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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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


This is a study of a career program in a British Columbia two year post-secondary college and the program's mature women graduates. The writer is a graduate of the program, she worked in the field, 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 through which to see answers" (Gaskell 1192, 31). Gaskell's respect for the subjects of her studies, her studies of women's skills, and her analysis of individual educational programs provided the writer with understanding and models for this study. Examples from the literature of women's work use qualitative methods appropriate to this study, where the writer seeks not "the right or ultimate answer" (Wollcott 1991, 146) but rather an increase in understanding of the problem. A survey of graduates elicited information about their work 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 the interviews 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 the connections between these skills and the women's program, pre-program, and post-program education and experience. Analysis of the interviews led to an examination of the women's visible and invisible skills and re-directed the question towards the interaction between the program and the women’s working lives. The question became "What role did the program and its culture play in the women’s working lives?" Examination of the data emphasized 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 the essential but devalued and unrecognised part played by the women's invisible skills, both in the program and their work. The program is indeed a bridge to a new workplace for the women graduates and it provides a model of that workplace's view of women's skills. The study concluded by recommending that the program and the college, rather than modelling society's blindness toward women’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 valuable information for the program's future directions.

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