget when she herself was a young woman.28Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3The women try to balance family life and personal career. For some the answer is clear.Diana, speaking of her family life when I interviewed her in her home, said:It has to be a whole and if it can't be a whole then the family would comefirst . . . I think that in the end there would be huge pitfalls inconcentrating so much on work that the centre wouldn't hold. The centreis here.She described how she coped:I have a room upstairs as an office. I have a fax and computer and it workswell for me. In the end I have a fair amount of meetings, which is good. Iwouldn't want to be here all the time. I couldn't stand it.Retaining a place in the world of work is harder for mothers of young children. Morag had hopedto combine mothering and free-lance work from her home, but said:I began to realise I didn't really have the time to make this business go andlook after Sally at the same time. Because I tried to do that for a while butjust ended up feeling I was doing a really lousy job of both things. Sallywas going through a phase. Well, she'd be perfectly happy but wheneverthe phone rang she'd start screaming. So I'd be there talking to clients andprinters, trying to sound as though I was speaking from a nice white sterilestudio, with this snotty peanut-butter covered child attached to my left leg,screaming at the top of her voice.And I just felt really depressed. I felt it was totally unprofessional and, atthe same time, I felt it was being unfair to Sally, trying to ignore her.Other examples also illustrate areas of stress rising from the women's familyresponsibilities. One woman, divorced with two young children, said that she could not havecompleted the program, nor worked as she did subsequently, if she had not had childcare helpfrom her sister. Three single mothers described the anxiety they felt at being torn between theneeds of their children and long hours at work. A married woman twice sacrificed her ownpostion in the interests of family cohesion and her husband's career. These women constantlybalance the demands of the workplace and their own career aspirations against those of childrenand family.29Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3Sheila, a self-employed woman, considered that being single was an advantage to her whenseeking work.If you're single . . . you don't have dependents. You are more likely to becalled on. . . and you'll be there. And they call on you again and theyrepeat that, if you can pick up and go at an hour or two's notice out of thecountry or out of the province. That is an advantage.On the other hand, Janet noted the impact of her work's demands on her personal life with regret:If I want to keep doing this, there's no time for a personal life. I don'tknow that work's that important that I should give up the rest of my life toit. . . . It's hard, when you're working there's no time to do the laundry,pay your bills, clean your house, do all that stuff. . . . Most of the guyshave wives at home taking care of all this. . . but if you live alone, it's hardto keep a relationship going under those circumstances. . . . While you tryto establish your career, your career is the main motivation for everything.And when you get there, you find there's not all that much here anyway.. . . What about the rest of your life?Jane was emphatic when she said that she was not interested in advancement because thiswould entail becoming an administrator. She values her present postion as a media generalistbecause:There are very few departments in the institution that have the range ofcontacts that the AV department does. I love that. I love dipping intosomebody else's world doing a production. And learning . . . seeing withnew eyes. . . . And the opportunity to work with people, to work togetheron more than a social basis is very rewarding to me.She commented about her superior's position:To get isolated into administration and all that paper work! It wasthankless! . . .I never have wanted it, never. . . . I've never wanted thatkind of power. I'd much rather have freedom.Her energy and commitment encompass her work as well as a wide range of community interestsand contacts.Although the focus of the interviews was on the women's work and the skills that they usein the workplace, I noted that personal relationships were mentioned by 11 of the 12 women.Their words showed the value they attached to relationships with co-workers, friends, and familymembers. They viewed themselves as members of a web of personal relationships, influencing30Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3and being influenced by it. Only one of the women, Janet, had the opportunity to benefit from theinfluence of a strong female role model early in her career. She, the only participant in the studywhose work has a strong technical focus, had a woman role model who is recognised in theindustry for the excellence of her work. This relationship, combined with Janet's perception oftechnology as an opportunity for expanding her learning, rather than as an obstacle to beovercome, help account for the level of her technical accomplishments.The level and kind of education the women brought to the program is detailed in Table 1,27. Four had bachelor's degrees. One had completed three years of university Fine Arts. Twohad not completed high school; one because she had to work to help her family, the otherbecause she could not tolerate the pedestrian education offered by the school. Subsequently bothof these women completed various educational programs and they demonstrated an eagerappetite for learning before, during, and after the program.I did not seek information in the interviews about the women's childhood socio-economicstatus, but their comments suggested that it was as varied as their education. Five said they camefrom working class families. One of the women talked about being poor as a child. One said thather father had been a senior university faculty member. Three others mentioned middle class orprofessional parents.The women's previous work was also varied. It included clerical work, mechanicaldrafting, selling insurance, wholesale selling, nursing, tomography, tree-planting, and writing.They augmented formal work with a variety of other experiences. Five of the women mentionedthat this included volunteer work associated with social and community work or with health care.The inclination toward social, as well as individual, goals was evident in the interviews, whereseven of the women talked with satisfaction about using and producing media for purposes theydeemed socially useful, such as training volunteers for a health agency.It is apparent that the women's inventory of skills and their use of them are rooted in theirearlier lives and experience. Their skills are not merely a component, but are woven tightly into31Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 3the fabric of the women's lives; their skills are balanced and valued along with otherresponsibilities and interests. They continue to focus their skills to meet their interests and theneeds in their lives.In this chapter I have discussed briefly the history of the colleges and programs in relationto the economic demands of the province and needs of individual students. I have described thedevelopment of the Media Program from 1969; the students enrolled in the program; the pressureon the program's curriculum from rapid increases and changes in technology; tension betweenthe technical and media generalist approach to the curriculum. I concluded by discussing otheraspects of the women's lives in order to provide a foundation for an examination of their skills inthe workplace. In the next chapter, I turn from this close-up view to discuss the theoreticalperspective which I have chosen for the study.Endnotes' One of these is a man. He had told me previously that he would not have been able to survive whilestruggling to gain an entry into the film workplace if he had not been living with his parents at that time.32Chapter 4: Theoretical PerspectiveSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 4Theoretical Perspective on SkillsThe recognition and valuing of women's skills are central to this study. In order to addressthis, it is important to examine the meanings of skill and how the use of skill determines thevalue we place on those who use it. In Chapter 5 I shall demonstrate, using their voices, the waysin which the mature women graduates of the Media Resources Program use and understand skill.Here, I shall examine different views of skill from the literature and show how the writersunderstand skill in relation to women and the value placed on women by society.It is difficult to discuss skills because there are many interpretations of what skill is. Vallas(1990) notes that "because researchers have used widely varying conceptions and measures ofskill, empirical literature is rife with inconsistent and contradictory findings that point in severaldirections at once" (379). Perceptions of skill change according to prevailing social views. Acurrent view was expressed in the words of Roslyn Kunin, a speaker from Employment andImmigration Canada, (CBC radio, August 1992), when she rated skills in mathematics, science,and technology as valuable. She considered inter-personal skills of far less value, and physicalskills as "unskilled".Dictionaries provide some guide posts to the many understandings of skill. In these, I see ashift over the years from wider meanings to narrower ones. For example, the Oxford UniversalDictionary (1955, 1906) and the Houghton Mifflin Canadian Dictionary (1982, 1213 and 1539)show that before the 16th century the meanings of skill, arising from Old Norse and HighGerman, deal with knowledge and discernment. It is interesting to note that the 1953 edition ofRoget's Thesaurus includes, under the rubric of skill, among other meanings "mother-wit; . . . .discretion; . . . management; . . . feeling"(252). These words are omitted in the 1986 edition(303). It is difficult to draw inferences from the many meanings offered in the two editions, butthe emphasis has shifted toward the specific and demonstrable. The older meaning referred to inthe two dictionaries cited above presents a more comprehensive understanding of skill whichmay include formal, academic learning or informal, intuitive understandings may also relate tospecific accomplishment, often associated with physical ability, dexterity, and technology. Our34Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4understandings of skill, then, range widely and within unclear boundaries. Meanings of skillinclude knowledge and ways of acting so deeply ingrained that they are an unrecognised part of aperson's being; physical dexterity in performing tasks well; mental dexterity in the manipulationof abstract ideas; and the ability to make subtle discriminations and judgements which,recognised or not, are part of mental and physical work.The question of skill is important because skill definitions are used to ascribe value to ourwork. For example, definitions of skill provide a framework for specialist consultants when theycompare the levels of skill required in different positions, thus determining where those jobsshould be placed in a hierarchy, and consequently what the workers should be paid (Steinberg1990, 449-475). Commonly accepted definitions of skill also shape the way that people see eachother and themselves, and consequently set a value on their contributions in the work place andsociety. With these issues in mind, I am going to use the literature to examine some approachesto skill. I shall make links to the Media Program and to its mature women graduates, although Ishall examine the latter in more detail in the following chapter.Gaskell takes Braverman's 1974 study, Labour and Monopoly Capital as a benchmark forher discussion of the value placed on skill by society. She discusses his view of skill as craftmastery, achieved through lengthy training which allows only a limited number of the trained toenter the specific field of work. A series of screens limits the final number of practitioners: onlya certain number, with specific qualifications, are accepted for training; considerable time isspent in training; and it is necessary to pass specific tests during and at the end of training.In her writings on skill, Gaskell argues that the skills of many women, who often enter thework place in a non-specific or clerical roles, are undervalued in the craft mastery perspective.For the mature women graduates of the Media Program who find institutional work, the programmay serve in lieu of an apprenticeship. The completion of a two year program may be one of thequalifications stipulated by the employer. But, because of the unspecialised and general nature ofthe training, the employer may also accept other candidates who have some experience in the useof audio visual equipment, such as support work in a high school library. In this instance, the35Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4systematic broad training from the program may not outweigh other factors, such as pastexperience, that the employer deems relevant. Completion of the program is a weak screen atbest.Braverman's view of skill as the attribute of a master craftsperson applies to only one ofthe mature women graduates participating in this study, Janet. After graduation from theprogram, she acquired her skills through specialisation and an arduous self-constructedapprenticeship working with experienced film-makers. Her specialisation in the design of soundfor film and her use of sophisticated technology take her out of the generalist field inhabited bythe other women. Despite her mastery of the occupational skills, she is self-employed and notprotected in the way that a traditional senior craftsperson in a unionised industry would be.Janet's skill is demonstrable. It is physically present in a public product. It is more difficultto pin down skills which are not the result of physical activity. The subtle discriminations neededfor examining skill are explored in Torbe's 1988 article "Doing Things with Language: Skills,Functionalism and Social Context". He notes the invisible, indefinable quality of skill.A 'skill' is a practical knowledge in combination with ability. It issomething we learn to do in collaboration with the more capable(Vygotsky 1978), but may not need to be taught explicitly. And when weare taught it . . . it is by engaging with the experience which is purelyitself. Once we can perform the skill, we have achieved something thesubsidiary parts of which may be, in Polanyi's term (Polanyi 1958,)`unspecifiable': we may be able to do something, but not able to explainwhat we do. . . . A skill is always a way of achieving something of whichthe skill is a part and never an end in itself (184).Torbe continues to pursue the physical aspect of skill, but here, I want to use his vision ofskills which are invisible themselves but made visible in their product. For example, Janet, inconstructing a sound track, physically and mentally creates, manipulates, and organises a numberof components such as dialogue, sound effects, and music through her skill with soundtechnology. The skill is invisible in the final product: nonetheless the sound track is known to beher creation, and the credits on the screen attest to this.36Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4Many of the mature women graduates are not able to claim as their own the product oftheir skills. Many of the formal and informal skills which the mature women brought to theprogram from their previous experience (often "learned in collaboration with the more capable. . . and not taught explicitly"), and education remain unrecognised and undervalued bythemselves and others. The women's skills are hidden in the negative space of the major designwhich the observor sees as a smoothly running department, a student's effective classpresentation, or the advancement of institutional and colleagues' objectives. The women's skillsof co-operation, co-ordination, and organisation are subsumed in the service of the institutionand their colleagues. And, while the skills are used successfully, they remain invisible. These arethe skills which I define as women's invisible skills. I use an extended example from institutionalemployment to illustrate this invisibility.Of the 12 women I interviewed, five are, or have been, employed in the audio visual ormedia production departments of institutions. They are usually classified as audio visualtechnologists or technicians; one is classified as a writer/producer. The position is that of mediageneralist (see Chapter 3, 23). They all do work which centres on offering service to theinstitution. Stella was the first audio visual technician at a major Vancouver teaching hospital.She described a range of activities included in her work. Her description provides an insight intoher own understanding of skills, both those learned from the program and those she acquiredpreviously, and reveals abilities she does not see herself.. . . the department had just been opened in staff education so it was up tome to set up some sort of administrative controls for equipment going inand out. As well as do productions for people. So again knowing how tofile things properly and how to write memos, those were very useful skillsto have with me. One of the tasks we took on was publishing the in-housemonthly news letter, and again writing and photography became veryimportant, and editing. And I also learned a bit about paste up and editing.Her media skills were melded with organisational skills in the interest of the hospital. Shewent on to describe video production where she worked with content specialists, set up and37Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4operated the sound and video equipment and devised ways to obviate the use of editingequipment, because they had none. She then continued:. . . the need was so great for materials for education that I ended upworking for every department in the hospital including the doctors. I usedto do a lot of slides for them for lecturing. I would go and takephotographs of patients and their health problems from time to time andincorporate those in slide/tapes for teaching purposes . . . . there was an IVcatheter, a brochure, in fact it's a book . . . and that took a lot of work. Itook photographs of the whole procedure, and I put all the informationinto typewritten form, compiled the whole thing, and eventually it waspublished.In the description of her work she talked about specific technical skills of photography, video,and publishing, but never drew attention to the interpersonal skills which enabled her toaccomplish those things she and the institution required. Behind the list of her accomplishments,in the negative space, is a foundation of invisible skills: effective listening, understanding,organising ability, adapting and negotiating skill. Her overarching skill in understanding andresponding to the needs of the institution and its personnel provided a framework for utilising herspecific program learned skills. And yet this broader skill remained invisible to her and,probably, her employers.Steinberg (1990) looks at the pervasive invisibility of women's work in our society whenshe discusses the processes used for ascribing value to it. She makes a connection between asecretary's performing a variety of tasks well and the invisibility of the skill she uses.. . . authority associated with female work is invisible. Male managers areperceived as running offices or departments. Yet the daily work of thesecretary in passing on messages, responding to emergencies, training newemployees, and co-ordinating schedules for meetings and other activitiesremains invisible, especially if she performs these responsibilitiescompetently (1990, 459).38Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4Women in clerical positions in our society are so ordinary that they and their skills aretaken for granted. Attewell describes how this ordinariness hides the expertise from itspractitioners and the public. Daily activities are unremarkable:They become socially invisible to both the actors performing the and toobservers familiar with them: They become buried within the practitioners. . . . Thus many human capacities are not just a matter of reason, intellector knowledge but are unconscious and literally embodied. . . . It followsfrom this perspective, that an activity seems "unskilled" once one can do itwell (because the "skill" disappears) (1990, 430).The disappearance of the practitioner's skill is most complete when the product of the skill is inthe service of others (for example caring for others, facilitating and organising), or enters thepublic sphere as part of another person's product, whether it be a slide sound production used ina professor's lecture or a boss's letter to a customer. Although the situation is not genderspecific, it includes women more often.Gaskell (1992) examines levels of skill and the value ascribed to them. Her questionsdemonstrate the complexities entwined in the issue.The question of how we attribute a level of skill to a job is complex. Howdo tasks in the labour market come to be valued, to be seen by employersand employees as 'skilled'? How can we compare the value of verbalskills and physical skills, the value of social skills and technical skills?How does 'managing' as a social skill compare with dealing withcustomers? Our notions of labour market skills are socially constructedand the social processes producing our designations need to be carefullyexamined (114).Gaskell points out the contradictions existing in the workplace where women receiveapproximately two thirds of men's wages and yet surpass men in areas of skill supposedly valuedby employers. She shows that the problem is not only in the invisibility of the skills but in thefact that the skills are associated with women and their work. Men are rewarded more highly fortheir work than women and accept the reward as an accurate valuation of the work they perform.Common sense suggests that work's public value, expressed in terms of payment and prestige,reflects the level of the skill needed to produce it.Being treated as a 'higher' achievement can easily translate in a morescientific world into being considered a 'higher' skill. Mental labour is39Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4more prestigious than manual labour; science is more prestigious thancaring for young children; giving directions is more prestigious thanworking out what they mean and following them closely. It is not clearthat one is actually more difficult than another. These are cultural values -things associated with dominant values and with power are counted ashigher skill (Gaskell 1992, 116-117).The value set on women and their work by society diminishes the perception of their skill almostto invisibility.The customary association of certain kinds of activity with women workers depreciatestheir value and visibility. Women's work has a 'low profile': it is ubiquitous but unseen. Gaskelltakes this one step further when she notes the disrespect that we, as a society, accord the work ofmany people, particularly women. She links power with the recognition and rewarding of skill.What less powerful workers do has been construed as lacking in skillWhen people overlook women's skills, devalue them, give them lowratings it is not a technical glitch, but a reflection of the status and powerwomen have had in the world (1992, 148).And so women's social and organisational skills are obliterated from sight even though they areactively deployed in facilitating the processes of the workplace.These invisible skills are like those described by Torbe, "learned in collaboration with themore capable"(1988, 84), such as mothers, grandmothers, teachers and colleagues. Society doesnot include them in the category of skill but assigns them to that of feminine characteristics.Gaskell argues that:Women's skills have often been considered part of their femaleness, andtherefore not to be counted. Being polite and helpful and 'attractive' inparticular ways are learned, but considered personality, not skill(1992, 148).Women are understood to do these things naturally and, because the behaviours are natural to theactor and observer, they do not call for payment. They remain invisible.My exploration of women's invisible skills is informed by Braverman's critique of theway in which census classifications were used in the 1930s to define measures of skillfulness(1974, 428-430). He notes that the worker whose work is primarily associated with machinery is40Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4classified as more skilled than the worker who uses older, traditional or ordinary technology.. . . An assembly line worker is presumed to have greater skill than afisherman or oysterman, the forklift truck operator greater skill than thegardener or groundskeeper . . . (Braverman 1974, 430).And I might add, all are likely to be considered more skilled than women, who by looking at theshadows on a child's skin, are able to determine the state of the child's health. The gardener,groundskeeper, fisherman, and oysterman derive their skill from the long tradition of invisibleskills which relate to that older understanding of skill which denotes knowledge and judgement.Their elusive but real skills consign them to a low classification because the skills are notassociated with either technology or industrial processes. It is the same valuing of skill thatcolours the common perception of women's work. Thus Stella and her employers noted thematerials she produced in service of the hospital, but neither she nor they commented on theinvisible skills underlying these accomplishments.In the pages above I have discussed women's skill in relation to some historicunderstandings of the word: the valuing of skill; craft mastery; the visibility of the skill in itsproduct in contrast to the invisibility of the "product" of women's skills; and the connectionbetween power and the value of skills. Now I turn to skills that are visible to society and themature women graduates of the program: skills which are associated with technology and with aphysical product, such as effective productions in video, photography, film or sound.The tangible product of skill may well be the result of skills or competency training. Thewords are often used interchangeably as was noted by Maurice Dutton in a lecture at aconference on vocational education (February, 1993). In this section, I shall use Jackson's work(1991), to draw attention to the impact of an increasing emphasis from the British ColumbiaMinistry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology on skills training. I shall stress itseffects on the training of women. Second, I shall discuss the influence of this approach to collegeeducation on the Media Program.Jackson argues that the emphasis on skills training, taught as the measured performance ofa series of objectives or competencies, serves the political agenda of employers who require41Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4workers trained to meet what they, employers, see as the needs of the workplace. This approachto learning is seen by government and business as an important part of the cure for Canada'seconomic difficulties because:Across North America and Western Europe there has been a resurgence ofthe view that the education system in its entirety should be understood interms of its contribution to economic development and national prosperity(Jackson 1992, 352).Colleges may be enthusiastic about the definitions of skill that accompany skills trainingbecause students' learning, demonstrated in the performance or completion of specified skills,objectifies learning and so makes it easier for the institution to report accountability for itsexpenditure of public monies. Leverage from the workplace exerts pressure on administratorsand teachers in post-secondary education to deliver this particular form of skill training. I shalldiscuss this further in the Chapter 6, in conjunction with the role of the Community College inthe lives of these women.Skills training results in the breaking up of the subject to be learned into a number ofspecific tasks whose achievement can be measured and monitored. Advocates of this form ofinstruction consider that it enables the instructor to track student progress reliably and gives thelearners satisfaction because:*student achievement is based on the mastery of learning outcomes*students are aware of the learning outcomes and methods of assessment(Centre for Curriculum and Professional Development 1993, 3).Jackson argues that training delivered to students in the form of a series of discrete behaviouralskills, or competencies, fragments the learning and diminishes its value to the learner. Trainingfor such limited competencies does not serve students well. Because their acquired skill is veryspecific and not grounded in a broader body of related knowledge, students are unable to transferor develop these skills according to changes in the workplace or technology. Rather thanforming part of an interwoven body of knowledge, skills are taught as separate pieces which fitthe worker for one specific role in the workplace. To change her role, the worker will have totrain for a new role. In an employment environment where workers' skills are so narrow, work42Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4will be "subdividable into component parts, and cumulative, so that they can be acquired over alifetime in a pattern of re-current work and schooling" (357). The skills will be seen by workerand employer as an "add-on", a skill "velcroed" to a collection of disparate skills, and sodetachable from the person, not integrated into the worker's being as understood in Braverman'sview of craft mastery ( Braverman 1974, 432).Jackson observed competency analysis being used in British Columbia's communitycolleges in programmes which are designed predominantly for women students.The competency approach is being widely implemented in programmesfor white collar, female dominated occupations in the clerical, social andhealth care fields, such as early childhood education, human service work,general nursing, medical and dental assistance, and office administration(1992, 361).She argues that training limited in this way will lead women students into a "degradedconception of working knowledge . . . rather than an expansive or developmental one" (362), andthat women will be held down to lower paid work.Jackson goes on to examine the effects of competency training in the present work world,particularly in the clerical field. She observes the loss of a range of skilled jobs through theimpact of computerised decision making Jobs which once required experience and skill are now"down waged" and deemed "clerical". But in a contradictory fashion, because invisible skillsand skills learned through general education are necessary but not acknowledged, clericalworkers in these positions are often expected to be college graduates in order to "ensure that thegeneral literacy and problem-solving requirements of the job will be satisfied" (363). Thus, at thelevel of specific skills the worker may become redundant but her general education may admither to a wider field of employment.Jackson's paper provides a framework for understanding the pressures on career/vocationalprograms such as the Media Program at Bridgnorth College. She notes that these kinds oftraining have been historically linked to men's employment:Education and training have long been important not only because theyserve as the gateway for entry to various kinds of work, or because theyare the means of acquiring the technical know-how required to perform43Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4the job. They have been critical as well because they are part of the socialand political processes through which status and power have come to beattached to various kinds of work and knowledge, and through which suchstature has been routinely reserved for male workers (Jackson 1992, 359).The emphasis on particular types of education and training is achieved through the governmentfunding of approved programs. Responding to the needs of the workplace as perceived byemployers, the provincial and federal governments use funding policies to pressure the collegesto provide certain kinds of training. The focus on particular skill subracts from the amount oftime and funds left for general education and may well deprive the student of the capacity toadapt to a changing workplace, making her another victim of technical change. Transferabilityof skills may be sacrificed in the service of an ideology devoted to a short term view of economicviability.I turn now to look at the Media Program, a dynamic, contested arena where the pressurefrom the external environment, as well as the desire to serve students' long term needs, isconstantly balanced and re-balanced. The Program is a two year career program (see Chapter 3,21). Its purpose is to train its graduates to work in a widely diversified market which includessuch institutions as colleges and hospitals for service and production positions; the entertainmentindustry for technical positions, as well as production assistant and co-ordinator positions; andthe public relations, advertising, and promotional industries. In these areas graduates may utilisetheir technical skills, or, relying on their knowledge of the vocabulary and ethos of the mediabusiness as well as their previous education and experience, they may work in more generalfields as co-ordinators, organisers, facilitators, and assistants.Three factors exert pressure on the program to shift its focus toward the teaching oftechnical skills at the expense of more general education such as in thinking and writing: first,changing technology; second, a changing market place for graduates in the field of education;and third, students' understanding of the importance of specialisation.The ever increasing rate of technical change continues to lead to more sophisticated andintegrated media technology, and therefore calls for an increasing investment of program funds44Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4as well as of students' time and interest. Technology is glamorous and beguiles the students frommore mundane activities like writing. In the early days of the program, there was more timeavailable to devote to the discussion of media in society, as was evident from the number ofcredit hours assigned to non-technical courses. There were 12 credit hours in 1974 comparedwith 6 in 1991. In the early years of the program, faculty had hoped students would see media asa tool for bringing about grass-roots social change, that the graduates would work in "areas ofsocial animation" (Bridgnorth College calendars 1977 - 86). Two of the program's firstinstructors had been members of the Council of Young Canadians, who encouraged asociological emphasis that enhanced the non-technical aspect of the program and influencedgraduates to seek work in fields that served society. Now there are fewer openings in the publicsector, and program graduates must look for employment in the private sector where the focus ismore specifically on technical expertise and cost. One of the program's male graduates, asuccessful programmer and producer, told me that he had been obliged to become "one of the`suits'. Graduates also see that the most advanced and interesting technology is available onlyin the private sector.In education, interest has shifted away from the support of a variety of media to a narroweremphasis on computers. In the 1970s educators had great faith in the teaching capacity oftelevision, and also encouraged the use of media production itself as a way of actively involvinglearners in the learning process. The perception of efficacy which society attributed to televisionat that time has now been transferred to computers. I observed this in my work as school districttechnician, where I saw inservice workshops for teachers shifting from video to computertraining between 1976 and 1982. This shift was also typified in the remarks of a college mediasupervisor who told me that they would not be hiring any more media generalists but would seeka person with desk-top publishing skills. Because students do not see graduates being hiredspecifically as generalists, they devalue and overlook general and invisible skills. I shall discussthe place which these skills fill in the working lives of the mature women graduates in the lastsection of the next chapter.45Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 4Specialisation in one technical area appears to program students to be necessary for entryto the highest paying jobs. For example of all the self-employed graduates (1980-89), those whoreport the highest earnings entered the work place with a technical specialty such as videoediting, sound design, or photography. The one exception was a man who was determined towork in film, no matter how long it took to achieve his objective. These specialists are theprogram's stars and are models for incoming students. However, the focus on the successattached to their particular expertise hides the fact that other highly competent graduates have notbeen able to find employment and have had to resort to many of their general and invisible skillsin order to find work. Even the stars, conspicuous for their technical expertise, would be unableto use these skills unless they were embedded in a body of invisible skills.In this chapter I have used the literature to examine some of the meanings of skill asunderstanding, judgment, mastery of a craft. I discussed invisible skills and the way society setsa value on skills. The literature and experience show that less value is attached to those skillscommonly associated with women. I then examined skill as it is understood in the term skillstraining and described its effects on the Program. I conclude by noting that such an emphasiswould be disadvantageous to the Program's mature women graduates. The three pressure points,changing technology, computerisation, and the apparent importance of specialisation, all make afocus on skills training attractive to the program and its students but, looking at the lives of themature women graduates in this study, it is apparent that such an emphasis does not serve themwell. The following chapters show how the women resort to a range of skills to maintainthemselves in the workplace.46Chapter 5: Visible SkillsSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 5When I examine the lives of the mature women graduates of the Media Program as theyare revealed in their interviews, I am impressed by the way in which they have tried to harnessall their skills in order to compete in the marketplace and to work in a field which they value.They are indeed active agents, struggling to balance personal achievement, economic survival,personal values, families and friends. For those who graduated after 1986, the year ofVancouver's Exposition, this has been particularly difficult. They have been able to sustainthemselves only by being very adaptable, networking ceaselessly, and struggling to maintaintheir confidence.In this chapter, I use material from the women's interviews to discuss their many skills.Each woman has her own collection of skills. I regard this collection as a bank from which theydraw different skill resources to meet the exigencies of their lives. I discuss, first, the skills thewomen brought to the program from their previous experience and education; second, the skillsthey acquired in the program; and third, the skills they acquired after the program. I concludethat it is only by calling upon all their experiential and educational resources that the women areable to survive in the workplace. Program learned skills are not enough.Pre-program skillsSome of the women came into the program with a clear idea about how they might linktheir past experience to the program's offerings and subsequently to the world of employment.For example, Jennifer, who had been a nurse, carried her familiarity with the hospitalenvironment into a career as the media producer and writer for a large rehabilitation centre. Liz,who had been in sales for many years, made the connection clear:I'd gone to BCIT and I'd taken Television Broadcasting, at night. . . andbecause I'd been involved in electronic sales . . . I thought maybe I cancombine the technical skill and the marketing skill together. . . I did a lotof market research. I went around a lot of production houses . . . and Ifound a lot of people who were working in various fields were graduatesfrom Bridgnorth . . . but most of them combined it with another skill.Which was what maybe helped them get their foot in the door. It didn'tseem like Bridgnorth was the main reason they got the job.48Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5She maintained the marketing focus in her work as a freelance video producer. After two yearsof trying to market her productions as well as operate the video equipment on her own, shejoined with a partner who handles the technical work, leaving her to deal with marketing andproducing.Another of the women, Naomi, showed a strong connection between her present work andher pre-program field of interest. She had taken her degree in history, had worked as a ceramicartist, and later became deeply involved in women's health issues. She believed that she broughtwriting' and organising skills to the program, as well as her knowledge about health.I was the first in my family to go to university. I wanted to go to artschool. . . . I've had to struggle all my life between art and economicfeasibility. . . . I had a number of years . . . on the staff of a healthcollective, I'd worked in a doctor's office, done a bit of counselling It wasthe design, the art that I was really unsatisfied with on the healtheducational material I'd seen. I knew it [health education] was my love forlife.However, when it came to finding work after the program, she tried to break into the workplaceas a freelance producer of educational materials. She "was predominantly using writing andphotographic skills". She said: "the writing skills I did not develop at Bridgnorth. Those wereskills that I had before". As she spoke she stressed "not". She went on to say that she used:more skills that I'd brought, from before Bridgnorth College, because theyhad to do with program planning, public speaking, facilitation, things I'ddone before.Eventually by remaining constant to her overarching commitment to women's health, andby supporting it with her skill as a writer, facilitator, planner, and speaker and some of theprogram's non-technical skills (I shall discuss these in the section on program skills), she won aposition which corresponds to her skills. She has an appointment to plan and implement theResource Centre for the new Women's Health Unit at a metropolitan hospital, and to design staffeducation for the unit. The skills acquired from her pre-program experience and education haveprepared her for this work. To these she added a broad knowledge of media and its use foreducational purposes learned from the Media Program.49Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5Diana applied to the program with clear goals which related to the writing skill she broughtwith her. She decribed her understanding of the way this worked for her:I came into the program hoping to advance some of the things I'd alreadybegun to learn. I had done some writing and wanted to know more aboutwriting for visuals. And that was my main reason for going into theprogram. To learn that skill. So you're already on a track. And the trackstarts before Bridgnorth and it sort of weaves its way through, and out theother side with much the same pattern.The "weaving through" aptly describes the way in which the women's skills are threadedthrough their lives.Discussing her present work, writing for clients in the corporate sector, Diana looked at theroots of the skills essential to her work:They had nothing to do with the things I learned at Bridgnorth.And theyprobably have more to do with what I learned in my last two years atschool in England, because I went to a fairly conservative girls' school, aformal girls' school, where we ran orderly meetings, and we discussedthings, we were comfortable in a meeting/discussion setting, and we feltequal. And I think those skills are the ones that come into the board room.The skills that I used with the company over those years were personalskills, skills from before, from life and education. More intuitive than theones I learned at Bridgnorth. And most of it I think is in dealing withpeople and understanding people. . . . Bridgnorth was a springboard morethan a set of skills. It was a springboard.Diana's words acknowledge the value of general education, and her invisible skills, which I shalldiscuss in the next chapter. Although she is the only full time writer among the 12 women, eightof them stressed the importance of writing in their work. It is an essential and fundamental skillfor proposal writing, scripting, and business communications.Some of the women did not see the connection between their work and skills acquired frompast experience and education as clearly as Liz, Naomi, and Diana. Their previous experienceprovided informal preparation. For example, when I asked her to look back at her pre-programlife, Jane realised that in her early detours as a reservation clerk and a filing clerk, she had builtan inventory of skills which suited her to her present position as the only full-time A/V50Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5technologist at a Vancouver Island community college. Speaking of her early life, she said that:I went to university. I was very much a dilettante. I took a tremendousrange of courses, explored a lot and learned a lot. I never played withdolls: I played with blocks. And I think all this fits. I always drew, a lot.And I read a lot. And so I think I'm visually oriented and kinestheticallytoo. And I love language and stories. And I think they all contribute. Andthen wide knowledge, because I come from an upper middle class familyJane continued to describe her work where she uses her broad education in service of "getting todo a lot of interesting innovative things".Janet, who now works as a sound designer and sound editor for film and television (workshe described as "creating a soundscape"), demonstrated this same informal process of building askills inventory. Although she had not worked with sound before the program, she described aseries of activies which have provided her with many skills needed for marrying sound withimages: aesthetic skills and sensitivity, as well as skills in operating production equipment. Shehad "always enjoyed fooling around with radio"; "I always had a camera. In the city, I'd spenddays walking around and shooting stuff. So working in photo labs was a way I could subsidisethat". She worked at grass roots organising with a women's coalition and during this time had:ended up working with cable television a lot because we wanted our stufffilmed. And of course we had no one to film it so we had to run theequipment ourselves, film it ourselves. I got involved in it and I liked it.. . . Working at community TV and Co-op Radio, I really enjoyed thatstuff.Her application to the program showed that before applying to the program, she had alsoacquired solid preparatory skills through part-time courses in photographic design, scriptwritingand computer usage. Of all the women, Janet had the broadest technical skill base for the actualproduction of media. This skill thread is prominent in her present work, although in her interviewshe seemed to be unaware of its significance.All of the women have drawn on skills acquired before the program, weaving them withthreads drawn from the program to create the fabric of their present lives. Those who work in themedia departments of institutions are able to use the broad range of their skills from the programand skill resources developed earlier in their lives. For the self-employed women, drawing upon51Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5skills from the past has been essential for survival in the media workplace but it has kept them,with the exception of Janet, in a predominantly female part of the field and reliant upon non-technical skills.Program SkillsThe Media Program entry in the Bridgnorth College calendar (1991 -1992) states thatstudents are required to complete 72 credit hours, six of which are designated as GeneralEducation. These six hours consist of the two Communications courses which fall under theauthority of the Communications Department. 55.5 credit hours are allocated to training in video,photography, film, sound, audio/visual, multi-image, and computers; 1.5 to script writing; and 3to a cluster of courses preparing graduates for the workplace. The latter are related to theCommunications course and include a month long practicum, fieldtrips to a variety of mediaworkplaces, role playing job interviews, resume writing, portfolio creation, and presentations byguest speakers from different parts of the industry. A 6 credit hour cluster of courses(Instructional Design, Research Methods, and Media Selection and Utilisation) in the firstsemester are loosely called the Instructional Design courses. They deal with theories of learning,audience analysis, research for and design of instructional materials, as well as the ways in whichthe media are used for educational purposes. These courses emphasise writing and reflection.They also stress different aspects of the media, such as its effects, place in society, andappropriate uses. To date this course cluster has been taught by a sucession of three instructorsall of whom considered themselves humanists. Two (I am one of these) had taken theirundergraduate degrees in English Literature, and the third in Psychology, to which he addedwide cultural experience. I refer to these courses as the General Education component of theprogram (See Chapter 3, 22.)This section addresses the way in which the mature women graduates use their programlearned skills. First, I will look at program learned skills which are used in institutionalworkplaces and in self-employment. I will then turn to the program's design to show how it52Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5facilitates career choice for the women. Finally, I shall look at the balance of the program'sdifferent course components in relation to the program skills which the mature women graduatesuse in their work.In the institutional environment, the mature women graduates make use of the broad rangeof skills learned in the program. They use technical, organisational, and conceptual skills.Stella's account of her work's many aspects (Chapter 4, 37) effectively describes this sort ofwork. Graduates from the Media Program have fitted well into the educational institutions ofBritish Columbia. They hold positions in school districts, colleges, universities, and hospitals.Three of the women hold full-time positions as institutional employees, while three others arepart-time or contract institutional employees. Six have worked in both the public and the privatesector. Some of the satisfactions and skills of the generalist are described by Jane, who hadrejected a move to an administrative role in the college because she preferred to continue usingher technical and creative skills as an AV technologist. She spoke with relish:We're supposed to be generalists. We're supposed to do equipmentmaintenance . . . production, which includes photography, graphics, video,you name it. Any kind of production, we're supposed to be able to do,including new technologies. Acting as producer, script writer, andinstruction [sic]. . . . we quite often go into the classroom and teachstudents [presentation skills].Her work clearly draws on her technical production skills and, for the writing, production andinstructional component, on her General Education skills.In institutional employment, the mature women graduates are well served by the generalistapproach of the Media Program. The generalist approach is not so useful for the women whenthey look for work in the private sector. At the present, this means freelancing or self-employment. Sylvia said that:Coming from the program you're a 'jack of all trades' and a master ofnone. I didn't feel I had a handle on anything. I knew how to do this but Ididn't feel strong. I knew how to direct but I didn't have confidence. . . Iwas a bit afraid. The competition is not only with youth 2 but with thecompetence level that I didn't have.53Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5Sylvia also said that she used photographic and graphic skills in her work as well as elementsfrom the General Education courses in production planning and writing. As she spoke, sheemphasised the technical skills but referred only in passing to the usefulness of more generalskills, although her work depends for its success upon her sophisticated organisational and verbalskills.Two other women referred to the value of the cluster of General Education courses. Dianasaid:I know that I've learned stuff there that I've used. How people learn, howchildren learn. And grownups learn in the same way. And you can use thatin any kind of setting. You can use that in a conference. How you deliver amessage. How to communicate.Naomi, speaking of the Instructional Design course, saidIt's that planning process and that way of educating people that I'vecarried to new height, or new areas . . . where I was involved with focustesting and mass marketing.I'm working on two proposals . . .[one] has to do with the development ofa Resource Centre. So I found myself . . . looking back to some of theMedia Selection stuff . . . I guess I see that as part of Instructional Design.I often think of myself as a generalist.These three women specifically made reference to the non-technical skills learned in theprogram. Five mentioned using photographic skills. Two others tried to work in video, but onlyLiz remains in this field. She works, not as a technician, but in the marketing and production sideof the business. Penny's words on the usefulness of the program's technical skills seems toreflect many of the self-employed women's thoughts:So the technical skills that I learned at Bridgnorth College are notnecessarily being utilised. They're really, really useful for theunderstanding that I have, they give me a basis for [production].She, like Diana, has been able to use program derived learning as a springboard.Of all the mature women graduates, Janet is the only one whose work is achieved throughtechnical skill. She designs and creates soundtracks for film and television. I had expected her to54Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5mention the audio course, but when I asked her about the way she used skills learned in theprogram she said:I think that's more general than specific. I think the stuff that helped mefrom the program was knowing the process from start to finish of aproject. And to work under those intense time limits and pressures. Forwhat I'm doing now actual skills, I had to learn everything when I got out.I knew how to turn the machines on and how to hold a microphone, whichI guess was helpful. But the whole technology was so different, I had tolearn everything.She told me that she valued the program because:The equipment was there, the resources were there, everything you neededwas there. And it was an opportunity to learn all this stuff. Do everythingyou wanted and get as much as possible out of it. . . . It was fun. The stuffwas fun to do. There was the opportunity to take things from beginning toend. So for me I really enjoyed it.She was able to combine the positive attitude toward technology which she brought with her tothe program with the technical opportunities and socialisation for the media environment offeredby the program.Janet's example illustrates the way the program's design influences the women's careerchoices. She was one of the nine women who entered the program feeling favourably disposed toits content but with little idea about how they would apply the program's learning in the jobmarket. They were seeking direction for a career change or entering the work place after a longbreak. Two of the women were nurses, looking for new careers, who wanted to "get intosomething more creative". Another woman, Morag, who had an undergraduate degree in EnglishLiterature, as well as experience in graphics and work with a tree-planters' co-operative,addressed this situation.The reason you go into that course is that you don't really know what youwant to do. If you want to be a video person, go do a video course. . . . Forme the reason that the course was so good was that it threw all these thingsat me. And I could go, "Whoops, don't do this, don't do that. This isinteresting", and come out with a vague idea.55Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5She went on to elaborate on the part the program played in helping her choose a direction for hercareer.When I was part way through the course, I realised I would prefer to dographics. Like, video is really interesting, I like video. But just getting thecrews together! We had that huge equipment then, and physically it tookthree or four people to get together, get a car, to go out to do things. . . . Itwas too much. It made me realise I didn't want to be in the moviebusiness. It was too much chaos, too many people to co-ordinate, althoughI sort of like it in some ways. But just as a daily thing to do? I guess I'dhad too much of it tree-planting.Morag's words illustrate how the whole program experience contributes to social knowledgeabout the media industry and its working conditions. The wide range of technologies covered bythe program's courses offers students a taste of the different media but no specialty. It gives thestudents the information for selecting a field for specialisation or for seeking a workplace wherethey may increase their skills.The curriculum in the Media Program is designed to include as many different media aspossible. With the increasing complexity of media technology and the integration of computertechnology into production, it has been necessary to give more time to technical training centeredon video, computers, and hybrid production. Over the years, the pressure from the technical sideof the program has competed with attention and time given to the General Education courses andthe program's generic training: there are always voices calling for more specialisation. Thewomen's comments about the utility of the General Education courses and the importance ofhaving some knowledge of many media stresses the value of these more academic, less technicalcourses to the program's students. Educational institutions continue to employ the maturewomen graduates (six are currently employed, three full-time, three part-time or contract):generalist training is necessary for these positions.56Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5Skills acquired after the programThe women find it important to continue adding to their inventory of skills after they leavethe program. In this section I first discuss skills for those in insitutional employment, and secondskills for those who are self-employed.Of the 12 mature women graduates, only one did not mention some conscious developmentof her skills after the program. Liz had resorted to her strong background in sales and marketingto make her production skills viable in the marketplace. By taking a partner, she emphasised themarketing aspect of her work and her role as the primary care-giver to her family over theacquisition of further specific skills. She augmented her skills by hiring a technically skillfulperson.The women who are in full-time institutional employment are fortunate because they are inan environment that respects learning and where union contracts guarantee professionaldevelopment for employees. Each of the three women employed in full-time institutionalemployment has developed her own particular set of skills in response to her institution's needsand her own interests. Jennifer has developed her skills as video-producer and teacher, Phyllishas developed her managerial skills, and Jane has continued to develop skills in a diversity oftechnologies.Jennifer, working in the health system, is funded to attend at least one conference a year.She usually goes to either the International Television Association or Pacific InstructionalMedia Association conference. She said: "With those I get writer's workshops which I love. Lastyear I went to a director's workshop which was fascinating, that was with ITVA". She describedthe way in which the workshop's presentors had used the example of the same script directed bythree different directors to illustrate differences in style and impact. "One was high drama, onethe way I would do it, and this other way". She learned skills from the conferences which appliedto making video productions, such as one on sexual health for the physically disabled which shewas producing with a team of specialists at that time. Learning from conferences keeps her in57Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5touch with changing technology and contributes to her skills as an institutional producer, writer,and director communicating through the television medium'.Phyllis, now the supervisor of a community college media production department, hasadapted to the changing conditions in her institution by acquiring more skills in computertechnology. Following her request, the college hired a specialist to teach the members of herdepartment how to use "Pagemaker". Subsequently the college paid for her to take short coursesin desktop publishing at a downtown university campus. She saw a connection between the skillslearned from these courses and her department's development and survival in a financiallyrestricted environment. She predicted less emphasis on media production work and more ongraphics and desktop publishing.We'll change our focus a bit . . . we're going to increase thecomputers.Have more computers set up for students. And hopefully wecan be more a support system for students who use computer graphics.For Phyllis, ongoing skill acquisition is essential to the survival of her job and department. Forexample, when I commented upon her managerial skills, she assured me that they had all been"learned on the job", although her nursing training had included a course on management.The community college where Jane works supports professional development for staff andfaculty. She is an employee and an ongoing learner working for a teaching institution. Learningis encouraged and funded. Beyond this, she treats her work as an endless source of learningopportunities which keep her informed about technological developments. She spoke aboutbecoming familiar with the technology needed to set up teleconferences:I'm spending a long time figuring out the satellite system. Physicallyfiguring out these objects in space, dotted around the middle of the earth.And finding out what's up there in terms of programming. Finding out allthe ins and outs.She uses her many skills to deal with the array of demands made by the college offerings in awide range of academic and career/vocational fields.The three women who are institutional employees are funded by their employers toincrease their skills. Self-employed women pay for and organise their own skill development.58Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5Janet, like Jane, is an enthusiastic learner and collector of skills. It is imperative for her to learnthe skills needed to use fast-changing editing technology if she is to maintain her position in thefilm industry. She described how she gets access to the most advanced systems.This month I'll be training on what they call the Post-Digital system,because I have to cut [edit] on it. So I can go into the studio and they'lltrain me, but also I've been bringing work into them for years. They'veused my name, it's kind of a trade off, so I get free access to theequipment and training on the equipment, and they get to use my name tobid on projects and stuff. It's a trade off.She went on to stress that this is technical training.They can't teach you the art of editing. . . . They have all these people upthere but they don't understand the art of editing - they just understand theart of punching buttons.She described how she learned about film-making by working as picture assistant for a very lowbudget film (it was completed because people believed in its message and were willing to workfor low wages or voluntarily).I had to break it down into some sort of system. . . . Kind of like alibrarian, organise it all and code it so that I could pull the stuff for theeditor as he needed it. . . . There was a whole room full of footage.Basically cans and cans and cans everywhere . . . had to be able to haveinstant access to whatever the editor needed. . . . It was a good way to getto know how films are put together. . . . I didn't really care a lot about themoney and I worked with a really brilliant editor.She described soundtracks where she needed to " make explosions and all kinds of things, fromspitballs to tincans exploding, and make effects for people disappearing". When I asked whereand when she had learned to do this, she replied, "As I went along . . . I get a mic and recorderand go out and learn it".Janet is utterly absorbed in film-making and, following patterns set in her early life, pushesto increase her range of skills all the time. She was fortunate in getting a practicum with aNational Film Board editor, which gave her opportunities for real-life learning and an entry tothe world of film.59Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5Three of the self-employed women have had difficulty getting work, and have continuedtrying to acquire skills which will give them access to paid work. Sylvia built herself a specialty.She completed a nine month program in advanced computer graphics, from a private institution,and then tied these skills to her program skills in her own business as a "communicationsconsultant". She realised also that she did not have the necessary business skills and so took anumber of business courses to remedy the deficit. After several years of hard work, she hasestablished herself in her freelance business. The focus of her work is the creation of promotionalmaterials.Sheila tried to survive in the freelance market. She understood that she needed a specialtyand wanted to become a video editor. In order to gain the skills she needed, she "hung out" atvarious video editing facilities, learning by watching and helping. She said that she knew shecould handle the systems being used and "you can pick up a tremendous amount by justwatching the editing process". She managed to get some work scripting for an educational videomade for in-house training in the pulp and paper industry. For this she utilised specialisedinformation derived from her pre-program experience working in the industry. Despite herefforts, she has not been able to harness her program skills with other learning to secure a placein the free-lance work world. At present, she is working as a part-time AV technologist at aLower Mainland college.Naomi lived precariously on short term contracts before winning a longer one from theVancouver Health department. During this time she continued taking media related courses,largely concerning the business side of production, as well as instructional design andpresentation courses. She also attended a number of conferences dealing with the focus of all herwork, women's health. She said that she developed more skills in "planning, proposal writingand facilitation", after she left the program and that she became very interested in the task ofusing "plain English, plain language, plain writing".Learning is part of the lives of all these women. They consciously seek useful learningand try to harness the acquisition of new skills and knowledge to their work. This appears to be60Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 5most effective when new learning can be tied back to pre-program skills and interests. Infollowing their lives and the lives of other program graduates, I see that there are many factorsbesides skill which affect getting paid work.The twelve women have all actively used their skill resources to meet the needs of theirwork. Those in institutional positions have been able to use the full range of their technical andgeneral skills. The women in the world of self-employment have had to develop specialties andacquire further skills in order to gain an entrance and maintain their place in the field. The skillsdiscussed here are visible. In the next chapter, I discuss the invisible skills that undergird thewomen's work.Endnotes' It is interesting to note that general secreterial skills have been essential for three of the women's work.All of the women use these skills.2 Sylvia's comment reflects an anxiety about aging which was evident in the words of three other women.'Jennifer's work connects with her strong interest in theatre when she was a girl. She dropped thisinterest when she entered nursing because it was a "real job".61Chapter 6: Invisible SkillsSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 6Invisible SkillsInvisible skills play an ambiguous part in the lives of the mature women graduates of theMedia Program. In the previous chapter I have shown skill as visible when it is attached to aproduct such as a soundtrack, a resource centre, a script, or a promotional package. When theresults of skill are a process, such as a smoothly running office or department, a series of lessons,or efficient, pleasant service, the skill is often not noticed; it is invisible. The skills of co-ordination, organisation, and service only become visible when they break down or are absent.At that point, those who are the usual beneficiaries rail against the providers of service: theyseldom find daily support remarkable. They do not credit those in support positions with thediplomatic, managerial, and organisational skills which their work requires.In this chapter, I first discuss invisible skills as they are manifest in the lives of the maturewomen graduates in institutional and self-employment and, second, the impact of invisible skillson their training. This discussion is enriched by the words of three mature women who wereentering the last semester of the program (See Chapter 2, 14). I conclude with a synthesis drawnfrom Chapters 5 and 6.Institutional employmentThe women who are at present institutionally employed work in audio visual or mediaproduction departments. These are service departments. The women's work is to providematerials and services which support the goals of the institution and those who work for it. Thewomen's role is not to be conspicuous, but to be useful. There is a parallel to the traditional roleof a mother whose achievements disappear in household activities and the lives of familymembers. It is not surprising that, of the mature women graduates, the three full-timeinstitutional employees are mothers, as are two of the three part-time employees.As the mother's work is subsumed in maintenance of the family so the achievement ofothers subsumes the work of the AV tech. Even the goals for her specific departmental tasks arenullified by other people's time lines. Morag's account of an evening's work, which was63Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6supposed to be spent on desktop publishing, vividly illustrates how this happens.You keep leaping up and down. Sometimes you could have ten people inthere . . . . The photocopier would jam and then, my favourite crisis, thiswoman got her final and only version of her essay stuck in the three hole-binder . . . it took about 20 minutes to free the jaws of the three hole-binder. All these things, then the Reprovit focus light went out. It turnedout it was a loose connection. So it was like all these little things, which isnice. It makes the time go quicker. That's what I like, it's all different. Butin terms of actually sitting down and completing long documents, it'sdifficult to do.The women in institutional employment may claim their invisible skills by articulatingthem. For example, when Stella became co-ordinator of a college media department, she foundthat her department was not respected by the institution. She told me how she used her woman'ssocial skills, invisible to others, to increase her department's standing in the college. Sheattended college social events in order to tell faculty how her department might be useful tothem. She said that until then faculty members did not see "technicians as very skilled peoplewho had much to offer them", andit needed someone who had other experiences, other skills, and maturity,extra years, to say "yes, we do have something to offer you. And this ishow we can do it".She did everything she could to "get some sort of liaison going". She went on to say that she washelped by the two women, "wonderful technicians and [with] very good professional skills", whoworked in her department.Phyllis, in a similar position at another college, talked about the way her department usedinformal skills to secure the department's place within the college during a time of fiscal restraintin the early 1980s.I guess we made a point of talking to instructors at the beginning of thesession. And we'd say what can we do for you? And what do you want?And we'd work it out, make plans and schedules. It was justcommunication. . . . We sent out letters saying we're here and we canprovide these sorts of services. If you want a tour, we'll give you a tour. Ifyou want a demonstration, we'll give you that. And they slowly startedintegrating that into their courses . . . had to use our services.64Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6Her skills remained invisible to her and unclaimed by her. She concealed them from herself byreferring to her contribution to her department's success as "our" and as "just communication".Her emphasis was on the group, not on her ability to lead it through a difficult period. Her wordsof appreciation toward her administrator also showed the importance she placed on co-operationand the group.These examples from institutional employment, together with Stella's description of herwork as an AV generalist (see Chapter 4, 37), demonstrate the benefits the women's caring andsocial skills bring to their departments and institutions. The women fall back upon the skillslearned as part of being women: facilitating the social process and supporting the work ofothers. In order to perform their work well, the women must handle social relationships adeptly.Statham, Miller, and Mauksch in their examination of women's work state that:Our findings point to many aspects of women's work lives previouslyunappreciated or underemphasised. One point is that work requires themanagement of relationships. This concern is not an "extra" that womenchoose to emphasize over task accomplishment. Rather, taskaccomplishment depends upon the management of relationships. The jobis a series of relationships to be managed rather than a list of tasks to beperformed (1988, 34).This view of women's work fits well with the work of the women who are institutionallyemployed.The women's service orientation makes work relationships more difficult for them if theyshare responsibilities with men. Male colleagues may expect excessive support from themsimply because they are women. The women's invisible skills of support and co-operation makethem vulnerable to such assumptions. Co-workers may expect women to be quasi housekeepersor indulgent mothers. An interaction between Jane and a male colleague provides an example.The effective running of the department depended upon storing equipment ready for the nextuser. A male technician made a habit of returning equipment and leaving it for the two womentechnicians to store correctly. He "liked to do this wonderfully creative thing, walk out, and then65Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6`mother' is meant to come along and magically pick up". In this instance Jane was able to defendherself from her co-worker's perception of her as mother and housekeeper. She said:"X I'd like to talk to you. . . I don't want you to do that". And before Icould get it out, he was walking out the door. He was just going toevaporate. I pulled him back by the collar and said "Don't you do that."Ever since then he's been scared of me. I've had a healthy respect.She had made a clear distinction between her role, given in her job description, asinstitutional "care-giver" and support person and any obligation to assume that role for a peer,rather than a client, who was avoiding his responsibility for maintaining equipment properly. Sheovertly claimed "tidying up" as a skill belonging to her, to be used by her for her work, but notsilently and invisibly available to all. Jane's public claiming of the skill, and choosing to limit itsavailability, made the skill visible and valuable.Self-employmentThe assumption that women will act in support of their colleagues, clients, or employersbecomes more problematic for the mature women graduates when they are self-employed. Inthese situations their invisible skills, which they are accustomed to use to advance the goals ofthose who work with them, may be used to their own detriment. The women are forced to re-assess what it is that they value about themselves and to learn new ways of behaving, becausethey find skills of co-operation for a group's advantage turned against them. For example, Sylviatalked about how she had had to change her understanding of the world around her in order tosurvive in the freelance world. She said that she had to be "driven to the edge" before shechanged her ways; the business world "is not conducive to kind nice people". She had beenhired by a small company and, because she was willing to please and anxious to gain experience,had been exploited by her employers.You know I was doing it all for nothing and I made up my mind I wasn'tdoing it for nothing any more. . . . I had to equate myself with the male. . . . realise I wasn't their [clients'] mother. And that I wasn't out therelooking after them to see if they were all right. They weren't my kids.66Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6Later, she started her own business but repeatedly had to remind herself that she must not "do itfor nothing any more." She said, with regret in her voice, that she had become hard.Diana spoke vehemently about instances where certain men banked on women giving in.She noted that women's wish to be co-operative made them vulnerable.We do give in. And they trade on it. Sometimes we don't have thestomach for confrontation. . . . Men are very confrontational and try to winsomething And women are more conciliatory and will give in. "Ohall right, I know you went over budget in this area. I'll help you out." Weshouldn't have to but we do. . . . And at that point you have to play hardball. You have to threaten. You really do. And it's horrible. In order to getwhat you've earned. Often I've had to stand really firm and say "I've donethe work. Pay me. I'm not going to negotiate".She said it had been a hard lesson to learn but, like Sylvia, she could not afford to work underthese circumstances. She had to say"You can't afford me. Go somewhere else." It was a hard line to take. . .that's the main lesson I've learned, and I don't like it. That's that "hardball has to be played".The regret which I heard in her voice and Sylvia's indicate some of the pain that the maturewomen feel in discarding, or at least concealing, their caring skills and their desire to work co-operatively. The skills that are encouraged and valued by society in the domestic sphere and areused constantly in institutional employment make the women vulnerable when they move intothe world of self-employment. In these situations the woman's social and caring skills are givena false value: they are un-named but assumed to be available for exploitation, because thewomen are "nice". For the women this womanliness or "niceness" comes with a high cost: lowself-esteem and literally less money. As Sylvia said "I had to learn, I must be paid'. It is onlywhen the women themselves are able to see and value their skills that they become able todefend themselves against exploitation by clients and employers. The examples from thewomen's lives demonstrate the soundness of Gaskell's assertion that the skills of women are"skills that often do not count, that tend to be taken for granted as personality characteristics ofwomen, rather than given their due as learned competencies "(1991, 382).67Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6The invisible skills of caring, co-operation, and organisation also impinge upon thewomen's self-confidence and their ability to set a price on their work and time. This group ofskills may be an impediment particularly to women who have worked in the home or in co-operative situations through the early part of their lives. In contrast, Liz, who had been asalesperson from her early twenties when she was a single parent with two little children, did notexperience this difficulty when she graduated from the program.I think a lot of Canadians feel that being sort of aggressive and askingthings on the telephone and approaching people in a way is a bitdegrading. Or demeaning. There's a sort of hidden attitude. When I firststarted doing that sort of thing I felt the same way. . . . It's sort ofundefinable, but it's there, it's sort of silly when you think about it. . . . Ithink it's business. And for me it's just a question of adding up the costsand then saying "How much am I worth?"Four of the six self-employed graduates did not see the problem so clearly. For them, thequestion of payment carried the burden of attaching specific worth to what they produced, totheir own time, and to their expertise.Talking with Morag revealed the women's ambivalence about the value of their work.I'm supposed to be making all this money an hour, but if you really addedit up, I wouldn't be. Because when it's mine and only mine, I want tomake it perfect. So I'll say "Oh well, I'll just pretend this isn't really time,this isn't really time I'm putting in here, I'll just do it any way" . . .I gotinto trouble from my accountant last year. . . . "People will never take youseriously if you don't charge them. They just don't respect you if youdon't charge". Since then I have charged people more. But I guess when Igot started, because I was just beginning, I felt like people were doing mea favour to give me any work at all. Plus they were friends and they didn'thave much money, so I'd do things really cheaply.When I asked her if she was now charging for her time at the current rate she replied:You can always fool yourself by saying, "Oh I know I can do that infifteen minutes, or I should be able to do it in fifteen minutes. So it's myfault if it takes an hour". . . .Now because I've got the format down itactually works out pretty well. They still get a good deal because I docustom illustrations for all of them which they really should be payingrather a lot for, but I like doing it.68Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6Morag's words reveal her care for clients' needs. However, her desire to do fine work combineswith a lack of confidence and hinders her from taking herself, her time, and her work seriously.Years of working co-operatively in situations where group or family interests are paramountdeprive the women of the confidence and business skills that they need to survive as self-employed workers.Four of the self-employed women emphasised the importance of social skills. Their storiesshowed the ways they recognised the value of these skills. One of them described the effort sheput into building a business network in her determination to find work. She initiated a businesswomen's breakfast group, which provided her with support and access to work. Another womanmaintained a network of graduates who could sustain each other and share information aboutpossible sources of work. When the group was badly discouraged, she organised shared socialevents to demonstrate their caring for each other.Ten of the twelve women talked about or demonstrated in their lives the value which theyattach to serving society. All the women who are institutionally employed find satisfaction in thisaspect of their work, although one of them, an ex-nurse, remarked, "I'm not serving society inthe way I would if I was nursing. That's the important part of nursing, you really feel that you'redoing something good". Four of the women who are self-employed showed the same inclinationtoward socially useful activity in their choice of work, volunteer work, or accepting low paymentfor work they considered socially valuable. For example, Diana described the satisfaction she gotfrom scripting a series of training productions for a non-profit organisation.It was a really big, huge, long, time-intensive production, and I think Iprobably worked for about three bucks an hour. . . . I knew what I wasdoing, I wanted to do it and I enjoyed doing it. . . . [It] was a satisfyingproject I felt really committed.My interviews with the women of the Media Program showed that their invisible skills,hidden in organisation, co-operation and caring for institutional or group goals, are ofquestionable value to them. The women value highly the opportunity to use their skills insocially responsible work, but these same skills, which set project and group ahead of their own69Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6interests, make them vulnerable to exploitation. Only when the women gain confidence,recognise, articulate, and value their own skills are they able to work more effectively, and toreceive appropriate renumeration, in the world of self-employment.Within the programI have not been associated with the program for the last three yeas, but my previousexperience led me to question the effects of the program's design. Within the program itself, theinvisible skills of caring, co-operation, and organisation deprive the women of the self assertionneeded to learn technical skills. The design of the program, which is built around groupproduction and group marking, pits the women's need to take time to acquire skills forthemselves against the group's need to complete projects. This struggle occurs despite a formalprogram policy which is supportive of women entering the media workplace. From its beginning,the program policy has been that women and men should be treated equally. Women have beenencouraged to apply, and the program aims to enroll equal numbers of women and men.However, my observations indicate that these policies are not enough to give many women thenecessary skills or confidence to compete in the workplace. Because men come into the programwith informally acquired mechanical and technical experience, they have an immediateadvantage in a program where prestige is attached to work with technology. The starting line istheoretically neutral, but the female starters are several paces behind while the males are aheadof it. In her paper "Dilemmas of Policewomen", Martin comments on a department policy which,like that of the Media Program, is "formally 'sex-blind':What is sex neutral on its face has put the burden of change on the women.By treating them the same as the male recruits, departments have failed torecognise and confront sex-differentiated patterns, the few irreducible(biological) differences between the sexes, and the women's handicapsstemming from men's attitudes and departmental policies (1988, 210).A pilot study for this research, conducted in 1990 with three of the program's maturewomen who were about to graduate from the program, confirmed this perception. Mary, one ofthe women, drawing on her observations of student production groups, commented, "the men are70Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6more comfortable. They don't feel if they touch the buttons things will fall apart". Simulatingindustry conditions, program production time-lines are tight. Mary remarked upon the effects ofthis for the women's training.When you're under pressure and you're under all these constraints, andI'm guessing, but the men [say] "Oh god, I don't want to deal with her,and it's easier if I do it, and I don't have the time to teach her, or explain,or wait". . . . The women, they, mm, they learn less. They don't learn tobe comfortable around the equipment.Mary continued to describe the effects of time pressure on women students.And I know two of the women have worked with men and they haven'thad their hands on the equipment and it really shows. They didn't seem tobe aware of the basic procedures. . . . It was like, that's the price that getspaid. It's more expedient, it's under pressure, the guys are morecomfortable, they take over and the women do other things.Here she made it plain that the women's learning suffers as a consequence of the style ofinstruction and of the department's "level playing field" policy.It might be said that it is the women's responsibility to be more assertive about insistingupon access to time with equipment. However, such assertiveness might often jeopardise thegroup's production deadlines and thus run counter to many women's desire to facilitate the groupprocess. Mary noted a "real shyness in women", and said that they also come into the programwith a language deficit:Men kind of "schmooze" about equipment better than women. I'll talkabout my feelings and ideas . . . but I've never sat there saying " Oh haveyou got your KY 2000, does it have auto iris?" My mind goes blank. Soyou're going into this situation and the guys have all this confidence.She related her observations to the program's culture and policy. . . it seems to me that they don't acknowledge that there's a real deficitbetween men and women's general comfort, general knowledge aboutequipment. . . . And so if I'm being critical, there's not anacknowledgment of something that's really there: that women are not ascomfortable and they're not as generally informed. . . . I don't think menare consciously aware of the fact. I don't see anything wrong withdrawing people's attention to it. . . . Men take over, because it's the mostexpedient thing and it's when you are under pressure.71Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6In a later interview, Mary made the following sad comment: "I worked with women whohad been working with men. It was amazing, their lack of knowledge. I learned not to trustwomen." The situation which she described so poignantly contributes to women's lack ofconfidence when they leave the program. Lack of confidence was likewise a theme in six of theother women's interviews.Mary's focus was on the acquisition of technical skills, and it is technical skills that aremost honoured in the program. She said that the men "take over and the women do other things".These are things such as organising the production, facilitating production meetings, andensuring transportation. In other words, they will use their invisible skills to create a solidfoundation for the technical side of the production. In contrast to the technical skills, and alsoequally essential, are invisible skills, which are seldom acknowledged or rewarded withrecognition by those in authority or by student colleagues.Mary and her two peers understood the threat to their training. Determined to ensure theirlearning, they worked together, taking turns with all of the production roles and so learning touse all the necessary technology.We have this real democratic way, you check, I check, we all check. It waskind of a slower process . . . but we're all students and we're learning.And that's the point, we should all have a swing at the cat and anopportunity.SynthesisChapters Five and Six show how the women weave together skills acquired from all stagesin their lives. The emphasis is different depending upon where they work. The women who areinstitutionally employed use the full range of the technical skills learned from the program.General educational skills such as writing, reading, and planning are important to them for theirservice to their institutions. The whole fabric of their work is woven into a strong ground ofinvisible skills, which provide the ability to handle the institutions' demands for social,organisational and co-operative work. The foundation of invisible skills goes un-noticed exceptas a personal characteristic of its practitioners.72Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 6Self-employed women use the program's training as a "springboard" for moving into thework force. To do this, they link previously learned skills from life experience and education,program skills, and supplementary skills acquired after the program. Again and again, thewomen's stories show that, although their work is associated with some form of communicationsmedia, it is grounded in a fabric of invisible skills dealing with relationships, co-operation andorganisation. Only one woman has technology as her primary focus. She sees technical skill, notas an end in itself, but as a tool for asthetic achievement. She also values her organisational skillshighly.Exploring the women's inventory of skills and the ways in which they value them showsthat their invisible skills are a necessary and strong web on which they weave other skills toconstruct the fabric of their working lives. When the women are able to recognise and articulatethe value of invisible skills, they gain power over the skills and their use. At that point they areable to say, "these are mine and I can choose when and how to make them available."The program mirrors the values evident in the larger society. It makes use of the women'sinvisible skills. It does not offer credits for "niceness", nor does it formally articulate orrecognise the individual student's social, organisational or co-operative contribution, beyondsaying that team work is important. To acquire the technical skills they are paying for, thewomen have to devise strategies as armour for protecting their invisible skills from exploitationby other students and by the pressure of program deadlines. If the mature women were enabledto display their inventory of skills in an unbiased market, their invisible skills would be trulyrevealed as the framework and foundation for the more visible skills of others.Endnotes' The women also find pleasure in being helpful and supportive to others so that the determination to bepaid for helpfulness may cost them a sense of themselves.73Chapter 7: ConclusionsSpringboard and Bridge: Chapter 7In the preceding chapters, I have discussed ways in which 12 women have woven programacquired skills into the web of their previous experience and education in order to find a place inthe work world. The women's words about their working lives revealed the importance to themof the foundation of invisible skills in which they grounded other more specific and technicalskills. The Media Program played a dramatic part in their life journey. On a personal level, it wasthe bridge to work in a field that was new to the women, a source of knowledge that was fresh tothem, and an institution that tacitly valued certain skills over others. On a societal level, theMedia Program deliberately mirrored the norms and values of the private sector environment as amodel of the graduates' future workplace. Packed into the small theatre of a two year career/vocational program were the conditions and attitudes prevalent in the outside world. Theprogram's staff, themselves beneficiaries of institutional employment, had translated industry'sscript and the way it values women's skills into the program's design and culture.In this concluding chapter, I first draw together my understandings of skills as illustrated inthe lives of the participating women. The research questions are answered within the followingsummary. I include the themes of institutional and self-employment, and of visible and invisibleskills. Second, I revisit the study's original question in a discussion of the program's role in thewomen's working lives. In this section I also discuss general education as an important part of acareer program. Third, I look at some policy issues: first, job placement as a reponse to theexternal environment; and second, the pressure for more specific skill training which may comefrom implementation of the British Columbia Human Resources Development Project. Fourth, Idraw conclusions about the program and the value it places on women's invisible skills. Fifth, Inote the value of continuing in-depth research about the work of program graduates for theircareer /vocational programs.Skills in the lives of the study's participantsAnalysis of the women's interviews showed that the women weave program skills into anintegrated, growing web of visible and invisible skills constructed by them from a life time of75Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7education and experience. The 12 women participating in the study used skills acquired in theprogram when they entered the workplace. Those who were institutionally employed used thefull range of skills learned from the generalist program. Other women, the self-employed, usedphotographic, video, and graphic skills in trying to win contracts for work. As Diana said, theprogram experience "was more of a springboard than a set of skills", which the women hopedwould take them into a new field of work.Although the women used specific program skills, they would not have been able to find acontext for the use of their skills, nor maintained a place in the work world, if they had not calledupon their own previous experience and education. Their rich inventories of skill accrued beforeparticipating in the program enabled them to build networks, relate to a wide range of clients,and adapt themselves to changing conditions. Sheila commented upon the changing technologyand noted that:. . . ideas and intellectual skills, I don't think they're going to be asaffected by a shifting job market. . . . You can't sell just your skills. Youhave to be able to sell your ideas.It is important that more than half of the women stressed the importance of writing skills.Only two are primarily writers, but the others constantly communicate through writing; forexample in scripts, proposals and publicity materials. Even the woman whose technicalachievements are most noteworthy considered changing the focus of her work fromcommunication through sound, and the skills associated with its recording and creation, tocommunication through writing. In the past, however, development of writing skills has beenhidden in the program's other teachings and has received scant recognition. Courses wherewritten work and assignments were most important have been cut back. Recognition of thisdeficit in the program's offerings can be seen in the 1991-92 calendar, where a 1.5 credit course(a full course is worth 3 credits) in documentary script writing has been brought in as a programrequirement. However, the written word is not treated with the same respect or valued as highlyas other media addressed by the program. Like women's invisible skills, writing skills are buriedwithin other more noticeable accomplishments.76Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7Looking at the specific skills used by the women obscures the fact that, in order tomaintain themselves in the workplace, they call upon many invisible skills which are oftendeemed to be part of their "womanliness" and which are woven into their work, providing aframework for the practice of the visible skills. The importance of invisible skills was apparent inthe women's discussions of their work in institutions where work involves a high level ofcollaboration. Empathetic understanding is also essential in order for them to act effectively asproducers for a diversity of institutional clients. In this role they not only act for the contentspecialists but also have to ensure that the delivery of the content is suited to the audience, whomthe specialists may not understand at all.In the private sector, the women also must rely on their invisible skills. As in institutionalwork, they call upon personal social skills to mediate between differing points of view. Thefollowing anecdote from Morag, in her role as production assistant to a photographer, illustratessuch a situation; here both knowledge from the program and past experience are brought intoplay through the use of her invisible and essential skills.[I] was refereeing between the photographer and the guys who worked inthe mill Because they were, like from separate worlds. . . . I'd metloggers. I'd stayed in logging camps. So I knew them a bit and I could alsosee the photographer's point of view. He just wanted to get the best shots,and he'd boss them around a bit. They thought he was a pansy fromVancouver and he thought they were brainless red-necks. So I think ifhe'd been left on his own with them he might have ended up in vat ofbubbling pulp at some point. So a big part of my job ended up beingsoothing, negotiating shots with the workers.Morag's words are an example of a situation where "task accomplishment depends upon themanagement of relationships. The job is a series of relationships to be managed rather than a listof tasks to be performed" (Statham, Miller, and Mauksch 1988, 34).Program skills as well as previous skills and experience are not enough for most of thewomen to maintain their place in the work world. Those who are currently working havecontinued to augment their skills. The women who are institutionally employed have workrelated education and conferences funded by the institutions. The self-employed have to pay for77Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7their own education. Nonetheless they continue to take courses in many work related fields. Theymentioned particularly fields such as writing, computer technology, and business. In addition,most of the women continue to explore the world through formal and informal learning in manyfields such as ecology, languages, and communications.Institutional employment and self-employmentNot only do institutional work and self-employment call for a different balance of skillsfrom those who work in them, they also provide markedly different conditions of work. Morethan half of the women are mothers. When I considered the locus of their work in relation tomothering, it became clear that commitment to work in the media industry is a source ofdifficulty. The volume of work and the time-lines are unpredictable. Days are long, and exceptfor the technical stars, pay is not high. Only in the support, clerical side of the field may there besteady, regular work which might fit in with the patterns of mothering. Casual conversations withmen, graduates of the program and successful in their parts of the media industry, tell me thatthey have stay-at-home wives who are responsible for their families, thus buffering them fromthe stress experienced by working mothers.Institutional work is not as exciting as production work in the industry and does notaccommodate stars. On the visible level it allows the women to make use of their many non-specialised technical skills. Hidden in the fabric of insitutional life, they make use of theirinvisible skills. Seven of the study's participants are, or have been, institutional employees.Despite the inconspicuous nature of the work, it suits their background in education, technology,communication and personal communications, and it meshes well with their family lives.Institutional work also provides an environment which, compared to the industry, is friendly towomen. Union contracts protect institutionally employed women from erratic scheduling andexcessive fatigue.78Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7The ProgramThe experience of mature women students in the program foreshadows that of the world ofwork. Although the program has had a number of successful mature women students, themajority of students are younger people. Some of them have just left school but most are in theirearly twenties. There are few older male applicants. The mature women are conscious of theirage. They are particularly aware of difficulty dealing with fatigue when trying to meet theprogram's tight production time lines. The women also deal with demanding life circumstancesand responsibilities outside the program, in contrast to many younger students who are still beingsupported by their natal families Their age gives them a sense of being anomalous, a feeling thatgoes with the women into the work place. It troubles them particularly in entry level jobs whichrequire physically tiring, and often menial, work and where lack of sleep becomes a factor. Theysense that they are being 'tested'.The program does not draw attention to the invisible skills that the mature women bring toproduction situations: their collaborative, communicative, and organisational skills whichundergird the final visible product. The latter embodies and makes visible the results of technicalexpertise, and this, rather than organisational skills, attracts the program's accolades.Individuals' contributions to productions are also hidden by the practice of group grading.Only in the early parts of the program are assignments graded individually. These are largely inthe general education area, audio, and photography: all are considered foundation courses onwhich the 'big' courses of film, slide/sound, and television production are based. One womanpointed out that these prominent 'sexy' courses are all taught by men.The women's accounts of their work drew attention to the importance of general educationin the workplace, but the time allocated to this in career programs is constantly threatened byspecialised skill courses. The value of general education for college students is supported byDennison and Gallagher because:they [students] form a substantial segment of the body politic who willcarry responsibility for the condition of society in many aspects. . . . It isthey who, in large part, will directly deal with problems of unemployment,79Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7the technological society, the limitations of the political process, and thevalue conflicts which threaten to erode the foundations of Canada's socialinstitutions (1986, 242).They cited Sorensen's 1984 study, which pointed out that although community collegeinstructors lauded general education, they did little to implement it.When asked to indicate why general education did not receive the supportand encouragement which most respondents felt was desirable,respondents cited three major reasons: budget constraint, the high demandfor skill training, and a reduction in the hours available for each subject(Dennison and Gallagher 1988, 247).All three reasons have affected the Media Program, where specialist skill training takesprecedence over liberal education. Although technical skills respond most obviously andimmediately to the needs of the market place, it is vital that graduates should be equipped with abase of general education and career skills to which they can attach further technical skills inresponse to changes in the work environment.The glamour and attention attached by the program to work in the media industry detractsfrom the respect which should be paid to media expertise used to facilitate and support the workof others, as in institutional work. Mature women graduates work successfully in the province'sinstitutions; here their performance is as worthy of recognition and respect as is that of an audiovisual programmer or other specialist in the media industry. The program itself should model aneven-handed respect for its graduates and their work. As Gaskell states:Equal value cannot be just about equal pay. It is about broader issues ofrespect and influence. . . . It is about being more inclusive in the definitionof value, respecting the work of more people and consulting with themmore fully as decisions are made (1989, 79).The program's tacit assumption of the availability of women's invisible skills publiclyconfirms the skills' lack of value. The program's practices and culture do not validate or honourinvisible skills but rather stress the women's deficency in technical skills. The assumption thatall students start the program from the same base line of technical skill disadvantages the womenand depletes their self-esteem. Again, this is a pattern repeated in the work world where most of80Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7the women move toward work that co-ordinates or supports the technical work of others. Andyet, despite devaluation and lack of recognition, the women's invisible skills are essential tothem in the workplace and to their workplaces.In the areas of skill recognition, skill deficits, and gender and age differences, the programturns a blind eye to entrenched practices which impinge upon the women's learning. Gaskell, inher discussion of post-secondary education for women, asks "Do the courses ( in traditional aswell as non-traditional fields) and the way they are organised reflect women's experience andways of knowing?" (1989, 87). The answer here is "No".Policy questionsThe thrust from government for program accountability as expressed in the numbers ofemployed graduates pressures the program to interpret the figures in a generous light. Theprogram's stellar graduates are cited in appropriate places but, on the whole, it is not to theprogram's advantage to inquire too closely into the kinds of work that graduates find. Applicantsat the department information meetings are told that approximately 80% of graduates findemployment in the field within a year of graduation. A similar method of interpreting trainees'employment was noted by Tom in her study of trainees at a bank, in which she found that:. . .the training program consistently claims a "one hundred percentplacement rate". While such a claim might imply that all the program'strainees are employed at hours and jobs they find satisfactory, in reality itonly indicates that all of the program's trainees have found some worksome of the time . . . trainees are counted as "placed" withoutdistinguishing between the number of hours they work, the wages theyearn, or the jobs they hold (Tom 1987, 384 - 5).Experience taught me that a contributing factor to the lack of research about graduate placementwas sheer lack of time. The time for in-depth tracking of graduates to obtain details about theirwork and the changing workplace was not available. More immediate program concerns camefirst.In part, it [lack of research] has been a factor of the rate at which thecolleges developed, which has left precious little time for the moreanalytical and reflective activities associated with research. . . .81Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7Allowances have rarely been made for release time to conduct seriousresearch; so whatever research has been done has been largely a personalrather than institutional pursuit (Dennison and Gallagher 1986, 263).Scrupulous attention to graduate's employment might also raise difficult questions such as: Howwell does the program serve particular groups of students? And what is the role of a careerprogram?All post-secondary training for British Columbians is currently (1993) being examined bythe British Columbia Human Resource Development Project. Its findings are likely to have animpact on career/vocational programs such as the Media Program. The October 1992 report callsfor some initiatives which would be helpful to mature women. The following statementsacknowledge a variety of factors affecting them.We must also anticipate and plan for the entry or re-entry of older peoplein our work force - and their education and training needs are differentfrom those of younger people (9).Demand for full-time study remains strong but part-time learning has alsobecome a personal, social, and economic necessity (11).We need to ensure appropriate balance in all adult learning programs (37).We need greater capacity to assess prior learning, accessible to all learnersas well as all institutions in the province. Transferable credentials orformal recognition should be provided for work place training, informaland non formal learning, and learning acquired outside the public systemand outside our province (40) (emphasis added).The Steering Committee's economic agenda is evident in its repeated use of skills traininglanguage (competencies, goals, and outcomes are referred to frequently) but the intent torecognise the value of students' prior accomplishments and to encourage accommodation tolearners' differences would be helpful to mature women. However, the major thrust of the paperis to support the provincial economy through the employment of its citizens. The fields for thecitizens' employment remain vague.The report states that "enhanced employment and self-employment opportunities mustresult from training" (18), but in this document, as well as in their preceding papers, the Steering82Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7Committee implies that major responsibility for this education and training will lie with businessand labour in co-operation with educational institutions (48-49). Putting the onus for ongoingtraining upon these bodies ignores the interests of many individuals who are forced bymarketplace conditions to become self-employed. None of the participants of this study, unlessinstitutionally employed, would have had the benefit of business or labour support for furthertraining. For the most part, the reality of women's work is in the world of part-time, self-employed, non-union employment, as it is also for many other career program graduates. Thissituation is not addressed by the Human Resources Development Steering Committee's reportwhich is designing policy to direct the province's post-secondary education.ConclusionsThe original research question concerned the role of the program as a bridge and a catalystin the women's lives. The process of interviewing the twelve mature women graduates from theMedia Program and hearing their reflections about their skills and work led me to conclude thattheir survival in the workplace is strongly grounded in a continuum of their invisible skills andpre-program education and experience. With this long ribbon of skills, the women weaveprogram skills which give them technical ability, vocabulary, and attitudes enabling them tomove into a new workplace. The program is indeed a bridge and a springboard, but, in striving toemulate the workplace at the far end of the bridge, it also incorporates factors which inhibit thewomen's learning and diminish their self-esteem. The focus on technical skill withoutcompensatory recognition of the women's invisible skills foreshadows the workplace, but it isonly when they are able to articulate and thus claim their invisible skills that the women are ableto exercise them fully. These skills should be made visible and recognised within the program forthe strength, adaptability, and humanity that they enable the women to take into the world ofwork.83Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7At present, individual women may devise their own strategies for ensuring that theyacquire the learning that they pay for. On the one hand, courses such as assertiveness trainingmight help the women to hold their own in the workplace. Providing such courses would placethe onus on the individual women. On the other hand, all students would benefit fromincorporating, within the program's curriculum, critical discussion of women's place in theworld. Graduates would then carry from the program an understanding of women and their skillsinto the workplace. The program should also take a leadership role as it did in its early years byrecognizing women as deserving of the same access to the workplace as men. Now it shouldshow leadership by promoting "A pedagogy that gives voice to women's concerns and validatesthem" (Gaskell 1992, 140).This study focusses on one particular program and 12 of its mature women graduates, but italso raises questions about the role of our post-secondary educational institutions and the valuethat they place on "women's experience and ways of knowing" (Gaskell 1989, 87). Should theseeducational institutions be a mirror to society, or should they act as exemplars, both to societyand their component programs, by recognising and valuing women's invisible skills in theirpractices?Implications for further researchReflection upon my interviews with these 12 women, all of whom have attempted tocontinue working within the media field, convinced me of the importance of doing a similarstudy with a group of women who have left the field. With replies to my original questionnaire, Ireceived two poignant letters. One was from a graduate who had dropped out of the field in orderto look after her pre-school children. She is now unable to find any point of entry to the field.Another woman wrote describing her despair at being unable to find even a first job in the field.There were other more guarded comments, and there were the women who did not reply at all.These women are a valuable source of information which would construct a more completemodel of how career/vocational programs intersect with the lives of their students. It seems to me84Springboard and Bridge: Chapter 7valuable that the circumstances of the women's work or unemployment be known to theprogram.My research showed that there is little available information about work in the field ofmedia other than about the very specific occupations such as camera operator or editor. More in-depth description about the wide variety of postions, the training of those who hold them, and theworking conditions that prevail would be valuable both to women and men hoping to enter thefield and to their teachers. It would be particularly interesting to examine the roles whereinvisible skills play a major part.85ReferencesSpringboard and Bridge: ReferencesAcademic Board for Higher Education in British Columbia. 1965. The Role of District andRegional Colleges in the British Columbia System of Higher Education. Vancouver:University of British Columbia.Academic Board for Higher Education in British Columbia. 1966. College Standards.Vancouver: University of British Columbia.Acker, Sandra. 1992. Critical Introduction: Travel and Travail. In Gender Matters from School toWork, by Jane Gaskell, 1-15. Toronto: OISE.Attewell, Paul. 1990. What is skill? In Work and Occupations. 17, 4 (November) : 422-448.Beinder, Frank. 1983. The Community College In B. C. : The Emphasis is on Community.Vancouver: Vancouver Community College.Bridgnorth College. 1969-1992. College Calendars. Available from the Office of the Registrar,Bridgenorth College (psuedonym).Braverman, Harry. 1974. Labour and Monopoly Capital. New York: Monthly Review Press.British Columbia Human Resource Development Project. 1992. Report of the SteeringCommittee. n.p.Canadian Department of Manpower and Immigration. 1988. Canadian Classification andDictionary of Occupations. Ottawa: Department of Manpower and Immigration.Centre for Curriculum and Professional Development. 1993. Competency Based Vocational Education in British Columbia. Victoria B.C.Darkenwald, Gordon, G., and Sharan Merriam. 1982. Adult Education: Foundations andPractice. New York: Harper and Row.Dennison, John, and Paul Gallagher. 1986. Canada's Community Colleges. Vancouver.University of British Columbia.Dutton, Maurice, G. 1993. "The changing role of vocational education." Paper presented to theSummit on Vocational Education. February, 1993. Nanaimo B.C.Edwards, Ian. 1992. Is Vancouver big enough to keep its best actors? The Vancouver Step.July:28-31.Financial Post. 1992. Canadian Markets, 1992. Toronto: McLean Hunter.Gaskell, Jane. 1992. Gender Matters from School to Work. Toronto: OISE.Gaskell, Jane. 1991. The 'Art' of Managing Horses or the 'Skill' of Driving: Contesting theMeaning of Skill in Clerical Training. In Women and Education, eds. Jane Gaskell andArlene McLaren. 2d ed., 371-387. Calgary: Detselig.87Springboard and Bridge: ReferencesGaskell, Jane. 1987. Course Enrollment in High School: The Perspective of Working-ClassFemales. In Women in Education: a Canadian Perspective, eds Jane Gaskell and ArleneMclaren, 151-170. Calgary: Detselig.Gaskell, Jane, and Arlene McLaren, eds. 1987. Women in Education: a Canadian Perspective.Calgary: Detselig.Gaskell, Jane, Arlene McLaren, and Myra Novogrodsky. 1989. Claiming an Education: Feminism and Canadian Schools. Toronto: Our Schools/ Our Selves.Harding, Sandra. 1987. Introduction: Is there a feminist method? In Feminism and Methodology,ed. Sandra Harding, 1-14. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Houghton Mifflin Canadian Dictionary, 1982 ed., s.v. "skill."Jackson, Nancy. 1991. Skill Training in Transition. In Women and Education, eds. Jane Gaskelland Arlene McLaren. 2d ed., 351-370. Calgary: Detselig.MacDonald, John B. 1962. Higher Education in B.C. Vancouver: University of BritishColumbia.Martin, Susan E., 1988 Think Like a Man, Work Like a Dog, and Act Like a Lady:Occupational Dilemmas of Policewomen. In The Worth of Women's Work, eds. AnnaStatham, Eleanor M. Miller and Hans 0. Mauksch, 205-223. Albany: State University ofNew York.Miller, Eleanor M., Hans 0. Mauksch and Statham, Anne., eds. 1988. The Qualitative Approachto the Study of Women's Work: Different Method/ Different Knowledge. In The Worthof Women's Work, eds. Anna Statham, Eleanor M. Miller and Hans 0. Mauksch, 309-315. Albany: State University of New York.Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations. 1990. British Columbia Business and StatisticalReview. Victoria.B.C: n.p.The Oxford Universal Dictionary. 1955 ed., s.v. "skill."Penguin Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 1982 ed., s.v. "skill "Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 1953 ed., s.v. "skill."Soles, Andrew, E. 1970. The role of the two year college in creating a new design for post-secondary education in British Columbia. In the Journal of Education. 16 (April) : 22-31.Statistics Canada. 1990. Canada Year Book. Ottawa: Dominion Bureau of Statistics.Statistics Canada. 1992. Canada Year Book. Ottawa: Dominion Bureau of Statistics.Statham, Anne., Eleanor M. Miller, and Hans 0. Mauksch, eds., 1988. The Worth of Women's Work. Albany: State University of New York Press.88Springboard and Bridge: ReferencesSteinberg, Ronnie J. 1990. Social construction of skill: Gender, power, and comparable worth. InWork and Occupations. 17, 4 (November) : 449-482.Tom, Allison R. 1987. High Hopes and Small Chances: Explaining Conflict in a Women's JobTraining Program. In Women in Education: a Canadian Perspective, eds. Jane Gaskelland Arlene Mclaren, 371-388. Calgary: Detselig.Torbe, Mike. 1988. Doing Things with Language: Functionalism and Social Context. In TheWord for Teaching is Learning: Language and Learning Today, Essays for James Britton,eds.M. Lightfoot and N. Martin, 183-194. Portsmouth N.H: Boynton BooksVallas, Steven, P. 1990. The concept of skill: a critical review. In Work and Occupations.17, 4(November) : 379-398.Wolcott, Harry F. 1991. On Seeking - and Rejecting - Validity in Qualitative Research. InQualititative Inquiry in Education, eds. Elliot Eisner and Alan Poshkin, 121-152. NewYork: Teachers College Press.89AppendicesSpringboard and Bridge: Appendix 1Appendix 1Skills in the Workplace: A Study of Media GraduatesQuestionnaireResearcher: Anne Morley - Telephone 926-2774Skills in the Workplace is a study to provide valuable information for the Media Department, aswell as its students and graduates, and for my research, regarding the many different kinds ofwork and the skills used in the workplace by the program's graduates. The information regardingyour work, which only you can contribute, would be of great value to me in completing this task.It will take you about 15 minutes.I enclose a stamped, addressed envelope for your reply. Completing and returning the question-naire will indicate your consent. If, later, you should want to withdraw your information, pleasedo call me at 926-2774 or my research supervisor, Dr. Allison Tom at 822-5361.I want to make it clear that this data is being collected for research purposes only. It will not bereleased in any form to employers or others outside the Media Resources Program.Questions1. What is your name? ^2. Male^ Female ^3. What year did you graduate from Media? ^4. Who is your current employer?5. What is your title at work? ^6. What does your work involve? (activities, tasks, etc.)7. Is your work full-time ^ or part-time ^ ?8. Is the position permanent ^ or contract ^ ?91Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 19. Please list other positions which you have held. Please include the names of the employersand the approximate dates of your employment.The answers to the question below concerning your salary will only be seen by the researcher.Information derived from it will only be given in aggregate, or broad general terms about groupsof people, to the department.10. Please indicate which of the following figures most closely matches your monthly incomeearned from employment.Less than $^999.00$1,000 - 1,499.001,500 - 1,999.002,000 - 2,499.002,500 - 2,999.003,000 - 3,499.003,500 - 3,999.004,000 - 4,499.004,500 - 4,999.005,000 - 5,499.005,500 - 5,999.00 ^6,000 plusThank you for your help,Anne Morley92Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Appendix 2Graduate Survey.Responses to the Graduate survey varied from the scanty and vague to long gossipy lettersdescribing the lives of several graduates who are living and working in Toronto. There were alsoletters requesting help in the search for work. Some of the responses to the question aboutmonthly earnings were unclear. In the questionnaire, I had not stated whether I was asking forinformation about gross or net earnings and, as one of the respondents told me, earnings for theself-employed may vary substantially from month to month. However although the repliescannot be taken as accurate assessments of earnings, taken as a whole they suggest a pattern offemale and male employment like that given by Statistics Canada. It also has to be rememberedthat information from the survey is true only for the approximately 50% of program graduateswho replied to the questionnaire.Figure 1 and Table 2 show the distribution of program graduates in the work place. Thedistribution pattern for women and men in institutional and self-employment is similar. It isnoticeable that more men than women are employees in other parts of the media field. Figure 5and Table 6 show the difference between men and women's earnings in this sector. The higherearnings of the men come from corporate employment.93Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Table 2. Distribution of women and men by workplace.Workplace Women MenInstitutional 12 (29%) 15 (26%)Self-employment 16 (39%) 24 (41%)Other mediaemployment2 (5%) 12 (21%)Left the field 11 (27%) 7 (12%)41 (100%) 58 (100%)94Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Table 3. Estimated monthly earnings of those in the field.One of the self-employed women in the field declined to estimate her monthly earnings.Earnings Women Men- 1,999 13 (45%) 9 (18%)2000-2999 13 (45%) 15 (29%)3000-3999 2 (7%) 11 (21%)4000-4999 10 (20%)5000-5999 5 (10%)6000 - 1(3%) 1 (2%)29 (100%)^51 (100%)95Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Table 4. Estimated monthly earnings from institutional employment.Earnings Women Men-1999 5 (42%) 1 (6%)2000-2999 6 ( 50%) 6 (40%)3000-3999 1 (8%) 6 (40%)4000-4999 1 (6%)5000-5999 1 (6%)12 (100%) 15 (100%)96Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Table 5. Estimated monthly earnings from self-employment.One woman declined to estimate her monthly earnings.Earnings Women Men-1999 8 (53%) 8 (33%)2000-2999 5 (33%) 4 (17%)3000-3999 1 (7%)4000-4999 8 (33%)5000-5999 3 (12.5%)6000 - 1 (7%) 1 (4.5%)15 (100%) 24 (100%)97Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 2Table 6. Estimated monthly earnings from other media employment.Earnings Women Men2000-2999 2 (100%) 5 (42%)3000-3999 5 (42%)4000-4999 1 (8%)5000-5999 1 (8%)2 (100%) 12 (100%)98Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 3Appendix 3Excerpt from Bridgnorth College Calendar, 1969Educational Resource TechnicianThe educational Resource Technician Program is designed to fill the increasing need ofindustry, education, and the professions for people proficient in the wide diversity of skillsrequired for the effective use of audio-visual media.The graduate from this program will be proficient in the field pf graphics, photography,and the maintenance of audio and visual electronic equipment. In addition he will be skilled inthe production, care, organisation, and distribution of audio-visual materials. he will also havehad experience in instructing workshop groups in the various audio-visual skills.Specific courses have been included to provide necessary background which will enablethe graduate to work in schools in a para-professional role with teachers.Educational Resource technicians will also be prepared to take positions withmanagement, business, and industry, assisting in the promotion of products and services.The program is ideal for men and women alike. Special consideration will be given tothose students who have graduated from Grade XII on the Industrial Program. The program isalso open to mature students who under special circumstances have not graduated from GradeXII.Curriculum1st Semester^ Hours per weekCommunications^ 3Audio Visual Equipment 3Graphic Illustration 3Current Economic Issues or Elective^ 3Philosophy and Organisation of the B.C. School System^3Advertising and Display^ 3Elective^ 3 2199Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 32nd SemesterCommunications 3Resource Economics of B.C. or Elective 3Library Resources and Services 3Laboratory Operation Techniques 3Photographic Theory and Practice 3Applied Electricity 31 Elective 321Course DescriptionsCommunicationsA course in the development of writing and speaking skills. The material of the course is closelyrelated to business and technical career goals. There will be numerous writing assignments,including a report based on original research, and at least one spoken presentation.In the second semester, the course will concentrate on development of skills learned in the firstsemester. Library research will be the basis of a long report.Audio Visual EquipmentThe introduction and use of audio visual equipment presently available today. The use and careof recorders, P.A. systems, playback systems, and specialized equipment. Students will gainexperience in the normal operation of equipment and in special techniques such as editing soundon sound, etc. The various kinds of listening centres and language laboratories will be studied.Graphic IllustrationThe preparation of audio-visual materials, filmstrips, tapes and transparencies. Creativeapplication of posters, charts, diagrams, signs, flow charts, silk screening etc. Visualisation ofideas in various media. lay-out and paste up.Current Economic IssuesA course of talks, discussions and debates to stimulate interest in everyday economics and toprovide information about the day's news on such subjects as Business pricing and costing,Prices and inflation, Money and Banking, Unemployment and Poverty, Ownership of CanadianIndustry, International trade.Philosophy and Organisation of the B.C. School SystemThe Council of Public Instruction. Objectives of the elementary and secondary schoolcurriculum. The role of Superintendents, Principals and teachers' Programs available to students.Resource courses. Promotional policy and procedures; adult education programs andorganisation.100Springboard and Bridge: Appendix 3Library Resources and ServicesThis course introduces the student to the resources and services of all types of libraries; studiesbegin with a brief history of books, libraries, printing and publishing. Instruction on varioussystems of circulation and library materials. Classification schemes and general principles usedin simple descriptive cataloguing. Instruction in the use and routine maintenance of machinesused in the library such as Xerox, Telex, Offset Press, Micro-text Reading, Micro-Film Readers,cameras, and Read Printers.Laboratory Operation TechniquesThe necessary preparation to function as a laboratory assistant. maintaining and setting upscience and other technical equipment. care and use of various acids, liquids, and gages. Safetyprecautions. preventative maintenance. Ordering supplies and maintaining inventory.Photographic Theory and PracticeA beginning course in photographic theory and practice. Basic principals of camera operation,exposure, developing and printing.Applied ElectricityTraining in basic electronic theory and practice leading to an understanding of the electronicsused in connection with audio-visual equipment including radio and television. Reading andunderstanding electrical and electronic symbols and diagrams. Minor repair and servicing ofequipment and accessories.Resource Economics of British ColumbiaAn analysis of the resources and economic activities of the regions of B.C. Theory of regionaleconomic development. A study of B.C.'s communications and trading patterns within theProvince, with other parts of Canada and with other countries. (Bridgnorth CollegeCalendar,1969 56-59)In 1970 the Audio Visual Resources Program became a two year program and added sometelevision and film training. Graduates received an Associate Arts and Science Diploma uponcompletion of the program.101


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