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UNIVERSITY OF READING

Constructing craft identities: Discourses of skill and identity in the building trades

Kate Ness

Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy School of Construction Management and Engineering April 2013

Constructing craft identities: Discourses of skill and identity in the building trades
Abstract Apprenticeship and training in UK construction crafts have declined dramatically over the past 35 years, and much learning now takes place informally, on the job. This is the background to the aim of this research, to explore the nature of skill and identity in the building trades.

49 semi-structured interviews were carried out with informants having worked on construction sites in England over the period since the Second World War. A narrative analysis produced life histories of learning and practicing a trade. The interviews were also analysed in terms of changing understandings of skill and identity, comparing data from contemporary sites in the southeast with a historical case study of the Manchester Direct Works Department in 1979 - 1982. Critical Discourse Analysis identified site discourses used to construct identities, and compared these with discourses from policy documents since 1950.

It was found that consistent criteria are currently used to recognise skills: personal acquaintance or recommendation, inspection of tools, and the informal trial period. However, the criteria used thirty years ago tended to be somewhat more formal, including trade union membership and time-served status. Changes in work organisation and training, or wider cultural changes, can all lead to changes in what it means to be skilled. However, these changes in meaning may be hidden by the common sense understanding of skill as obvious and therefore, by implication, unchanging. Discourses such as that of competence can be seen as colonising the construction site, weakening traditional craft discourses. However, building workers can also be seen as creatively drawing on and transforming the available discourses in constructing skilled identities. A web of structural and discursive changes situate this process, with complex inter-relationships between the more structural and more discursive aspects, and between the wider context and the specific local context of the site.

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Declaration

I confirm that this is my own work and the use of all material from other sources has been properly and fully acknowledged.

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Dedication

To my mother who always saw me as a perpetual student.

To those who worked at the City of Manchester Direct Works Department (and the other DLOs) but have now all been thrown to the four corners of the earth.

To the late Dave Langford.

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Acknowledgements

I offer my sincere thanks to the following for their support, which made this work possible. Firstly to my supervisor, Professor Stuart Green. Were it not for Stuarts lectures on the MSc throwing at us all those words like epistemology I would not have undertaken the PhD at all but would have gone back into industry. His critical view was inspiring, and helped me to see that academic theory could be useful for understanding my past experiences at work. He encouraged me to do the PhD, he always believed in my ability, (even when I thought he was misguided), and he allowed me to change track completely from my original proposal. I am grateful to the Research Council EPSRC for the funding.

The greatest debt is due to the interviewees for sharing their stories. I thank them for their time and their openness. I would also like to thank the Institute of Clerks of Works, Women And Manual Trades, and the contractors Keybuild and Abbeybuild for helping with access for data collection. Sincere thanks are due to the anonymous referees who offered helpful feedback on the following publications (excerpts from which have been integrated into the text of this thesis): Ness (2008a; 2008b); Ness and Green (2008); Ness (2009; 2010a; 2010b; 2010c; 2010d; 2011; 2012) Thanks also to all those who took part in inspiring and insightful discussions at various conferences and especially the gang of girls at ARCOM. I am particularly grateful to all those colleagues who gave me helpful feedback, criticism and support, especially Professor Linda Clarke at Westminster, Dr Darren Thiel at Essex; Dr Libby Schweber, Dr Rachael Luck, Professor Will Hughes and Dr Graeme Larsen at Reading. Also to Katie Saxelby-Smith for her valuable administrative support.

Above all I would like to express my very great appreciation to Alan, without whose help and support I quite literally would never have finished this thesis. Minou didnt help this time, so the typos and other mistakes are all my own responsibility.

Preface: PhD as apprenticeship I have often introduced myself as Stuarts apprentice, though I sometimes got strange looks. There are many parallels (though also, of course, differences) between the process of doing the PhD and that of apprenticeship. In both, it is the process of becoming, rather than the end product, which is important. The most important outcome produced in both cases is the self as a craftsman, or an academic. In producing a thesis, one is supposed to make an original contribution to knowledge and yet, as with apprenticeship, there are many ways in which you do not go off the script. You learn use the approved tools in the approved ways with maybe some small personal touch in your masterpiece. A craftsmans masterpiece is more likely to be both useful and beautiful though.

In both craft work and PhD work one is faced with the problem of deciding what is good enough where to place oneself and ones work among the almost infinite possibilities of perfection or compromise (Reckman 1979:76). The problem of defining the scope of activities properly encompassed within an occupation (in order to be accepted as a craftsman rather than a mere narrow specialist, or a Jack-of-all-trades handyman) is reflected in the problems of determining the scope to be encompassed within the study, the depth versus breadth of knowledge. In this, I have probably erred on the Jack-of-all-trades side, although I do not aspire to be a bricoleur. I can only hope to have produced a craftsmanlike piece of work.

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Abbreviations and acronyms used

ARCOM Association of Researchers in Construction Management ASW Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers (1921 to 1971, now part of UCATT) AUBTW Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers (1921 to 1971, now part of UCATT) BRE Building Research Establishment BRS Building Research Station (1921 to 1972 now BRE) CBI Confederation of British Industry CDA Critical Discourse Analysis CIB Construction Industry Board CIC Construction Industry Council CIOB Chartered Institute Of Building CITB Construction Industry Training Board (1964 to 2003, now ConstructionSkills) CM Construction Management CMDWD City of Manchester Direct Works Department CoW Clerk of Works DBERR Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (2007 to 2009) DE Department of Education (1992 to 1995) DEA Department of Economic Affairs (1964 to 1969) D.Emp Department of Employment (1970 to 1995) DES Department of Education and Science (1964 to 1992) DETR Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1997 to 2001) DfEE Department for Education and Employment (1995 to 2001) DfES Department for Education and Skills (2001 to 2007) DIUS Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (since 2007) DLO Direct Labour Organisation DTI Department of Trade and Industry (1970 to 2007) DWP Department of Work and Pensions (since 2001) EEPTU Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Trades Union (1968 to1992, now part of Amicus/ Unite) EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council HNC Higher National Certificate HSC Health and Safety Commission HSE Health and Safety Executive ICE Institution of Civil Engineers ICW Institute of Clerks of Works ICWCI Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate LOSC Labour-Only Sub-Contractors/ Sub-Contracting LSC Learning and Skills Council MMC Modern Methods of Construction MSC Manpower Services Commission NHBC National House Builders Council NVQ National Vocational Qualifications OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ONC Ordinary National Certificate OSAT On-Site Assessment and Testing (or, Training) OSM Off-Site Manufacturing PMBoK Project Management Body of Knowledge

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RIBA Royal Institute of British Architects SIT Social Identity Theory SME Small and Medium-sized Enterprises TECs Training and Enterprise Councils TGWU Transport and General Workers Union (1922 to 2007, now part of Unite) TOPS Training Opportunities Programme TUC Trades Union Congress UCATT Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians VET Vocational Education and Training WAMT Women And Manual Trades YOPS Youth Opportunities Scheme YTS Youth Training Scheme

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Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction 1.1 Context .................................................................................................................................. 1 1.2 Aims and objectives .............................................................................................................. 4 1.3 Scope ..................................................................................................................................... 5 1.4 Theoretical overview .......................................................................................................... 10 1.5 Structure and summary ....................................................................................................... 12 Chapter 2: History 2.1 Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 17 2.2 Craft skills and training for the construction trades ............................................................ 18 2.3 Vocational Education and Training policy: analysis of reports .......................................... 37

Chapter 3: Skill and identity in the building trades 3.1 Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 52 3.2 Understandings of skill ....................................................................................................... 52 3.3 Skill in the construction trades............................................................................................ 60 3.4 Constructing (skilled) identities .......................................................................................... 67 3.5 Summary of perspectives .................................................................................................... 80

Chapter 4: Methodology and research design 4.1 Theoretical overview .......................................................................................................... 84 4.2 Critical discourse analysis .................................................................................................. 97 4.3 The interviews................................................................................................................... 109 4.4 Historical study ................................................................................................................. 120

Chapter 5: Description Skilled identities 5.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 124 5.2 Site understandings of skilled identity .............................................................................. 135 5.3 Identity work in progress .................................................................................................. 132 5.4 Skill, identity, and the ambiguities of employment status ................................................ 137 5.5 Craftsmanship and identity ............................................................................................... 140

Chapter 6: Interpretation Site discourses: Identities and anti-identities 6.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 156 6.2 The discourse of craftsmanship ........................................................................................ 158 6.3 The discourse of the resourceful survivor......................................................................... 163 6.4 The discourse of just passing through ............................................................................ 166 6.5 The discourse of masculinity ............................................................................................ 167 6.6 The discourse of practical wisdom ................................................................................. 170 6.7 Womens identity and the discourses ............................................................................... 173 6.8 From the dominance of the craftsman discourse to multiple fragmented discourses ....... 176

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Chapter 7: Explanation Continuity and change in building worker identities 7.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 178 7.2 The discourses in the literature ......................................................................................... 179 7.3 Site discourses and power ................................................................................................. 183 7.4 Constructing identities ...................................................................................................... 189 7.5 Construction as a pre-modern industry ............................................................................. 193 7.6 Changing views of the nature of skills.............................................................................. 204 7.7 Employment status and its effects on identity .................................................................. 213 7.8 Competition and individualisation .................................................................................... 220 7.9 Concluding discussion ...................................................................................................... 225

Chapter 8: Conclusion 8.1 A review of the thesis ....................................................................................................... 234 8.2 Possible directions for future research .............................................................................. 237 8.3 The end of the story .......................................................................................................... 240

Bibliography .......................................................................................................................... 241

Appendix A: The firms and sites where interviews were carried out .............................. 275 Appendix B: Interview guide ............................................................................................... 280 Appendix C: Table of interviewees ..................................................................................... 281 Appendix D: Life histories ................................................................................................... 288 Appendix E: The decline and fall of a DLO ....................................................................... 315

Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 The context of the research
1.1.1 The world of construction Construction is a project-based and largely site-based industry, carried out in transient locations. The product is large and immobile and has to be assembled at the point of consumption1, so production is geographically dispersed, and is carried on largely outside. The complex and unpredictable nature of construction means that work gangs need considerable flexibility and autonomy; management control of location and sequence of work is limited. Site work is labour-intensive, reliant on traditional craft skills, and often said to be backward and in need of improvement. This is particularly true of that half of the industrys work which consists of repair and maintenance (DTI 2005).

Construction is highly fragmented, with low barriers to entry and many small firms. The big firms typically manage projects but do not actually carry them out. The UK construction industry is now characterised by the hollowed-out firm relying on nominally self-employed labour (Harvey 2001) supplied through labour agencies or subcontractors. Most projects are characterised by long chains of sub-contracting culminating in a workforce that is notionally self-employed. One of the most notable characteristics of the UK construction industry is its ability to expand and contract in response to severe fluctuations in demand. However, this flexibility has been achieved at the cost of insecure, casual employment on a project-by-project basis. Competitive tendering combined with the immobility of the construction product and the cyclical nature of demand means that the workers must move from firm to firm and from place to place, depending on who successfully bids for work, and may be obliged, in lean times, to leave the industry altogether. Many construction workers are migrants, and this exacerbates the tendency towards a 19th-Century itinerant-worker lifestyle, characterised by an endless moving from project to project, long hours of work, poor working conditions, high rates of injury and illness and a reliance on alcohol for relaxation (Fitzgerald 2006; Clarke and Gribling 2008). The industry is also
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Even for prefabricated buildings, groundwork must be carried out, foundations constructed, and services connected. See the definitions of 'construction' and 'building trades/crafts' in section 1.2.

extraordinarily male dominated; around 10% of construction employees are female but many of these are office-based professionals and administrative staff; less than 1% of site operatives are female (Clarke et al. 2004).

On the other hand, work in construction can be uniquely satisfying. Working in different places and with different people is the positive side of insecure, project-based employment. The work is creative, and many find satisfaction in solving practical problems and seeing tangible results. Construction also offers freedom from the detailed surveillance of many modern jobs. Site work is not narrowly defined, repetitive, routine or closely supervised. Personal relationships are important. Camaraderie and a site culture of horseplay and having the craic go along with the feeling of belonging which comes from collaborative working and shared danger and discomfort (Applebaum 1999).

Numbers of apprentices and trainees have fallen dramatically over the past thirty to forty years, as firms compete on the basis of free-loading - they avoid paying for the industrys long-term training needs in order to maximise their short-term chances of winning contracts (Winch 1998). Thus, much learning now takes place informally, on the job. At the same time, many of those who do undergo formal training have difficulty in gaining the necessary practical experience (Clarke and Gribling 2008). This is the background to the aim of this research, which is to gain an understanding of the concept of skill on construction sites. Of particular interest are processes of skill formation, whether formal or informal, and the role of skill in shaping the identity of construction workers. Particular attention will be also paid to changes over time, and to the way in which they are played out in particular local contexts.

1.1.2 The author The author spent 25 years working on construction sites in the UK, France, Egypt and Libya, starting in 1978 as a trainee bricklayer. Thus I was already a native of the world which I was to study. As Blum (2000: 108) expresses it: I am of this world and I cannot leave. I am personally, emotionally, and intellectually welded to these workers and these industries. This is my world. It is the world of the academy that remains exotic and difficult for me.

When I started on the tools I was a seven-day wonder. Literally. Everyone was just completely flabbergasted. Then, a week later, some new lads started, and they were flabbergasted too, and stared, and asked all the same questions that the others had been asking me, and made the same jokes and then one of the guys whod been working with me for a whole week said whats the matter with you, never seen a woman on site before? and that shut them up. When I started on site, hard hats werent yet compulsory. The older guys wore flat hats and the old guys were so small I could see over the top of their heads. They talked about how it was before the war, before the bonus system, when apprenticeships lasted seven years. They taught me a lot. They used to clip me round the ear and say, get up off your knees, youre not in church. They were good blokes. It was like being under fire together; you formed close relationships with people and then one day the job was over and you moved on and never saw them again.

The impetus for this study came from my attempting to make sense of aspects of my personal experience. Research and analysis can help people to grasp what is going on in the world, and to understand what is happening in themselves at minute points of the intersection of biography and history within society (Mills 1970[1959]: 14). Mills concept of the sociological imagination (as reported by Watson 2008: 121-122) called for social scientists to relate the personal troubles and the biographies of individuals to the historical transformations and social structures of their times, setting processes of individual identity work firmly in their structural or sociological context. In my case this was an interest in craft skill and identity2 in the building trades. Particular inspiration for my research was drawn from two studies which make use of personal experience, but also place detailed social processes within their social, political and historical contexts: Cockburn (1983) on printers and Roberts (1993) on shipbuilding.

The guiding theoretical and methodological propositions began to be developed during the process of producing a Masters dissertation (Ness 2006) applying critical discourse
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Alvesson et al. (2008: 11) point out that the current academic interest in identity itself reflects and reproduces our contemporary situation and its explosion of images and industries portraying who and how to be Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that identity emerges as problem and project, rather than something to take for granted. In other words, there is nothing natural or self-evident about concern with who we are; preoccupation with identity is a cultural, historical formation. My own interest in identity in the building trades probably comes about because, as a woman, it is problem and project, rather than something to take for granted.

analysis to a construction industry report. A major influence here was Faircloughs understanding of the relationships between discourse and other elements of social practices (eg Fairclough 1989; 1995; 2005). My critical approach to construction research, insisting upon the importance of context and of iteration between theory and data, was also developed through encountering the work of my supervisor (see for example Green 1998; 2006; Green et al 2009).

1.2 Aims and objectives


The aim of this research is to explore the changing meanings of skill on British construction sites, and the interaction of this with building workers identities. It will not claim to suggest solutions to any of the problems facing the construction industry, such as the skills crisis which was current when the work started, or the employment crisis which had replaced it by the time it was finished. Rather, the aspiration is to contribute to a debate on the nature of skill and identity in the building trades.

The study will pay attention to the narratives of building workers, and acknowledge their accounts as a valid form of understanding. The focus is on the lived experience of the interviewees. However, there will also be an attempt to connect this experience to wider processes of change.

This is exploratory research, as there has been little or no previous study of the construction of skilled identities in the British building trades. The objectives are to investigate and elucidate the interactions between The ways in which discourses and meanings of skill have changed over time, and The ways in which the identities of building trade workers have changed.

Specific questions asked in order to explore these issues include What has changed (over the past 60 years) about the way people learn a building trade, and how has that interacted with the lived experience of becoming skilled? What are the differing understandings of skill and how has this changed over the past 60 years?

What counts as recognised skill in different times, places, texts, or people? How are the skills of site workers evaluated? How has this changed over the past 60 years?

What identities are available to those who learn a building trade in different ways, and how has this changed?

1.3 Scope
1.3.1 Scope of construction, building, and building trades For the purposes of this study, the UK3 construction industry is considered to consist of work carried out on site, excluding any prefabrication carried out in other locations. Both new work, and the repair and maintenance sector were included. As the focus is on building trades, this also leads to a focus on building, as opposed to civil engineering, work. The interviewees included traditional plumbers and electricians, but not those who work with hi-tech M&E (mechanical and electrical) installations. This does exclude a large part of the contemporary construction industry, as M&E can be more than 50% of the cost of modern buildings. However, much of this represents equipment prefabricated in factory conditions. This research looks only at the identities and the skills of those who work on construction sites in manual occupations.

In looking only at work on site, and thus selecting the more traditional forms of construction, there is of course an element of circularity if it is discovered that it is traditional. But this does not negate the usefulness of researching this particular area, and of looking at changes over time in the skills and identities of those who work in the traditional building trades. Indeed, it could be argued that traditional construction is rather under-studied, as many CM academics study the latest megaproject (Channel Tunnel; T5; Olympics) and sometimes write about that as though it were representative of the entire construction industry, ignoring smaller projects and the extensive repair and maintenance sector.
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The empirical work was carried out in England. All interviewees were natives of the British Isles and had learned their construction skills in the UK. Non-British building workers were not sought out as the interest was in studying the interaction between skill and identity (including the acquisition of skills) in the British/UK context.

In the construction context, the terms trade and craft are commonly used fairly interchangeably4, and that usage is followed in this thesis. However, there are clearly some differences in exactly what is implied. Some informants distinguished between the two terms, and this will be discussed in Chapter 5.

1.3.2 The approach to skill taken in this thesis The approach to skill which this thesis takes will be one of weak social constructionism which stresses the importance of the social (and particularly discursive) construction of skills, whilst accepting that there is some basis of real skill demanded by the job or embodied in the person. Skill will be taken to include both a mental, conceptual and an embodied, intuitive aspect. So physical dexterity and knack is an element of skill, but is not skill in itself. Similarly, knowledge is an essential element or underpinning of skill, but is not skill in itself until it is applied. The knowledge of materials drawn on by the craftsman is partly intellectual (different timbers or stones; their properties and uses) and partly manual and sensory (the smell of English oak; the sound a stone makes which tells you whether it is flawed; the feel of sand which tells you whether it is soft or sharp). Craft skill involves long practice so that the skill becomes truly embodied. The skill and knowledge is applied manually in rolling and spreading the mortar, or planing the timber. This is the realist moment of skill definition. However, the concrete worker applies a similar combination of intellectual and sensory knowledge of a material with manual application in knowing when to powerfloat a slab yet the concrete worker is not a skilled craftsman because of the importance of the social construction of skilled identities. This is the social constructionist moment of skill definition.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, craft: an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill trade: an occupation requiring manual or mechanical skill: craft

1.3.3 The approach to identity The approach to identity sees personal identities as created and reproduced through ongoing discursive and embodied interactions, and recognises the importance of the perception of belonging to a particular group in identity formation. However, identities necessarily draw on socially available discourses about who one can be and how one should act, some of which enjoy stronger institutional and material support than others. Thus personal identities are influenced by larger cultural and historical formations.

There is a postmodernist view of the self as an invention of liberal humanism, of personal identity as an illusion see for example Foucault (1971) on the need to focus on discourse rather than the subject or Rose (1998) on subjectivity. Yet, if so, the self is nevertheless a useful illusion to study, since individual and collective self-constructions are powerful factors in the organisation of work processes. Identity in its various conceptualisations also offers creative ways to understand a range of phenomena (for example, the all-male nature of the building trades) while bridging the levels from micro to macro.

1.3.4 An outline of the development of the study The topic of the study The topic was initially defined as skill and identity in the building trades. Key concepts which were either present from the start, or emerged from a dialogue between existing theory and the emerging body of data, included the following: the historical development of construction skills and the ways in which tasks, or people, come to be defined as skilled or unskilled the role of skill in the identity of construction workers apprenticeship and training; tacit knowledge and experiential learning; formal v informal learning; NVQs as lean learning; and informal, on-the-job means of acquiring skills the effects of technological and managerial innovation on skill; deskilling; skill and control; social closure and how building craftsmen defend their skilled status

the effects of employment status on skill formation; the influence of self employment and the enterprising self construction and premodernity, nostalgia, occupational (craft) culture, collective v individual identities historical change in all of the above.

Methods As recommended by Glaser and Strauss (1967: 45), this study did not start with hypotheses or even clear research questions, but rather an interest in a substantive area. There was also a commitment to a certain approach to research - a focus on discourse and an interest in what happens on site, but also the idea of making connections between different levels, and in some sense explaining, rather than simply describing what happens at the site level with reference to what happens at the macro level.

The original plan was to combine critical discourse analysis (CDA) with carrying out an in-depth ethnographic case study on a contemporary site in order to compare this with a retrospective case study in Manchester, based partly on the authors experiences of working for the City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD). However, it became clear that a participant observation study, which tends to the accumulation of detailed data and rich description, may lend itself less to the theoretical understanding which was always the aim. Instead, the study moved more in the direction of using the comparative method (Glaser and Strauss 1967), to refine understanding of concepts and relationships by theoretical sampling. This led to the collection of data, mainly in the form of unstructured and semi-structured interviews, at two contemporary sites, and also in Manchester, where some of those who worked for the CMDWD in the 1980s were sought out. The ethnographic interviews initially involved talking to people in a fairly unstructured way, but as data were collected and analysed they gradually became a little more structured, focussing on particular questions. In the dialogue between theory and data, the evolving questions and theories shaped the collection of the data as well as vice versa.

The analysis of historical documents consisted of archival sources relevant to the Manchester case study (chiefly the minute books of meetings of the Direct Works

Department Policy Committee of Manchester City Council, 1979-1982) and of policy documents on skill and training over a 60-year period. The initial focus of the discourse analysis was on these texts. The interview data were initially used to distil narrative life histories, putting together the accounts and experiences of different people in order to tell the story of how they came to enter the construction industry, how they went about learning their work, and what happened afterwards. These life histories form Appendix D. The story from the Manchester archives was also related in a narrative style and forms Appendix E. However, it gradually became clear that the key to understanding changing discourses was rather in the interviews than in the written texts. Critical discourse analysis was applied to the interview texts in order to distil the discourses being used to construct identity. The documentary sources were then seen more as setting the background for the discourses expressed in the interviews, and thus most of this material is presented in chapter 2, as history rather than analysis.

Data collection and analysis were carried out in parallel, as an iterative process. Theoretical understanding does not emerge simply from immersion in and reflection on the data, but from a dialectic with existing theory. The literature review was therefore a continuing process throughout the data collection and analysis.

Evolving research questions and theoretical sampling Theoretical sampling, where data collection is controlled by emerging understanding, means to some extent following your nose in choosing relevant categories to compare with those already studied. An example of this is that in approaching the question of what counts as recognised skill, the data showed that managers with a trade background who are responsible for engaging manual workers use a consistent set of criteria to assess their skills. These same criteria were also reported by tradesmen themselves. Managers without a trade background, and women (tradeswomen and female managers) were therefore interviewed in order to discover whether these different categories of people use the same or different criteria for judging skill when engaging trades. Somewhat surprisingly, there was very little difference between the criteria used. Thus, the questions were guided by emerging theory, aiming to further clarify and develop it.

1.4 Theoretical overview: The worldview behind the research


This thesis takes a weak social constructionist5 position which accepts the social (and discursive) construction of social entities, but argues that we should not disregard their relative solidity and permanence. This constructed reality can be experienced as firmly as if it were the unconstructed reality assumed by positivists. The research combines a focus on language with an assumption that the construction of reality is shaped by social, political and economic values that crystallise and become reified over time. It also takes a critical view on its subject matter. Guiding theoretical and methodological propositions Discourse: language use conceived as social practice6. At the heart of this thesis is the notion of discourse as socially constructive (and constructed), and the analysis of the dialectical relationships between discourse and other elements of social practices. This orientation to discourse goes beyond the analysis of particular texts or the use of a particular method to a way of understanding the world in terms of discourses. This is applied to all aspects of the research. Of particular interest is the role of discourse in reproducing (and transforming) social identities, and the ways in which changing discourses reflect and reinforce changes in other aspects of social practices. Context: insisting upon the importance of the context of social relations in which action is embedded. In particular, this work attempts to take account both of local contexts and of broader structural contexts, and to link the two. Critical approach: aiming to question and undermine taken-for-granted, common-sense, natural ideas, ideologies, and practices; paying attention to relations of power and the contested nature of constructs such as skill. More specifically, this study is positioned within a recent strand of work in the construction management field which has drawn on critical social science
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Some distinguish between Social Constructivism - equated with an individualist, cognitive view - and Social Constructionism which treats social relatedness and particularly language, as the key. If so, this thesis takes a social constructionist standpoint.
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And a discourse: a group of statements that provide a way of talking about and acting upon a particular object (du Gay 2000a: 67).

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thinking to make the distinction between research of management and research for management (Green 1998; Bresnen 2005; Hodgson and Cicmil 2006). Engagement. This research is premised upon engagement with those who work in construction, rejecting the possibility of objectivity and neutrality (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992; Haraway 1988; Burawoy 1998). Continuity and change. Rather than taking a static snapshot of the present, the work compares particular historic junctures. One aspect of this is asking what has changed and what has remained the same in official discourses of skill, as expressed in construction industry reports over the past 60 years. Another is the comparison of discourses and practices on contemporary construction sites with those of 30 years ago. Weak social constructionism. The work starts from a position which accepts the social (and discursive) construction of social entities but is also aware of their relative solidity and permanence. Iteration between theory and data. The relationship between theory and data needs to be dialectical and iterative. Seeking Erklrung as well as Verstehen. Asserting that qualitative, interpretative research can aim not merely to understand the way things are, but also to explain how and why they come to be that way (Becker 1998: 28-63; Cicmil et al 2006). The combination of research methods in a way which takes account of the values and beliefs of multiple stakeholders across multiple temporal contexts. However, the methods used must make sense together and fit within broadly the same worldview.

A recurring challenge throughout this thesis is the need to reconcile the insights of different theoretical positions such as postmodernist/ Marxist views of power and structuralist/ interpretivist accounts of identity formation. The position ultimately adopted recognises the importance of personal-level struggles but sees these as

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reflecting wider circumstances. Individuals actively manipulate discourses rather than being passive conduits, yet their choices are always constrained within conditions imposed by existing structures and existing discursive resources.

1.5 Structure and summary


Chapter 2 presents a history of craft skills and training for the construction trades, and of policy on vocational education and training for the UK/England. The history of apprenticeship and of the craft guilds is reviewed, followed by the decline of the guilds in the Victorian age. This sets the scene both for more recent policies on craft training, and for the discourses which underpin identity construction. The historical material is presented here in a matter of fact way so as to form a background to the different theories of skill and identity discussed in the next chapter. The emphasis here is on social structures, and thus influenced by Marxist approaches.

The second part of the chapter offers an overview of post-war policy relevant to skill and training in UK construction, based upon government and industry reports over the period 1950 to 2010. In presenting this as history rather than analysis, the material is described with a somewhat spurious objectivity. (The choice of these particular documents and the methods of reading them will be described in Chapter 4.) This section describes themes of continuity and change in policies, discourses, and practices. Continuities in policy include the common sense nature of skill and learning, recurrent concerns about skill shortages and productivity, and the desire for efficient, modern methods of construction. The key change described is the move from the concept of manpower planning at an industry level to the concept of training being (supposedly) led by individual employers demand. This led to the introduction of NVQs in the 1980s.

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Chapter 3 reviews the literature on skill and identity, both within the construction management field and more widely. A review of the literature on skills considers skill as intrinsic to the worker or the job; skill as situational; and the socially and discursively constructed nature of skill. All of these perspectives will later be drawn upon in seeking to describe, interpret and explain construction workers understandings of skill and the way this relates to their identities. Turning to the literature concerning skills in the construction industry, it is noted that there is relatively little work in the CM literature which sees skill as socially constructed or as a social process. Also, when the skills of manual workers are mentioned, it is generally as a resource (skills shortages etc) rather than the focus being on their lived experience.

A review of the main strands of identity theory as applied in organisational studies covers social identity theory; the concept of identity work; and explanations in terms of discourses either the individual drawing on discursive resources, or discourses actively shaping the persons notion of who they are. A review of the construction management literature relating to identities finds that identity has received little direct and explicit attention, and, as with skill, that there is a lack of attention to the lived experiences of manual workers. Almost all existing empirical work relates to construction professionals. This points therefore to a need for empirical studies of construction workers understandings of their skill and their identities. The literature review also identifies some strands of work which challenge both the lack of attention to the experiences of manual workers, and the taken-for granted nature of skill in the construction trades. This thesis will attempt to build upon those views of skill as a changing, contextdependent, and contested concept.

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Chapter 4 describes and justifies the methodological approach to the empirical work. The chapter begins by revisiting the broad theoretical orientation laid out in the introduction, before arguing for qualitative research which attempts to explain as well as describe lived experience, explaining how things come to be as they are, as well as seeking to understand their meanings for participants. An account is then presented of the data collection, and the methods and theories applied in analysing the data.

Interviews were the main data collection method. An account is given of the selection of the interviewees and means of gaining access, the conduct of the interviews and the questions asked. The analysis of the interviews as samples of discourse is justified as being consistent with the overall approach to the research. The methods of analysing the interviews as discourse are described, after an account of the principles of critical discourse analysis (CDA), and in particular of Faircloughs framework for CDA. The use of written texts such as the reports is also explained. Finally the historical comparison with the City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD) from 1979 to 1982 is explained.

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 comprise the results, discussion and analysis. The division into three aspects loosely follows Faircloughs structure for critical discourse analysis of Description, Interpretation, and Explanation. The description stays close to the interview texts. The interpretation identifies a series of discourses drawn on by the interviewees; while the explanation links these discourses back to the literature, and to wider contextual influences. In Chapters 5 and 6 the emphasis leans towards the individual work of identity construction. In Chapter 7 the focus shifts somewhat back to social structures; attempting to set individual choices in their wider context, explaining them as being constrained by existing structural and discursive conditions.

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Chapter 5 presents the main results. (Some results are also presented in the appendices.) It begins with a section on construction workers understandings of skill, and skilled identity. In the interviews and discussions, a fairly consistent set of criteria emerged by which workers are recognised as being skilled. A section on identity work in progress then gives some vignettes of identity construction in flight showing examples from the interviews of how the informants drew on various discursive resources in constructing their identities. The next section describes the ambiguities of employment status as this relates to skill and identity. It is not only employment status that is often unclear; the boundaries between workers and supervisors, employees and independent subcontractors, are often blurred and shifting, thus affecting the way in which people see themselves. Finally a section on craftsmanship and identity explores what makes a craft and a craftsman, apprenticeship as a process of occupational socialisation, and competing discourses of the roles of theory and practice in learning.

Chapter 6 presents the authors interpretation of the data. Interpretation, in discourse analysis, is concerned with identifying the discursive resources or discourse types drawn on in producing particular instances of discourse. Moving beyond the specific examples in the previous chapter, the interpretation combines the overlapping expressions of each discourse from many different interviewees to extract five popular site discourses. These are labelled as the discourses of craftsmanship, of the resourceful survivor, of masculinity, of practical wisdom and of just passing through. It is stressed, however, that this is only one of many possible ways of making sense of the data. As discussed in Chapter 4, this analysis is built on the empirical work, but is also informed both by the authors 25 years of experience on construction sites, and by theoretical concepts drawn from the literature.

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Chapter 7 looks beyond the interviews and the discourses to place them in their context. The first two sections consider in turn each of the five site discourses described in chapter 6. Firstly they are related to the literature. Some of the site discourses are barely described in the CM literature, but where any relevant work exists, this is discussed. Then the discourses are considered in relation to power, examining how each reflects, opposes or subverts dominant discourses and how it contributes to social continuity and consent to the existing state of affairs, or to resistance and social change.

The chapter then moves on to relate the discourses expressed in the interviews to wider processes of change, discussing themes such as the changing nature of skill and identity, competition and individualisation, the archaic nature of the construction industry, and the effects of the employment context. The popular site discourses are compared with discourses current in the wider society and with official discourses expressed in government reports on the construction industry and on training. Explanation also considers factors within the construction industry and wider society which have helped shape the discourses.

Concepts from social identity theory and discourse theory are drawn on in order to show some of the ways in which discourses function as menus of discursive resources which are available to individuals; and how discourse can be mobilised as a strategic resource so that the available discourses are drawn on, transformed, and integrated into other discourses.

Chapter 8 concludes the work. A review of the thesis covers the subject matter, the research perspective, the analysis, and the importance of context, both discursive and situational. A discussion of some possible directions for future research suggests that the methods and theories used in this study (CDA and other discourse-based approaches) could be applied to other topics, but focuses mainly on how the topic of skilled identity in the building trades could be further studied using some different methods. Finally, a brief end piece closes with some personal reflections.

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Chapter 2: History
2.1 Introduction This chapter presents a history of craft skills and training for the construction trades, and of policy on vocational education and training for the UK/England.

The first half of the chapter comprises two interwoven strands. An overview of vocational education and training from ancient times to the present day describes this as influenced by the changing economic structure of the construction industry. Attention is also focused upon the social negotiation of skills, presenting historical examples of struggles over trade boundaries and definition of occupations as skilled or unskilled. The emphasis here is on social structures, and thus influenced by Marxist sources such as the account of the rise of capitalism in Clarke (1992). The account describes the structural background which forms the backdrop for the empirical work investigating identity, where the emphasis will shift to the individual in Chapters 5 and 6. It will then shift somewhat back to the structures in Chapter 7, which attempts to set individual choices in their wider context, explaining them as being constrained by existing structural - and discursive - conditions.

The second half of the chapter looks at post-war policy relevant to skill and training in the building trades through an analysis of government and industry reports from1950 to 2010. The selection of these policy documents is described in more detail in Chapter 4. In keeping with the iterative nature of the research, the texts were selected to yield as much insight as possible both into the original research questions concerning skill and identity, and also into themes of continuity and change which began to emerge as the research progressed. The description is presented here as history, dealing with changes in policy on vocational education and training. However, it also forms the first stage of a discourse analysis, setting the scene for later investigations of site discourses, and comparisons of these with the grand discourses in the reports.

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2.2 Craft skills and training for the construction trades


2.2.1 From ancient times to the mediaeval craft guilds I have picked up a mud brick eroded out from the step pyramids at Saqqara (older than the stone pyramids at Giza) and the brick was as hard as a London stock and as good as if it had just been fired. Mud-bricks go back 10,000 years to Jericho (Campbell and Pryce 2003). Masons traditionally dated their craft from the building of King Solomons temple, while the carpenters and joiners refer back to Saint Joseph. Postgate (1923: 1) opens his history by stressing the continuity of the building trades. Plasterwork is still to be found undamaged in the Egyptian pyramids that was completed four thousand years ago the principal tools that the plasterer used in those days were the same for practical purposes as those we use now. If today a competent [plasterer] were to meet the ancient Egyptian who used those tools, he might not understand his language, but could work with him all day till sundown without suspecting that four thousand years lay between them. Not only do the physical products of the building trades live on, but the craft skills used to create them are still recognisable. However, whilst the status and skills of the craftsman, and the practice of apprenticeship, can be traced back to ancient times, there is also a long tradition in construction of shifting, unstable, precarious employment and of ambiguous areas of work between the skilled and the unskilled. In ancient Egypt (as in Europe until well into the 18th Century) less-skilled labour shifted seasonally between construction and agricultural work. (Langford and Hughes 2009).

The first direct evidence for the existence of associations of trader-craftsmen distinguished by occupation appears in the third to first centuries BC. The ancient Greek and Roman guilds, attested during the Hellenistic and late Republican eras appear to have been mainly social and religious rather than economic organisations. These guilds survived in Byzantine Constantinople and persisted as Christian institutions under state supervision in the western part of the Ottoman Empire.

Guilds of manual craftsmen based in family-owned workshops reappeared around 1100 in the most urbanised regions of Italy, the Rhineland, and the Low Countries and spread quickly across Western Europe (Epstein 1998). Woodward says that originally they were founded as associations for mutual support and religious expression among members of the same occupation (Woodward 1995: 28-29), but increasingly the system

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came to serve other purposes. Members swore to keep the secrets or mystery of the guild, to keep the rules on the employment of journeymen and apprentices, not to employ unlicensed outsiders, and to do work of good quality. The closed shop was important, and trade exclusivity was maintained by restrictive practices. Encroachment by other groups was challenged strenuously.

The majority of craft guilds were self-governed and politically independent. They were bottom-up, autonomous associations that negotiated with the state for public recognition, but never became mere tools of public authority (Epstein 1998). Guilds were associations of employers rather than of workers. Active membership was restricted to the shop-owning masters, but apprentices and salaried journeymen were subject to craft discipline and compelled to swear loyalty to the craft constitution. However, according to Postgate (1923: 2-8) the normal progression of the worker from apprentice to journeyman and, with reasonable luck and average competence, from journeyman to master, prevented the growth of any class antagonism. 1 Thus the conflict in medieval industry is not between employer and worker but between craft and craft. The guilds enforced craft boundaries and repelled interlopers.

Skilled craftsmen were mostly not wage-earners; they were petty entrepreneurs who supplied their own labour and maybe that of an apprentice and a journeyman; they owned their own tools and often supplied the materials for the work. Woodward argues (1995: 1-2) that although most craftsmen were independent artisans, they frequently resembled wage-earners because building craftsmen do not usually make a product in their own workshop like the tailor or the shoemaker, and because they often worked for a day-rate rather than a piece rate or a fixed price.2
1

This is the general view. However, others have questioned the degree to which the journeyman could reasonably expect to progress to become master. Woodward s study of the records for Chester joiners in the first half of the 17th Century shows that most local journeymen became masters within five years of finishing their apprenticeships. But a high proportion of the journeymen had not been apprenticed in the city, and seem to have been transient workers. He suggests that the recruitment of strangers as journeymen was commonplace because of the restrictions on apprentice numbers, and that these outsiders had no hope of becoming masters (Woodward 1995: 68-72).
2

Of all the crafts, stone masons seem to have approximated more nearly than did other medieval artificers to modern workmen, being mere wage-earners, working on materials owned by their employer, and with very little prospect of rising above this condition (Knoop and Jones 1967 [1933]: 95-105). Indeed, Hilton (1963) argues that building in stone was organised in a capitalist way from very early, because of the large amounts of capital and of labour required over 1000 masons might work on a

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When jobs continued over long periods, and particularly when the customer provided the raw materials, the craftsman closely resembled a wage-earner, but he did not lose his basic independence. Typical businesses were small during the period Woodward looked at, 1450 to 1750, most master craftsmen worked with only one or two permanent employees. The largest building firms he discovered in northern England included a York glazier who had a workshop where his son worked alongside four others, and a Chester joiner who at one point employed five journeymen though on average he employed less than two a year. The standard business unit seems to have been one master plus one journeyman plus one or two apprentices.

Throughout the feudal era and beyond, these master craftsmen monopolised building knowledge, controlling their own wages, work hours and recruitment patterns. Large building works such as the cathedrals were overseen by church Clerks of Works in consultation with master masons and carpenters, but the masters organised these works in a way that was more akin to work co-operatives than capitalist enterprises (Knoop and Jones 1967 [1933]; Thiel 2007). Sennett (2008:70) describes the building of Salisbury cathedral in the 13th century There was no one single architect; the masons had no blueprints ... the gestures with which the building began evolved ... and were collectively managed over three generations. Each event in building practice became absorbed in the fabric of instructing and regulating the next generation. In the slow tempo of the guild system, design was not separate from construction; the master artisans worked it out amongst themselves and with the client as they went along (Higgin and Jessop (1965: 39).

2.2.2 Apprenticeship Apprenticeship is the oldest form of training the young for work. Until the separation of work from home that began around 1800, households were also sites of production where the young worked alongside their parents. In the process, they acquired their
mediaeval church or palace. From Norman times, the masons were usually employed and paid directly by the religious or royal patron financing the building; even the master mason was a wage earner. Hilton also argues that their unique position as wage-earners working together in large numbers enabled them to combine against their employers to obtain higher wages.

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parents vocational skills, learned responsibility, and internalised the values of their society. The practice of apprenticeship extended this family-centred model of work and learning to households not necessarily related by blood, transferring children or adolescents to other households for a set period of time. Thus an apprentice lived as part of the master craftsmans family, and was not allowed to marry until he reached the status of journeyman. The apprentice received no wages - just his board, lodging and training. Most guilds laid down that newly qualified masters could not take an apprentice straight away, and numbers were limited by stipulating the maximum number of apprentices for one master, or the minimum interval between successive apprentices (Woodward 1995: 62).

Apprenticeship was set at a minimum 7 years but some guilds set longer periods of 8 or even 12 years (Woodward 1995). Boys3 were apprenticed as early as 10 or as late as 18, but typically from age 14 to 21. The stages of progress in a guild were marked out first by the apprentices presentation of the chef doeuvre at the end of his seven years, a work that demonstrated the elemental skills that the apprentice had imbibed. If successful, now a journeyman, the craftsman would work for another five to ten years until he could demonstrate, in a chef doeuvre elev, that he was worthy to take the masters place. (Sennett 2008: 58). Apprentices learned through observation, imitation, practice, and interaction with experienced practitioners, acquiring their knowledge and skill inductively through their work. As well as learning practical skills they were initiated into the mysteries of their craft, and also acquired the communitys norms of moral and professional behaviour.

2.2.3 Trades boundaries and demarcation disputes Male labourers traditionally received two thirds of the craftsmans rate. Women, who worked as labourers carrying sand, lime, and gravel etc (see Woodward 1995: 108-115), were paid anywhere between a third and two thirds of the male labourers rate. The defence of these pay differentials was a key role of the craft guilds. However, in certain occupations (such as paving), wage rates fluctuated between the craftsmans rate and the labourers, demonstrating a dubious semi-skilled status. The Paviours Company
3

Girls were not apprenticed in the building trades in any of the records Woodward found.

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in London never received a Royal charter (Clarke 1992: 75), and in late-mediaeval York, pavers had the status of labourers rather than craftsmen (Woodward 1995: 17).

This also applied to other occupations. In Coventry in 1517, it was ordered that rough masons and daubers were to be treated as mere labourers (Woodward 1995: 15). Quarrying and brick-making had never been regarded as skilled crafts but as labouring; thus these trades were excluded from apprentice regulation in the Statute of Artificers. In 1600 bricklaying was also temporarily declared to be one of the arts which require ability of body rather than skill, so that apprentice regulation was inappropriate.

In spite of the image of trades boundaries as immutably fixed since time immemorial, there is a long history of disputes in the negotiation of these boundaries, particularly where new materials or techniques were concerned. In late-fifteenth-century York, a new tower was being built out of brick, and the stonemasons were suspected of breaking and stealing the bricklayers tools. But worse was to follow. A bricklayer was murdered, and William Hyndeley, the master mason at the Minster, and his assistant, were arrested on suspicion.

There was always considerable overlap between the work of bricklayers, tilers and plasterers, as all involved the use of lime and sand. Similarly the work of plumbers and glaziers both involved casting and working lead. Some guilds were amalgamated, separated and merged several times in different places. This is particularly true of the carpenters and the joiners. Woodward (1995: 34) relates a bitter dispute between the carpenters and the joiners at Newcastle in the 17th century. The carpenters had agreed among themselves that they should provide all the windows and doors in buildings or else they would not build the house. In 1672, one of their number told this to a client but in the hearing of another person, who informed the joiners and the magistrates. The carpenter was fined by his guild for revealing their secrets. Two years later, this same carpenter fitted a casement made by a joiner and the joiner was promptly fined by his guild, as members were not permitted to make joining work for carpenters. In 1676 the dispute was still going on, and it was reported that the carpenters had managed to get access to the ordinary of the company of joiners. Carpenters vs. joiners is still a live topic on site, and on internet discussion boards, today.

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2.2.4 Early government policy on vocational education and training The history of state policy on vocational education and training (VET) can be characterised as oscillating between intervention/regulation and laissez-faire voluntarism. Underpinning these trends over time is the contradiction between the short-term interests of individual enterprises engaged in the search for profits, and the wider needs of the construction industry and its clients. This contradiction has been variously dealt with, by the control of the craft guilds over apprenticeship standards, by negotiation between employers organisations and trade unions in the context of social partnership institutions, and by government intervention and regulation. State regulation of vocational training goes back to the Statute of Artificers (1563). This made 7-year apprenticeships compulsory in most building trades, and provided for magistrates to fix wage rates. The guilds, however, continued to control the apprenticeship system, and standards of craftsmanship. At the end of the eighteenth century, the number of tradesmen, both journeymen and masters, who had not been apprenticed (and were thus practicing their trade illegally) increased. A campaign to repeal the Statute of Artificers and abolish the 7-year apprenticeship was led by the Committee of Manufacturers, who regarded it as feudal, and as making for a too-rigid differentiation of trades, thus encouraging combinations. The campaign to defend and extend the apprenticeship was led by the City Companies (guilds) who argued that it preserved quality and complained of prices being undercut by illegal men. In 1814 the Statute of Artificers was repealed, meaning that entry to the building trades was now unrestricted 4 (Clarke 1992: 219-220).

Before this time, anyone could claim to be architect, engineer, or surveyor; but it was the craftsman who had been through a rigorous apprenticeship (Morton 2008: 91). However the architects now invented themselves as a profession, and set up the Architectural Society in 1831.

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2.2.5 The decline of the guilds From the late Middle Ages until the eve of industrialisation society altered slowly, working methods changed little, firms remained small, and the pattern of craftsmens lives altered barely at all. The craft guilds gradually lost influence as economic and social conditions changed in the 17th and 18th Centuries (Woodward 1995: 11). The rise of the professional, and the emergence of modern capitalism began to erode the craftsmens status and their traditional control over the construction process. The Renaissance separated art from craft and saw the (re)birth of the architect as designer. Architects, engineers and surveyors were employed to plan, design and administer large building works. Design became separated from execution, and the power and mystique of the guilds began to be appropriated by an emerging professional class. From the 1820s architects increasingly separated themselves from direct building5 to represent and protect the owners interests, while retaining design responsibility. Engineers such as Telford6 and Brunel became project manager/ master builders.

In the early19th Century industrialisation, urbanisation, and the growth of capitalism led to massive demand for construction work, and to new forms of organising construction (Morton 2008: 4). The role of government as a client seems to have been important here. From the late 1780s there were regulations requiring government departments to use the new contract in gross though the regulations seem to have been widely ignored as clients felt it led to poor quality work (Morton 2008: 110). The governments large barrack-building programme in the early years of the 19th century may also have encouraged the systems growth (Price 1980). Cubbitt is credited with being one of the first general contractors around 1815, employing craftsmen under foremen, rather than entering into contracts with them. The system spread rapidly, in spite of opposition from clients and architects as well as from the newly-formed trade unions and the small masters. Competitive tendering can be seen as the reflection of the competitive principle which had begun to permeate economic society as a whole (Satoh 1995: 262). It seems to have been regarded as
5

The Institute of British Architects was founded in 1834 to enhance professional standing and to disparage old style design-and-build practices. In 1887 a rule was passed prohibiting members from having any interest in building firms. 6 Telford was apprenticed as a stonemason; he was self-taught as an engineer and worked variously as architect and surveyor before becoming the first president of the ICE.

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normal by the 1830s; being used on the mega projects of the day (such as the new Palace of Westminster), as well as on many smaller jobs. Thus the independent small master craftsmen were replaced by waged employees of the new general contractors. Ownership became polarised between the very big and the very small a trend which continues today. (Cubitt by 1876 employed 3,000 men.) So although the very small firms continued to dominate the industry in numerical terms, it was the big general contractors who set the standards for wages, hours, working conditions. The small builders rapidly became dependent on the general contractors as subcontractors. Multilayer subcontracting also dates back to at least this period. (Satoh (1995: 89) reports that in 1854 a case came to court where the accidental cutting of gas pipes had caused an explosion. The large main contractor had sublet the work to several parties, and they had sublet again until the subcontracts reached the labourers themselves.)

During this period there were street battles, as London craftsmen sought to protect their customary rights against migrants from the countryside; many were skilled, but they were wage labourers rather than artisans, and thus not integrated into the workshopbased organisation of the craftsmen (Clarke1992: 120). The no-Popery riots in 1736 and 1780 were not simply anti-Irish or anti-Catholic, but defended the artisan against the labourer; most of those involved were journeymen, apprentices and small masters (Clarke1992:70). The employment of Irish immigrants at a lower rate, and of pauper labour as part of poor relief in times of unemployment, (as well as the introduction of new methods of work), led to the collapse of the paviours trade organisation and skilled craft privileges. Other trades began to be affected: Clarke (1992:145) reports that the 1790 Paving Commission agreed to treat with and employ proper bricklayers, which implies that there were many bricklayers who were not proper.

In this period of late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, defence of the artisan system is a thread running through political action, from the London carpenters strike of 1787; the London Corresponding Society inspired by the ideas of Tom Paine (1737 1809) which included a large number of carpenters and bricklayers; until the Chartism of the 1830s (Clarke 1992:70;190). Both Robert Owen (17711858) and Ruskin (1819 1900) were influential campaigners for social justice who opposed mechanisation and the factory system. Owen inspired the short-lived Builders Guild set up in 1832, which aimed to cut out the general contractor by working direct for the client (Hilton 1963;
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Kingsford 1973: 31-37). Ruskin rejected mechanisation, standardisation and the division of labour in favour of the supposedly free and unfettered expression of the artisans working on the construction and decoration of mediaeval gothic buildings. This led to his later publications attacking laissez faire capitalism, which influenced many trade union leaders of the Victorian era. He attacked laissez faire economics because it failed to acknowledge the complexities of human desires and motivations, and he argued that the State should intervene to regulate the economy in the service of such higher values.

The trade unions which were founded after the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824 took on some of the characteristics of the craft guilds in protecting the status of the skilled craftsman. (According to Hilton (1963) it was precisely because the masons and bricklayers were comparatively well paid tradesmen, with craft prestige behind them, that they formed the first trade unions.) It is somewhat controversial whether the trade unions do, or do not, descend from the craft guilds, but most historians feel that they do not. Hilton traces the origins of the AUBTW7 back not to guilds but to the masons lodges established in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, and the illegal combinations of mediaeval masons resisting the fixing of wages in the labour shortages after the Black Death. In either case their role was not simply to raise wages but to defend the craft by barriers to entry and to govern relations between the masons. After the rush of jerry-building in the early Victorian age, in the late 19th century the unions made strong (and successful) efforts to maintain craft apprenticeships particularly the plumbers. By the end of this period, apprenticeships, and the status of the skilled craftsman, still survived. Construction crafts retained a high degree of autonomy compared with most non-professional jobs, and the management of construction projects on site was still largely reserved for foremen who came from the building trades. This was not to be threatened until after the mid 20th century.

During the nineteenth century, technical education was left to employers, and voluntary groups such as the Mechanics Institutes. The City and Guilds Institute was founded in
7

Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, the stonemasons and bricklayers union which was one of the forerunners of UCATT.

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1876, and conducted a system of qualifying examinations in technical subjects. Technical colleges offering part-time vocational education gradually came into being. However, in the late 19th century the impact of depression made people begin to question whether a completely unfettered form of capitalism was the best way of organising society. Thus, under the 1889 Technical Instruction Act, responsibility for the technical colleges was assumed by the new county councils. Evening student numbers in technical subjects reached a peak in the early 1900s, and remained relatively constant until the 1940s. The first municipal direct labour organisation (DLO)8 was set up in 1892 by the London County Council as a response to corruption and contractors increasing tender prices (Langford 1981; Kirkham and Loft 2000).

2.2.6 New technology and the (re)definition of skills Powered sawmills driven by wind or water appear to date back as far as the sixteenth century but there is no evidence that they were practical or widely used. However, in 1840 the Ashton sawyers struck violently against a reduction in wages, and this was the last mention of the Sawyers Union; over the next 30 yrs hand sawing was driven out by machinery (Postgate 1923). Innovation in the Victorian building industry included stoneworking and woodworking machinery, the industrialisation of brick making, offthe-shelf components, and lifting machinery. Bentham, Brunel, and others invented various joinery machines. There were circular saws, mortising machines, bandsaws, planers. (Not very efficient by all accounts; they were expensive, and only used by the biggest contractors in London, Manchester, and Liverpool.) In Thomas Cubitts workshops, marble was being polished by steam power in 1845, but opposition to stoneworking machinery only became a topic of debate in the labour movement around 1860 (Satoh 1995: 126- 127; Price 1980).

The manufacture of pre-fabricated building parts (such as bricks, timber mouldings, windows) reduced the builders skill monopolies. Mass production, coupled with the
8

The first contract awarded to this new DLO was a sewer in Battersea, won in competition with private contractors. Battersea Power Station was also built by the DLO, as well as the first mass council house estates. The venture in Battersea progressed so well that all local authority work was soon done by the DLO. Clearly such a move was bound to cause controversy, which became a focal point of the local elections of 1908. In this election the Progressives lost control of the LCC and the incoming Moderate party proceeded to dismantle the DLO with the labour force of 3000 laid off.

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rise of building professionals and general contractors, threatened the power and status that tradesmen had traditionally held, and began to move them from their aristocracy of labour status into the ranks of the working class selling their casualised labour. By 1905 (according to the secretary of the carpenters and joiners union, quoted in Kingsford 1973: 166) the use of machine joinery, and the substitution of iron and concrete for wood in the construction of buildings, was causing high levels of unemployment. These machine joinery works were operated by ... two or three leading hands and machinists, the remainder are underpriced men and youths with no recognised working rules or standard of wages. With new technology and new skills, demarcation disputes re-emerged. In 1899 there was bitter wrangling between the bricklayers and plasterers unions over who should do cement flooring. Other disputes concerned masons laying bricks and, in 1913, plasterers building breeze block walls (Hilton 1963:180-181; 199-200). The plumbers seemed to (feel themselves to) be threatened by everyone with the decline in lead work and rise of copper, iron (and later plastic) pipe, and the rise of gas-fitters etc see Postgate (1923). Postgate is rather critical of the plumbers, but it seems likely that if they had not been so touchy plumbing could have ceased to exist or at least severely declined as a trade.

After the First World War, the traditional trades of carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, bricklaying, plumbing, stonemasonry and plastering continued to dominate in approximately that order of numerical importance (Powell 1982: 115-116). But newer skills of steel erectors, steel fixers, electricians, lift engineers, and heating engineers became increasingly important, especially on the bigger non-housing jobs. The plumbers and electricians successful union is an intriguing mixture of the past high status of craft plumbers from the days of lead work on the cathedrals, and the modern importance of services. (Electricians have a semi-technician status and like to see themselves as cleaner and more intelligent than the bricks and sticks building trades.)

Concrete work continued to gain ground, and the concrete workers were mostly organised (if at all) in the TGWU. According to Kingsford (1973: 166)

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The concrete work was lost altogether by the building unions because the concrete labourers were a race on their own, not recruited from the building labourers or from craftsmen who had been displaced. Machines such as excavators and dozers became more widely used, and the men who operated these were also classed as labourers, paid a penny or two above the ordinary labourers rate (Kingsford 1973: 189). There were some successes in new trades. Unlike concrete, structural steelwork was not classified as mere labouring. Kingsford (1973: 188) suggests that the steel erectors union was able to raise their wages above those of labourers because of the skill and danger in their work, but the true explanation may lie elsewhere perhaps in their bargaining power

2.2.7 Government policy after the First World War War brought a more interventionist approach, which then continued into the post-war period. At the end of the First World War, there was an acute housing shortage, and illhealth stemming from poor housing had seen large numbers of young men physically unfit to serve in the war. Following the Russian revolution, there was also concern about unrest in the British working class. State intervention in the mass production of housing for the working class began with the 1919 Housing Act, introduced following a pledge by the Lloyd George Government to provide homes fit for heroes to live in. Between 1919 and 1920, 70 new Direct Labour Organisations were set up. The City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD), discussed in later chapters, was one of these. 500 houses were built under the 1919 Housing Act. In 1923, Manchester recorded a saving of 100 per house over contractors prices; furthermore they observed that the DLO consistently gave better quality (Langford 1981: 9).

In the initial aftermath of the war, there were acute shortages of both skilled labour and materials. The number of skilled building craftsmen had halved between 1901 and 1920, their already low wages eroded by inflation, their numbers reduced by war and the lure of more comfortable factory work. Proposed techniques to overcome skill shortages included the use of larger and lighter bricks, or the use of concrete as a substitute for brickwork and timber. This was the first incarnation of the central planning and modern methods of construction discourse. However, little came of this as the building boom of the immediate post-war period came to an abrupt halt in1920
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with the collapse of world trade; building demand fell rapidly and unemployment shot up. Falling prices and low interest rates then fuelled a house-building boom from 1923, but houses were built almost entirely by traditional construction techniques and practices. Four million new homes were built during the interwar period, 1.5 million of them either directly by local councils or with the aid of state subsidy. Construction employment went from 947,000 in 1921 (recovery to 1901 level), to 1,277,000 in 1931. Although the reality of the twenties and thirties was largely traditional construction, the discourse of modern methods of construction as the solution to skill shortages was powerful but prefabrication was always just around the corner as it still is. The Fordist motor car metaphor for construction dates back a long way: The low cost house will be manufactured as a whole, or in parts, in central factories and assembled on site. Production will be similar to that of the automobile. Design will be dictated not only by convenience and efficiency, but by economical machine production, handling and distribution of parts, and speedy erection by unskilled labour. (Yorke 1934: 168) The depression and its aftermath caused ideas of a scientific planned society to be taken more seriously. In the early 1930s the examples of Russia and Germany reinforced, in their different ways, the need for a planned economy. Then came the second great war. During World War II the government insisted on dilution (the use of semi-skilled workers, women in woodworking shops, unemployed plasterers doing carpentry, carpenters in engineering) but guaranteed that craft practices would be restored at the end of the war. In fact, craft unions such as the ASW (woodworkers) had for several years been recruiting semi-skilled men who had not served an apprenticeship; this was done in self-defence when they were unable to prevent the employers taking on halftrained men for craftsmens work. During the war, government training schemes aimed to produce semi-skilled workers quickly. At the end of the war the dilutees were dispensed with by agreement between the government and the building trades unions.

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2.2.8 The post-war long boom The war had disrupted apprenticeship training and brought an end to non-essential construction; it was followed by a building boom, and concern about skill shortages. The welfare state created huge demand for buildings to house the expanded social services as well as for housing (slum clearance), and nationalisation increased demand for industrial and commercial buildings. The strategic and logistical planning accepted in wartime continued into the post-war period, with planning to meet national objectives for reconstruction. Government commitment to full employment strengthened the bargaining position of labour. The precarious nature of employment in the twenties and thirties gave way to more security as work forces gradually stabilised. Cyclical unemployment had been accepted in the inter-war period as a fact of life, but the buoyant demand of the long boom brought tight labour markets, particularly for skilled labour, which led to a rise in workers prosperity9.

During the post-war building boom, the government brought in a national apprenticeship scheme, technical education was expanded, and day release for apprentices at technical colleges became much more common. The unions were reluctantly forced to accept dilution in peacetime; they finally agreed on condition that the adult training was controlled by the apprenticeship committees. Thus Government Training Centres were set up to provide six-month courses in skilled trades10. The unions had always opposed incentive payments as being counter to the tradition of craftsmanship, but after the war the employers refused to give any wage increase without incentives, and ran a press campaign against the bricklayers. Eventually in 1947 incentive payments11 were accepted after a national ballot (Kingsford 1973: 209-210).

The period after the Second World War saw a massive increase in the number of DLOs for similar reasons to those established in 1919/1920 soaring tender prices and housing shortages. The DLOs became big employers, providing stable employment,
9

Some have argued that this greater prosperity and security led to important cultural changes in the respectable working class. 10 According to Kingsford (1973: 207-8), 200 000 men were trained in building trades after the Second World War. 11 None of the informants in this study were old enough to have served their apprenticeships before the war. However, the author worked (in the 1980s)with many craftsmen who had served their time in the 1930s, and these men saw the introduction of the bonus system as a defining moment in changing attitudes to work, leading to a decline in craft skill.

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training and relatively good working conditions. 1948 was the high point in DLO house building - 175,000 dwellings were constructed. By this point there were twice as many DLOs as in 1939. In 1948, the public sector accounted for 71% of all construction works. As a powerful client, government wanted a better performing industry to serve its needs, and government intervention in all aspects of the industry seemed to follow naturally. There was increasingly interest in the operational aspects of building as an aid to national recovery. These interests included the application of operational research methods to craft processes. BRS was investigating the mechanisation of building operations, and the potential of new methods and new techniques for increasing productivity and reducing costs. Thus, a set of ideas came to dominate construction from the 1950s onwards - that construction, if it was to meet the challenges of reconstruction, needed to become more industrialised, more like manufacturing industry, and less craft-based and dependent on ad hoc project coalitions. The need for improved labour productivity was a powerful theme, and this was connected both with skills and training, and with the perceived need for new methods of construction. This focus on science-led industrial transformation continued to dominate throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s before beginning to falter (partly in the aftermath of the Ronan Point collapse12).

2.2.9 Recent changes in craft skills and training - Changes since the 1970s Significant changes have occurred in the UK labour market and in training systems since the end of the long boom in the 1970s. Briefly, these include the decline of traditional apprenticeships and the introduction of NVQs; changes in the taxation and national insurance regime for construction workers which encouraged self-employment; the disappearance of DLOs which formerly carried out much training; low demand for skills during the recessions of the early 1980s, early 1990s and late 2000s leading to declining company commitment to new entrant training; and the wider European labour
12

Ronan Point was built using the Taylor Woodrow Large Panel System. In 1968 a gas explosion demolished a load-bearing wall, causing the collapse of one entire corner of the 22-storey building. Four people were killed and seventeen injured, shaking public confidence in the safety of system-built residential tower blocks. Within a couple of decades, this lack of confidence, added to the social problems within such developments, led to many tower blocks being demolished and replaced by traditional lowrise housing.

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market making it easier for UK contractors to import skills from nations with lower wage costs and avoid the expense of training local workers. The mass unemployment of the 1980s dealt a severe blow to trade union power; this was reinforced by the unions seeming inability to articulate the concerns of their members, as well as by anti-union legislation and the demise of tripartite training bodies.

The increase in self-employment Self-employment (or the lump) was a form of work organisation which had dominated the construction industry between the 1880s and the First World War (Winch 1998). Significant stabilisation of construction employment was achieved in the post-war boom years of the 1950s and 1960s, and by 1970 direct employment by general contractors was the norm (ILO, 2001). However, the introduction of Selective Employment Tax in 1966 and the Redundancy Payments Act in 1965 had increased the cost of direct employment (Ive 2003). The Phelps Brown report of 1968 recommended the encouragement of self-employment and LOSC, and in 1970 the 714 and SC60 certificates were introduced; the first taxation regime unique to the construction industry. This created two classes of self-employed, the independent (714) and the dependent (SC60). Thus began a steady trickle of movement from direct employment to self-employment. By 1977, self-employed labour had risen from post-war levels, but still comprised less than 30% of the construction workforce; however by 1995 the level had risen to over 60% (ILO, 2001). Over this period, the structure of the construction workforce was transformed. Harvey (2001) clearly demonstrates the relationship between changes in the tax regime and fluctuations in self-employment. In 1980, there was a significant policy change as part of the Thatcherite deregulation of labour markets instead of requiring some evidence, as previously, self-employment became a simple matter of self-declaration. Since that time, there has been a massive shedding of labour by contractors in favour of outsourcing. There was an immediate increase in numbers registered as self-employed, and a steady flow from employed to self-employed continued throughout the 1980s and early 1990s until the next change in policy. At the peak, in 1996, 67% of private sector manual workers in construction were selfemployed.
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In 1997 the tests for self-employment were re-instated, and there was a shift back to direct employment. Many contractors moved back to direct employment of labourers and plant operators, but continued to treat all craft workers as self-employed. Since then, further changes to tax rates, and a lack of vigour in enforcing the law (occasional half-hearted clampdowns Green 2006), have lead to fluctuations but no major shifts. The self-employed recently accounted for 39% of all construction employees in the UK, or 57% of operatives (Clarke et al 2008). The proportion is probably much higher for certain trades such as brickwork than for labourers, ground workers, or M&E trades. In 2005, over 60% were self-employed in the four main craft trades (wood trades, bricklaying, plastering and painting and decorating) (CITB-ConstructionSkills 2006). Policy encouraging (false) self-employment has had clear effects on skills and training; this will be discussed in later chapters.

The decline in training There has clearly been a dramatic fall in apprentice training, although the very fragmentation which is one of the causes of the decline also makes it difficult to measure. Figures for numbers of apprentices and trainees in construction, and particularly series over time, are contradictory, inconsistent, and difficult to compare13. Since a change in the format of the levy collection form in the 1980s14, construction trainees are no longer recorded by the firm employing them. In addition, the length of apprenticeship has declined by around two thirds over the period. In short trying to compare today to 1970s and to expect any meaningful results is rather a waste of time (Bowen 2009). However, some indication must be attempted.

13

Some of the discrepancies are due to whether all training or only apprenticeships are included, whether electrical and plumbing trades are included (not in CITB figures), whether non-manual employees and technician training are included, and whether the figures count starts, completions (which can be much lower due to drop-out rates as high as 50%), or total numbers at any one time. Of course, even the definition of construction, and therefore of those who work in the sector, is proble matic (Briscoe, 2006). In addition, a massive informal sector is largely missing from statistics.

14

The key cut off date is 1986 when government stopped us asking for train ing data in the returns (Bowen 2009)

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The Phelps-Brown report (1968: 43) records that in 1966 there were 130,000 building trade apprentices almost 10% of the number of operatives. In a dramatic contrast, the total number completing apprenticeships in 2007 was over 5,000 (CITBConstructionSkills 2008). The total numbers working in UK construction remain largely unchanged since 1970, fluctuating around 1,800,000; the proportion of manual workers also remains unchanged at 82%. Yet the number of trainees registered with the CITB fell dramatically from 135,000 in the mid 1960s to under 50,000 in 1988 and around 30,000 during the 1990s (Morton 2008). More recent (but pre-recession) figures suggest around 15,000 undertaking some form of work-based training at NVQ level 2 or 3; 10,000 of whom were on an apprenticeship programme15. In March 2009, the chairman of the Cross Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force was reported in Building magazine as saying that the governments target of doubling the number of construction apprentices to 14,000 by 2012 was out of the window.

The collapse of training seems to have come about as a consequence of changes in the structure of the industry, and especially the widespread move to self-employment. (See Winch 1998; Gann and Senker 1998; CITB 2003; Forde and MacKenzie 2005; 2007.) Harvey (2001: 43) concludes Mass self-employment has effectively put an end to craft training in workplaces. Clarke et al (2008) present figures showing that the rise in selfemployment since 1970 has closely paralleled the fall in the number of trainees, with the high point for self-employment and low point for trainee numbers in 1995, with a slight improvement since then.

Another major change in the structure of the industry is that employment by local authority Direct Labour Organisations (DLOs) has been decimated, down from around
15

The figure of 5,000 for apprentice completions given above is those delivered by the CITB and recorded in their annual report. There are, however, other forms of training which do not come under their aegis and of which no central records are kept. In an attempt to capture data on all these other forms of training, CITB-Construction skills surveyed colleges, private training providers and construction industry training centres. (CITB-ConstructionSkills, 2006). Total intake in 2005/2006 was just over 47,000. Technician occupations, plant and general operative training was included; subtracting this leaves 38,000 undertaking construction craft training. However, 17% are studying at Level 1, described as a DIY-level qualification, which does not provide sufficient depth of experience to allow a ne w entrant to work competently in the industry. In addition 44% of trainees are studying for Construction Awards, which do not provide the work experience that is essential for a career in construction. (These trainees who cannot gain an NVQ are based in local FE colleges, where staff admit that most of those they are training will never work in construction.) Subtracting these leaves around 15 000 undertaking some form of workbased training at level 2 or 3. 10,000 of these were commencing an apprenticeship programme.

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200,000 in 1979 to about 25,000 in 2008 (Morton 2008), and still falling. Central government policies led to a massive drop in local authority house building, the sale of much council housing, and the transfer of most of the DLOs work to the private sector (Langford 1981; Kirkham and Loft 2000). More recently, the transfer of most of the remaining housing stock has removed local authorities maintenance responsibilities, and reduced the local authority construction labour force still further, to a point where it barely exists outside Scotland. All this has had a huge effect on training. As Clarke and Wall, (1998b: 61-63) describe, local authorities were throughout the twentieth century significant contributors to the pool of skilled construction workers through the high levels of training delivered within DLOs. Many local authorities previously had exemplary training schemes, both for young apprentices and for adult improvers. Training by DLOs thus operated as an indirect subsidy to other construction firms who were able to take people on ready-trained. In addition to the reduction in training which can be seen as a side-effect of other changes, it has been argued that there has also been an ideological attack on traditional craft apprenticeships in particular. This can be seen as part of the ongoing process of reducing craft control. As unemployment rose, reaching three million in the 1980s, government training schemes became increasingly focussed on reducing unemployment. The youth training schemes YOPs and YTS provided training without jobs, and were widely criticised for poor quality. The traditional apprenticeship, providing socialisation into a skilled identity as well as learning a trade in its entirety, came under attack (Roberts 1995), as the concept of coordinated craft-based training was undermined. The introduction of NVQs designed to eliminate knowledge (Grugulis 2002: 16), reflected a new approach to training. By 1992, only 5% of trainees entered construction via traditional apprenticeships (JAGNET 1994: 31). In 1994, in recognition that traditional apprenticeships had virtually died during the 1980s, Modern Apprenticeships, linked to the NVQ system, were introduced to replace the discredited title of youth training. However, much learning is now carried out informally on site it may or may not later be validated by OSAT and therefore tends to focus only on immediate needs. Thus, not only has there been a huge fall in numbers being trained, but the training which does still happen has a different emphasis.

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2.3 VET policy: analysis of reports


The changes described above will now be investigated through an analysis of policy as expressed in government reports of the period. This section offers an overview of postwar policy relevant to skill and training in UK16 construction, based upon an analysis of government and industry reports from1950 to 2010. The focus on the post-war period corresponds with the experience of the interviewees the oldest of whom served their time during the Second World War. Whereas the history in section 2.2 was based on secondary sources, this section is based directly upon the reports as primary historical sources, though other sources are also used for background. In keeping with the general approach taken to the research, there was a discourse-based focus to the analysis of these texts. A macrostructural analysis is reported in this chapter on history as it forms a general background to the themes which will later emerge from the interviews. A more detailed lexical analysis will be given when the results are discussed in chapter 7.

The documents examined include the National Plans from 1958 and 1965 (Carr Committee 1958; DEA 1965) the Phillips, Phelps Brown, Latham and Egan reports on the construction industry (Phillips 1950; Phelps Brown 1968; Latham 1994; DETR, 1998); studies by the Building Research Station (BRS 1967) Construction Industry Training Board (CITB1969; 2003) and several white papers and reports on skills and training (DE/DES 1981; DES1985; DfES et al 2003; 2005; Leitch 2005; 2006). The texts were produced by working groups representing various interests and points of view. Some speak clearly for government; the authors of others are authoritative industry leaders and experts claiming the right to speak for, and to, the construction industry. The balance of those leaders and experts has changed over the period - most obviously there has been a decline in trade union representation, and an increase in client representation. The analysis of recent policy also draws on a small sample of websites which represent the views of government departments such as DIUS and DBERR, and associated quangos such as ConstructionSkills and the Learning and Skills Council. In addition, the minute books of the Manchester Direct Works Department Policy Committee were examined in order to investigate how the policy changes played out in one specific local context.

16

Earlier texts refer to the UK and/or to Great Britain. Some later texts refer only to England.

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The texts were divided roughly into two groups, those published from 1950 to 1979 (but mainly from the 1960s), and those published from 1980 to 2010. This division enabled a comparative analysis of what had changed and what had remained constant in official discourses of skill. By looking at a range of texts over a sixty-year period, the aim is to start making connections between changes in policies affecting vocational education and training for the building trades; the discourses through which policies are expressed, and structural changes, particularly in employment practices.

Texts in the first group included the Phillips report (1950), the Emmerson report (1962) and the Phelps Brown report (1968); a report on Building operatives work from the Building Research Station (BRS 1967) and the Construction Industry Training Boards A plan of training for operative skills in the construction industry (CITB 1969). Texts in the second group included the Egan report (DETR 1998), the Lifelong learning and career development section from the Respect for People report (Respect for People working group 2000) and the Barker review of housing supply (Barker 2004), as well as several publications by CITB-ConstructionSkills (2003 etc), the Skills White papers (DfES et al 2003; 2005), the Leitch Review of Skills (2005; 2006) and the Skills for sustainable growth Strategy Document (BIS 2010).

Changes in policy 2.3.1 From central manpower planning to a demand-led market in skills Perhaps the most striking difference between reports of the 60s/70s and those of the 90s/00s is the degree to which it is assumed to be proper for the government (as representative of the public interest) to be involved in planning the economy, the construction industry, employment and training.

The need for planning had been accepted in wartime, and continued with the wave of nationalisations in the late 1940s. The Phillips report (Phillips 1950) on the construction industry reflected concepts of planning for a new Britain. In the post-war years there was a broad consensus about training policy between the political parties. Explicit

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recognition of market failures17 in this area meant that manpower planning at a level beyond that of the individual firm was seen as necessary. The concept of planning in the National interest persisted through the never-had-it-so-good 1950s into the 1960s, and National Plans were produced under both Conservative and Labour Governments (Carr Committee, 1958; DEA, 1965). This recognition that what is rational for the individual firm may not be in the best interests of the industry as a whole, or the wider community, underpinned the tripartite approach behind the establishment of the CITB in 1964 with representation of employers, employees, and government. Thus the state came to aid, regulate and partly manage apprenticeships which had just been reduced from five years to four (Morton 2008: 76). The statutory training levy provided financial and institutional inducement to industry to extend its training, and the volume of training increased by 15% between 1964 and 1968.

This approach changed in 1979 with the advent of the Thatcher government. Although the 1964 Industrial Training Act had been broadly welcomed by both sides of industry, by the 1970s the context was changing. Instead of full employment and skill shortages, unemployment had begun to rise, so there was a pool of trained labour available and little incentive for employers to train. The market was now seen as the most efficient mechanism for deciding what skills and training were needed. By the 1990s it was no longer possible even to imagine the publication by the Government of a plan covering all aspects of the countrys economic development for the next five years (from the foreword by George Brown to the National Plan, DEA 1965: iii).

The laissez-faire view of the market as the best mechanism to determine what is needed grew rapidly during the Thatcher years, and continued under New Labour. When Labour came to power in 1997, there was again concern that the UK had more poorly qualified employees and fewer young people in training than most of its European competitors the low-skills equilibrium. A Green Paper, The Learning Age (DfEE 1998) announced the governments commitment to lifelong learning and proposed to set up individual learning accounts. There was a (slight) change in the rhetoric from investment in human capital for productivity, competitiveness etc to investment in
17

There is an explanation of market failure in the 1965 National Plan, under the heading The nature and purpose of planning: the market economy does not necessarily, and without active Government influence, bring about the results which the nation needs DEA: 1965, 2

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human capital for productivity, competitiveness, and social justice (Fairclough, 2000). Yet this did not change the trend away from planning. The Leitch review of skills (Leitch 2005; 2006) recommends that all publicly funded adult vocational skills training is to be demand-led with an end to supply-side planning of provision (ibid 2006: 4.13). Training providers are to supply what the market wants, and public bodies are not to carry out planning. The invisible hand alone will decide.

2.3.2 Employer-led training policy In spite of the laissez-faire market rhetoric, government intervention has continued. However, the focus has shifted from meeting the needs of the nation to meeting employers needs. After the advent of the Thatcher government TOPS (Training Opportunities Programme, introduced in 1972 to providing accelerated training for adults in key trades) was first privatised and later abolished. In 1981 the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) was launched. YTS and YOPs (Youth Opportunities Scheme) were seen (by the trade unions in particular) as a way of massaging the unemployment figures whilst providing cheap labour for employers - many of whom used subsidised youth trainees without subsequently employing them. The governments response to the unions opposition was to re-cast the tripartite MSC (Manpower Services Commission, founded in 1973) as a government body, the Manpower Services Agency, thus excluding employers as well as trade unions. The white paper, Employment for the 1990s (DE 1988), signalled the determination to proceed on the basis of a voluntarist, market-based training system, the centrepiece of which would be new employerdominated Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs). The focus on the primacy of employers needs has continued under governments of the 1990s and 2000s. Instead of planning by public bodies, firms are simply exhorted to train. Appeals to enlightened self-interest are interspersed with carrots for firms that train, and an occasional veiled threat of the stick for those that fail to train. Policy, it is repeated again and again in recent reports, is to be employer-led. According to the 2005 Skills white paper, the aim of policy is:

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To work in partnership with employers to enhance skills by putting their needs and priorities centre stage in the design and delivery of training for adults. to deliver publicly-funded skills training in a way that is directly led by the needs of employers and to ...put the purchasing power in the hands of the employer, so that they can determine how public funds are best spent to meet their priorities, rather than funds being routed direct to providers. (DfES et al 2005) This clearly demonstrates the change in the zeitgeist. At one time it would not have been taken for granted that employers needs should determine publicly-funded training. However, some research suggests that this employer leadership, as with demand-led provision, is simply rhetoric. Grugulis (2002: 14) explains the bureaucratic nightmare18 of NVQs thus The NVQ system was, after all, devised by civil servants. The phrase employer-led was one of their aspirations, not a description of the qualifications designers. Both Moehler et al (2008) and Naylor et al (2008) found that the governments own agenda was hugely influential in determining the type and level of training carried out by construction employers and training providers, as funding allocation followed the latest targets. However, policy initiatives are fragmented, making comprehensive planning and co-ordination impossible.

2.3.3 The unitary view replaces pluralism There has been a move from a pluralist discourse (where society is composed of groups with differing interests, such as employers and employees) to a unitary view where the construction industry is regarded as synonymous with the construction employers (Fox 1966; 1973). This gradual exclusion of the trades unions or employees from mention in the reports was of course paralleled by transformations in the real world.

18

It was members of the Electrical Installation Engineering Industry Training Organization (EIETO) who, in a survey, described NVQs as a bureaucratic nightmare (Gann and Senker, 1998).

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In preparing the 1965 National Plan, discussions took place with all sides of the industry (DEA 1965). It was at this time recognised that what is rational for the individual firm may not be in the best interests of the industry as a whole, or the wider community. Hence the levy-grant system, and the tripartite approach which underpinned the establishment of the CITB with representation of employers, employees, and government. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, trade union membership and power declined, and these tripartite institutions were dismantled. More recent employment relations policies have sidelined trade unions and social partnership institutions; rather than bargaining over skills and training, unions are simply exhorted to cooperate with employers. In this context, the CITB came to look increasingly anachronistic as one of only two industry training boards to survive. In 2003 CITB became ConstructionSkills, responsible for representing employers skills needs (Barker 2004). A report on innovation from that year provides a contrast with the 1960s references to all sides of the industry. a consultation exercise comprising a panel of fifty employers, four half-day employer workshops and ten in-depth interviews with leading practitioners to explore what employers think innovation is and how it might increase the productivity of the construction sector The results are therefore grounded on the views of the industry... This report is a reflection of the sectors opinion (ConstructionSkills 2003) There is not one mention of consultation of employees or trades unions; the view of the employers is taken to be synonymous with the view of the industry. In recent discourse, trade unions role (if mentioned at all) is not the definition of skills through collective bargaining, but to work in partnership with employers to ensure profitable companies that take care of their staff (Blair 2007: 5). These changes in the discourse reflect and reinforce decreasing trade union influence and the demise of social partnership institutions.

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2.3.4 NVQs and the attack on apprenticeships In the 1980s, ideas about qualifications needing to be relevant and to measure what people can actually do led to the development of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). The tendency is for training and qualifications to meet employers short-term needs, with limited safeguards for the often strongly divergent needs of individuals, the industry as a whole, and the wider society. Because government policy starts from an essentially unitarist standpoint it seems to have great difficulty in acknowledging the existence of potentially conflictual power relationships within the workplace, and of understanding that skill may play a role in reproducing or challenging such relationships. (Keep 2007b) The move from a pluralist to a unitary view, and from tripartite to employer-led bodies, has resulted in narrow, task-specific training. NVQs have been widely criticised for their lack of academic rigour and dilution of technical content, and there is an increasing body of research questioning the value of the qualification (Callendar 1992; Gann and Senker 1998; Grugulis 2002; 2003; Clarke and Winch 2004; Chan and Dainty 2007; Brockmann et al 2007; 2008). NVQs were designed to describe the level of competence actually needed in the workplace, but in a labour market characterised by low skills, this simply reflects and reproduces existing weaknesses. Thus NVQs do not encompass the skills and knowledge actually needed in employment, let alone the wider education and development of the operative. This is seen in a lack of confidence amongst employers. The SME participants in a study by Dainty et al (2005: 393) criticised NVQs for their emphasis on achieving minimum standards as opposed to promoting excellence. In a study by Clarke and Wall (1998b: 70), only one out of more than 80 employers interviewed was unreservedly positive about NVQs. Comments included NVQs are rubbish, a person with an NVQ should not be considered a skilled person and the system seems to be producing odd-job men. The element of general education previously found in vocational courses such as City and Guilds is also missing from NVQs. Reports from the 1960s spoke of training to meet the needs of the industry, the firm and the man), including liberal studies to broaden the mind of the operative (CITB 1969) and explicitly rejected a narrow view which damns all theory (BRS 1967). By contrast, recent reports (e.g. Leitch 2005;

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2006) recommend that all publicly funded adult vocational skills training should be led by employer demand. Government enthusiasm for further employer-led reform of vocational qualifications holds the real danger of further hollowing out of already limited offerings, creating a form of lean learning. Roberts (1995) describes a determined attack on traditional apprenticeships in the 1980s, as socialisation into skilled identities was replaced by the learning of fragmented skills in youth training schemes. In 1994, in recognition that traditional apprenticeships had virtually died during the 1980s, Modern Apprenticeships were introduced to replace the discredited title of youth training. However, these apprenticeships, linked to the NVQ system, were competence based. Training is founded upon an image of individual career progression very different from that implied in being a time-served craftsman (Roberts 1995: 25). it is the embedded nature of the traditional apprenticeship system that is being exorcised in the move to substitute competencies for time-served knowledge (Roberts, 1995: 26-27 The attack on apprenticeship in the DLOs can also be seen in the minute books of the Manchester Direct Works Department Policy Committee. CMDWD had a long history of high quality apprentice training, and in 1976 the CITB had publically accepted that the Manchester training scheme is far superior to anything that the Board has so far accomplished (Langford 1981: 62). As reported in the minute books, the intake of apprentices for 1979 was 140. 3 years later, in 1982, the Department received over 1,000 applications (before closing the lists early) for 39 apprenticeship places. (By 2008, the successor organisation, Manchester Working, was recruiting 9 craft apprentices each year.) The change in 1981-1982 was a direct result of new government rules on DLOs revenue accounting, which meant that apprentice costs had to be included as a normal part of costs; apprentice training facilities could not be subsidised from the general rates. As any DLO not making 5% return on capital employed could be closed down, this rule appeared designed to prevent the employment of apprentices. These changes in apprenticeship and training the decline of traditional apprenticeships and the introduction of NVQs will be returned to in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 which describe, interpret and explain the results of the empirical research.

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Continuities in policy 2.3.5 The common sense nature of skill and learning Some aspects of policy have changed remarkably little over a period of forty or fifty years. Throughout the period, policy makers have continued to regard skill as a panacea. It is taken for granted that we know what skill is, that it is good, and that we need more of it. In a typical introduction (DTI 1994: 3) it is stated that education and skills are crucial to our prosperity and national success. However, there has been almost no discussion in the policy literature of the nature of skill or learning. This is wider than the construction industry. Keep (2008) cites the example of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which has never once, in its 7-year life, yet chosen to hold a serious discussion about what constitutes learning, how it takes place, or how it might be enhanced.

Official discourses also conflate skill and qualifications; in the policy literature they are almost always assumed to be equivalent in an uncomplicated way. This is seen, for example, on the LSC website, and in the 2003 and 2005 skills white papers (DfES et al 2003; 2005). Figures are given for relative skills in the UK, US, Germany and France, but the figures are actually for qualifications, and there is no discussion of the link.

This lack of discussion can be seen as a way of denying the contested nature of these concepts (for example, learning as taking place within individuals as opposed to learning as social practice). By avoiding discussion, it is made to appear that there is a single, common-sense meaning, rather than a range of contested meanings, for skill, knowledge and learning. The shift in meanings of skill over time is also hidden. As used within the wider UK policy debate, the word skill has moved from a relatively narrow association with technical and craft skills to embrace such concepts as soft skills which may include behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes (Mayhew and Keep 1999; Payne 1999; 2004). There are different conceptualisations of skill, and those understandings change over time. Yet the meaning of skill for construction operatives appears to have changed very little over the past 50 years. It generally refers to a traditional, taken-for-granted set of attributes expected of, say, a bricklayer a combination of technical know-how and manual dexterity left essentially untouched by technological change.

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2.3.6 Recurrent concerns about skill shortages and skills gaps Concern about recurrent crises goes back at least to the post-second-world war period, cropping up in several post-war reports, often in the form of a shortage of manpower (Simon 1944; Phillips 1950; Emmerson 1962; DEA 1965: 112). The 1965 National Plan reported shortages of bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers and plumbers; in the building trades there were 2.5 vacancies for every person unemployed. Concern about skill shortages arises in the Latham and Egan reports (Latham 1994; DETR 1998), and underpins the concept of Respect for People (Respect for People working group 2000; 2004). Regular CIOB surveys (CIOB 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2010) find shortages of trades. This has continued even into recession, with 72% of respondents in the 2010 survey reporting a skills shortage. As with the concept of skill itself, the meaning of skills shortages is rarely questioned in the reports but taken for granted in a common sense way. Yet what employers think of as skill shortages may say more about recruitment problems associated with low pay and poor working conditions. Similarly with skills gaps; the Centre for Enterprise (2007) points out that employers may report skills gaps which are actually the result of poor pay and conditions, poor management and so on, or which have more to do with the motivation of an employee. Complaints about the unavailability of labour with the desired characteristics often turn out to be complaints about the price at which that labour is available. However, when employers regularly report that they can only get straight-line bricklayers (Clarke and Wall 1998: 14), this may be taken to imply something about weaknesses in the system of VET. The cyclical workings of supply and demand in construction labour markets are affected by the fact that skilled tradesmen are not created overnight19. Yet this circle was squared by importing ready-trained labour from Eastern Europe.

19

The 1965 National Plan mentioned above was predicated on 25% growth over the following five years. In fact, as often happens, a recession intervened. Frequently, by the time a report comes out proposing action on skills shortages, it looks absurd, as the problem has been superceded by recession. It is a truism that in a boom there is no time to train, whilst in a slump there is no need.

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2.3.7 Raising productivity by increasing the supply of skills There is a longstanding political concern about the apparent differences in productivity between UK workers and those elsewhere (Nordman and Hayward 2006). The standard diagnosis for the productivity deficiencies of British workers is that they are less well qualified than their counterparts in the US, Germany and France; and this has become a central theme of UK VET policy making. This concern is reflected in several post-war construction reports such as Phillips 1950; Emmerson 1962; Banwell 1964 (see also Murray and Langford 2003). The 1965 National Plan has many references to raising productivity and asserts (DEA 1965: 1; 10) that Britains place in an increasingly competitive world is going to rely increasingly on her technological skill. It was this concern that Britain was lagging behind its major European competitors in terms of the skills and education of its workforce that led to the establishment of the tripartite industry training boards, including the CITB, in the early 1960s. The same concern recurs forty years on in the 2003 and 2005 skills white papers (DfES et al 2003; 2005). Raising productivity is a theme, and skills are the key drivers of competitive advantage needed to compete in a global marketplace. Britains labour force is compared unfavourably with the US, Germany and France. Figures for relative skills (actually qualifications) on a basis of UK = 100 are given as 100.5 for the USA, 105.3 for Germany, and 105.5 for France (DfES et al 2003:19). Centre for Enterprise (2007: 5-9) discusses the sleight of hand often used when making the case for increased investment in skills, linking productivity to skill and then to qualifications, leaving the reader with the impression that one must cause the other. Yet productivity performance is not determined by skills levels alone, and upskilling a workforce without a corresponding improvement in the equipment they use or the markets they service will rarely achieve more than a marginal improvement in overall productivity. So qualifications and training are assumed to lead to better skills; improved skills are assumed to lead to increased productivity; increased productivity is assumed to be the answer to global competition, and global competition is assumed to be a major issue although it may be limited in construction.20 These common sense assumptions underpin the consistent official discourse.
20

Construction is of course unusual in that the products cannot usually be moved. However, there has been increasing transnational movement of capital, labour, and materials.

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However, whilst there seems to be very widespread agreement on the diagnosis of low productivity and low skills (the low-skill equilibrium), there are differing and changing views on causes and thus on the appropriate policy to treat the problem. Some point to employers reluctance to train (Grugulis 2003; Clarke and Herrmann 2007). CITBConstructionSkills regularly bemoans the difficulties of getting work experience for apprentices or trainees; for example a Press Release in 2008 spoke of a severe shortage in vacancies for young people entering the construction industry in England, and evidence to a House of Commons select committee on construction in 2007 was that there is no shortage of young people wishing to enter the sector as an apprentice ; rather, the difficulty lies in finding an employer willing to sponsor them. (ConstructionSkills only placed 7,000 apprentices out of 50,000 applicants, and estimated 7,500 to 10,000 young people on construction further education courses did not have a sponsoring employer. Yet deputy chairman Rogerson insisted that targets of 87,600 skilled recruits a year were being met through a variety of sources, including colleges and universities, migrants and upskilling.)

However, this problem tends to be played down in government reports. Not training may be a rational response by employers to the need for flexibility to meet changing market conditions, but this is never recognised in the official discourse, which exhorts firms to train by appeals to enlightened self-interest(the business case for training). Bringing in cheaper workers from other countries may also be a rational response to recruitment difficulties. In the 1960s (as in the 19th Century) this cheap labour came from the Irish Republic; more recently the EU expansion to the East supplied readytrained labour with a better work ethic thus increasing competition for jobs. These workers are an interesting absence, invisible in all the official reports studied. Others see the problem as workers poor skills and attitudes. This diagnosis is prefigured in the Phillips report (1950), which blamed low productivity on full employment. Whereas before the war a high margin of unemployment provided a means of solving the organisational problems of the industry and also a disciplinary sanction, the security which the building operatives have enjoyed since the war has certainly tended to reduce the efforts of those among them who were formerly kept up to the mark by the fear of unemployment.

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The clear implication is that the problem is more to do with laziness than a lack of skill. Yet by the time Thatcher entered office in 1979, skill had already begun to be redefined so as to shade over into the realm of values, behaviours, attitudes and personal qualities (Payne 1999). The emphasis was on the socialisation of the individual into the discipline of the work ethic through government -sponsored schemes such as YTS. The frequent references to the need for adaptability were justified by a policy rhetoric which referred to the constant (and, by implication, inevitable) process of technological change. As manufacturing industry declined in the 1980s, emphasis shifted to the lack of enterprise and motivation as the cause of rising unemployment. Many examples can be found in the policy documents of this era, such as On leaving school and college, young people ought to have the right motivation and be eager to learn, to show initiative and enterprise, to work hard and achieve. (DES 1985: 4). Others blamed the poor performance of the education and training system as indeed is also implied in the above excerpt. This position too goes back a long way. Payne (1999:3) cites James Callaghans Ruskin College speech of 1976 which berated the education system for failing to provide the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed in a modern industrial economy, and called on schools to prepare pupils for productive employment. Thus, the emphasis on productivity is a thread running through virtually all official discourse about skill. It remains central, albeit in a changed form.

2.3.8 Modern methods of construction and the technocratic rationalist discourse Another recurring concern of policy is to modernise an industry often seen as backward. During the post-war long boom the perceived need for modern methods of construction (MMC) was to meet increased demand and manpower shortages. There was also a faith in the liberating possibilities of science, technology and planning which is reflected in post-war construction reports (Phillips 1950; Emmerson 1962; Banwell 1964). The Phillips report in particular proposed prefabrication, standardisation and mechanisation (along with work study and incentive payments, and more extensive specialisation of trades).

New definitions of skills and crafts were regularly proposed from the early 1960s (Emmerson 1962). A study by the BRS (1967), followed by proposals for change in the

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teaching and organisation of skills (CITB 1969) called for training to be updated to improve productivity and to be more suited to changing construction methods such as system building. However, these proposals came to nothing. The quality of the government training was generally considered poor, and for both employers and trade unions the gold standard remained the time-served apprenticeship, regulated by industry-wide national agreements between employers and unions, and shaped by the traditional custom and practice of the industry. More recently, the arguments for modern methods of construction (MMC) have been in terms of cost saving and lean construction, as well as a solution to skills shortages with supposed safety and environmental benefits often thrown in as an afterthought. The Egan Report (DETR 1998) promoted the cause of standardisation and pre-assembly in much the same terms as Phillips, and with a similar lack of recognition of the effects of deskilling. There is indeed a sort of doublethink in most of the reports which proselytise for MMC and off-site manufacturing (OSM).On the one hand, prefabrication will (supposedly) enable buildings to be bolted together on site by unskilled labour, thus solving skills shortages On the other hand, MMC supposedly demand upskilling, new, technologically advanced skills. Technological advance is assumed to be both inevitable, and inherently positive, whilst resistance is often assumed to be simple backwardness. Innovation is a word that carries positive connotations in its definition. It cannot help being a good thing (Davies 2006). Government faith in modern methods of construction has remained largely unshaken over a period of sixty years in spite of some notable failures.

A survey of construction employers by MacKenzie et al. (2000) found that, after greater economic stability, they regarded long-term industry wide training plans and a return to direct employment as the most important response strategies to skills shortages in preference to prefabrication, automation, or trying to involve subcontractors in training. Other studies (for example Dainty et al 2005) have shown that small builders in particular are often opposed to prefabrication because of the danger of de-skilling exacerbating (rather than solving) skills shortages. The Barker review admits that there is resistance from house builders, buyers, the NHBC and local authorities to OSM/MMC. Yet the report concludes that
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the House Builders Federation, in conjunction with NHBC, ConstructionSkills and other interested parties, should develop a strategy to address barriers to modern methods of construction. Barker (2004: 114). However, the reasons why MMC and OSM have been so slow to be adopted have rarely been seriously considered in government-sponsored reports and policy documents. 21

The first part of this chapter presented an historical overview of craft skills and training for the construction trades in the UK/England. This second part has analysed a corpus of government and industry reports produced over a sixty-year period, in order to start making connections between changes in policies affecting training for the building trades, the discourses through which those policies are expressed, and structural changes in employment practices. These changes (and continuities) in policies, discourses, and practices will be reflected at the site level in later chapters which discuss building workers identity. Chapters 5 and 6 will pick up these same points as expressed in the interviews with building workers, and Chapter 7 will discuss the ways in which changes in skilled identities interact with changes in policies and discourses.

21

See the next chapter for a discussion of the craft administration thesis as to why construction technology remains traditional and labour-intensive (Stinchcombe 1959; Ball 1988:89-91).

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Chapter 3 Skill and identity in the building trades


3.1 Introduction
The purpose of this chapter is to review the literature on skill and identity, both within the construction management literature, and more widely. The literature review was not limited to the early stages of the project, but continued throughout the research period, as new directions of literature search were suggested by emergent empirical findings. This is in line with the argument of Green et al (2009) that a continuously evolving literature review facilitates the ongoing interplay between data and theory which is of central importance to iterative grounded theory. Thus existing theories are mobilised to make sense of emergent empirical insights.

3.2 Understandings of skill


Skill, knowledge, and competence are contested concepts but this is not apparent in much of the construction management literature. In the academic CM literature, as in policy texts and industry sources, a large proportion of work takes for granted the meaning of skill in the building trades. Everyone knows what it is, and it is therefore not defined or discussed. In the CM literature in this area, papers often begin with a discussion of skill shortages or training, but skill itself is frequently taken for granted. Examples include Agapiou 1998; Agapiou et al 1995; Gann and Senker 1998. These authors also make assumptions such as skills need constantly updating with no supporting argument or evidence. Yet how the trades come to be defined as they are is rarely questioned, so it tends to be assumed that, if there are skill shortages, what is needed is more people trained in the traditionally-defined trades when perhaps other combinations of skill would be more appropriate. There are exceptions to this taking for granted of the common sense, obvious nature of skill. Several publications by Clarke (for example Clarke and Wall 1998; Clarke, 2005) have addressed the issue of trade boundaries. The importance of the social construction of terms such as skills, qualifications and competence is discussed by Brockmann et al (2007). The argument is that different understandings of the meaning of

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competence and skill in different countries reflect and reinforce differences in policy on vocational education and training. Chan and Dainty (2007) point out that the definition of skills is not uncontested, and that there is a disconnect between skills research and policies, and skills needs in practice. The lack of attention to the meaning of skill in the academic CM literature reflects a lack of discussion in the construction industry itself, and in the various quangos and other bodies responsible for skills policy, such as CITB-Construction Skills. There are no job descriptions for work in the building trades because everybody knows what skills are expected of a bricklayer or a joiner. In regular CIOB surveys about skills shortages, no need is felt to define the terms. Even CITB-Construction Skills defines construction on its website (using the UK Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities,
2007),

but not skills. As mentioned in the previous chapter, there is little discussion of

the meaning of skill in the policy documents on skill and training; the nature of skill is widely taken for granted.

This lack of discussion can be seen as a way of denying the contested nature of concepts such as skill and learning. By avoiding discussion, it is made to appear that there is a single, common-sense meaning. Academic studies on skill, competence and learning from fields other than construction usually start by discussing different understandings of the concepts, and attempting some definition. Yet there is surprisingly little agreement on what skills (or knowledge, or competence) actually refer to (Felstead et al. 2002:20). Some conflicting conceptions of skill are discussed in the sections which follow.

3.2.1 Skill in the person v skill in the job If skill as treated as having an objective character, a distinction may be drawn between skill in the person and skill demanded by the job. Both may be treated as being amenable to measurement in ways which are ostensibly independent of the observer. One useful aspect of this way of looking at skill is that it points to the possibility that skill in the person may not match the skill demanded by the job. Cockburn highlights this in her study of the effects of new technology in the newspaper printing industry Skill in the man was now out of kilter with skill in the job (Cockburn 1983:116).
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Skill in the person Skill in the person is seen in terms of expertise or dexterity. Skill in the person is usually measured by qualifications, but this poses problems in construction where much learning is informal. There is considerable literature which points to the unimportance of qualifications in construction recruitment practices. For example, as long ago as 1986, Bresnen et al found that recruitment and selection practices tended to be informal and to emphasise experience rather than qualifications. Druker and White (1996) found that recruitment in construction is often informal and through personal contacts. Clarke and Hermann (2007) confirm that firms rely on experience not qualifications as the main criterion for operative recruitment. The idea of skills as an attribute of the person; as individual possessions that people bring to their jobs is typified by the human capital approach used by economists. This has become the most all-pervasive framework for national policy and for bodies such as the International Labour Organisation. There are, however, a number of criticisms of this approach to understanding skill. It can be seen to perpetuate a mechanistic, instrumental view of the individual worker, a criticism linked to concerns about the onesided model of homo conomicus that lies at the heart of human capital theory.

Skill in the job Skill in the job is often described in terms of two elements, the complexity of the task, and autonomy, control or discretion in carrying out the task (see for example Rolfe 1990; Spenner1990; Felstead et al. 2002). Complexity may be defined as the level, scope and integration of mental, manipulative and interpersonal tasks in a job (Spenner 1990:402). The US Dictionary of Occupational Titles is an example of this approach. The indicators used include complexity in relation to data, people and things, as well as general educational development, specific vocational preparation, physical demands, and aptitudes (including verbal, numerical and dexterity). Purporting to measure job complexity raises questions particularly concerning gender bias, and the privileging of cognitive complexity over manual skills (Attewell 1990).

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The second dimension of job skill focuses on the issue of autonomy or control, which refers to the discretion or leeway available in a job to control the content, manner and speed with which tasks are done (Spenner 1990:403). It is argued that more highlyskilled jobs typically require higher levels of discretion over job tasks - deciding how hard to work, what tasks to do, how to do the task, and the quality standards to which to work. Control over the detailed execution of work tasks is assumed to require judgement and skill.

This definition of autonomy as an aspect of skill also occurs in Marxist thought, particularly in labour process theory. Braverman (1974: 443-444) describes the breakup of craft skills and the concentration of knowledge in the hands of management as leading to ...a reinterpreted and woefully inadequate concept of skill; a specific dexterity, a limited and repetitious operation, speed as skill, etc. Yet, if autonomy is seen as an element of skill, then on-site work in the construction trades remains highly skilled, as it requires constant small but complex decisions. (This will be discussed in more detail in the next section, 3.3, dealing with skill in the building trades, which considers the debate on de-skilling and the specificities of construction.)

In the Felstead et al (2007) Skills at work survey, employee task discretion (as reported by workers themselves) varies by occupational group and by industrial sector. Workers in skilled trades reported a similar level of autonomy to professionals, and construction was one of the sectors where workers reported fairly high levels of control over their work. However, there are concerns about how far discretion is an indicator of skill. In the Felstead et al survey, most measures of skills used at work (such as qualifications needed to do the job, or length of time to learn to do the job well) have risen over the 20-year period. Yet employee task discretion has consistently fallen across all occupational groups and all industrial sectors. This could be explained in terms of inflation in qualifications and other requirements (cf theupskilling discourse discussed below), and would reinforce the point that qualifications do not necessarily equal skill. However, it is also possible that control over the detailed execution of work tasks is not a reliable indicator of skill. Autonomy or control over the work may be defined as part of skill, but may also be seen as part of the context in which skills are exercised.

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The working knowledge needed in unskilled jobs Kusterer (1978) describes how unskilled machine operators bend grabbers and flatten guides, put tape on surfaces to lessen pressure, or build up tape behind gaskets to increase pressure. Yet this working knowledge is unrecognised not only by the employer and by the wider society, but also by the workers themselves. In construction, Clarke and Wall (1998) give a long list of machines used by an unskilled labourer. Labourers are also the repository of much of the site-specific knowledge, because they move about on the site more than most of the trades. This involves both knowledge of the physical layout, location of materials, hazards, methods in use etc; and also of the people working on that site, and the attitudes of management to things like timekeeping (Thiel 2005).

Becker (1998: 112-116) cites an example from Hobsbawm (1964) of the labourers who fed the furnaces producing gas from coal. When they went on strike in 1896, these unskilled labourers turned out to have some important working knowledge. They could not easily be replaced, as only they knew how to keep the temperamental old furnaces going. Thus, they were able to win higher wages. Becker concludes from this that the identical ability may be skilled or unskilled, depending on the circumstances. The meaning of the concept of skill depends on which cases you have in mind when you define it. This moves from a view of skill as being in the person or the job, to a view where skill depends on the situation.

3.2.2 Skill as social process These competing understandings of skill are bound up with competing theories of learning, though this is a vast area of literature which can only be touched upon here. The interpretative view sees skill as situational rather than as intrinsic to the worker or the job. The worker is not separate from the work; skills are embedded in the contexts in which they are developed and used. Lave and Wenger (1991) have argued that most accounts of learning have ignored its quintessentially social character. It might be suggested that this is particularly true of many accounts of VET in construction. There

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are strong arguments for a more social theory of learning, encompassing not only the cognitive processes within the heads of individuals but also the social relationships and arrangements which stimulate learning. Knowledge and practice cannot be separated. As an aspect of social practice, learning involves the whole person; it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities it implies becoming a full participant, a member, a kind of person. Activities, tasks, functions, and understandings do not exist in isolation; they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning. Lave and Wenger (2005:152). A small number of researchers have applied an interpretative view of skill as an aspect of social practice to construction work. Seymour and Hill (1995) found that foremen build teams of operatives who stay together, thus creating an informal organisation in which knowledge and skill are not simply the possession of individuals, but a resource for the whole team. Rooke and Clark (2005) describe in some detail how new skills were acquired on site through trial and error by a team learning to pour concrete with a skip rather than a pump. The occupational culture on site values practical and experiential knowledge and devalues academic and professional knowledge. An example is given of how the experiential knowledge base underpinning site authority came into direct competition with professional engineering knowledge, raising issues of contested knowledge, contested authority and organisational conflict. Gherardi and Nicolini (2002) draw on Lave and Wengers ideas in their study of safety on small Italian construction sites, emphasising the interdependence of knowledge and practice and the social nature of the learning process. This skill as social practice perspective offers considerable insights into how learning takes place, and recognises the importance of situating it in its (immediate) context. However, these studies of very specific examples of learning appear as snapshots which fail to capture the influence of the wider context and of change over time. These researchers tend not to draw connections with the broader historical, institutional and political influences that inevitably shape local experiences. This would point to the dangers of trying to understand skill in the construction trades independent of long term structural changes in the sector. It also fails to capture the possibility of Skill in the person being out of kilter with skill in the situation, for example when someone is unemployed or when technology changes.

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3.2.3 The social construction of skill Sociologists have tended to emphasise the socially constructed nature of skill, and tried to understand the processes by which some jobs come to be defined as skilled and others not. Conceptions of skill are socially and politically negotiated over time, and reflect the power and influence of particular interest groups. Social closure The process by which a group tries to secure for itself certain advantages, rewards and privileges by excluding others was described by Weber (1978:342) as social closure. Occupational groups vie for power and prestige, seeking monopoly power in the labour market through such strategies as restricting entry, limiting competition among members, and exercising disciplinary powers. Lengthy apprenticeships or training can help build the perception of exceptional knowledge requirements. Other techniques include secrecy, special language or jargon, and the prevention of other groups carrying out the work. To exclude others, social or physical attributes shared by members (such as gender and ancestry) are defined as criteria of eligibility. The classic example of social closure is the craft guilds. Members swore to keep the mystery of the guild, to keep the rules on the employment of journeymen and apprentices, not to employ unlicensed outsiders, and to do work of good quality. Trade exclusivity was maintained by restrictive practices, and encroachment by other groups was challenged strenuously (Woodward 1995:62). In modern industrial societies, access is more often controlled by tests and examinations, but this is not the case in the building trades. According to Ball (1988: 3) Skill is a social construct denoting status, earning capacity, industrial power and the ability to exclude others, as well as indicating a capacity to undertake certain specified tasks. Construction is riddled with skill and status divisions. They have benefited certain types of workers but have created enormous rifts between trades, as well as between those workers officially designated as having a trade and those classified as unskilled. One group clearly excluded from construction has been women.

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Craft unions as direct descendants1 of the craft guilds have traditionally been instruments of social closure2, as demonstrated in this extract from Engels The condition of the working class in England the great Trades Unions ... are the organizations of those trades in which the labour of grown-up men predominates, or is alone applicable. Here the competition neither of women and children nor of machinery has so far weakened their organized strength. The engineers, the carpenters and joiners, the bricklayers, are each of them a power, to the extent that, as in the case of the bricklayers and bricklayers labourers, they can even successfully resist the introduction of machinery. ... They form an aristocracy among the workingclass; they have succeeded in enforcing for themselves a relatively comfortable position, and they accept it as final.(Engels 1969: 31). In more recent times, the craft unions have still been at pains to exclude women (Clarke et al. 2004) and those defined unskilled or semi-skilled for example by preventing labourers using tools, as reported by Sykes (1969). Skill as a political concept plays an important part in the power relations between men and women (Cockburn 1983; 1985; 1991). The abilities more often associated with women are frequently not recognised as skills. The definition of a task or a person as skilled requires, in addition to task complexity and a certain measure of discretion or control, the power to achieve social closure and limit the supply of this type of labour. However, building craftsmen are now struggling to defend their skilled status in the absence of social closure through trade unionism, control over apprenticeships, or educational credentialism.

Skill as discourse The social construction of certain occupations as skilled and others as unskilled or semiskilled is at least in part discursively produced. Much of the analysis in this area has focussed on gender. There is a large body of feminist research on the gendered nature of skill that analyses how womens work is devalued and represented as unskilled (eg Phillips and Taylor 1980; Hochschild 2003; Steinberg 1990; 1992). Palmer and Eveline (2010) examine some of the specific discursive mechanisms that sustain low pay in aged care work by representing it as unskilled and as natural for women. There are
1 2

Arguably. Rather than or in addition to class struggle

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also some studies (Cockburn 1983; 1985; 1991) which investigate how skill with tools, machinery and technology is seen as masculine. Skills with people and emotions are associated with women, but are often not seen as skills at all, so skill itself is seen as masculine. This is particularly true of the old craft skills which were over-rated and mythologized and used as a male stratagem in the relative depreciation of women and womens work (Cockburn 1985:65). However, the discourses actually used in this representation of skill are little studied an exception here is the account of the tales told by photocopy repair technicians (Orr 1996). It can be glimpsed in the contempt of printers for the semi-skilled Natties3 reported by Cockburn (1983), and, in construction, the painters characterisation of labourers as stupid and of lower status reported by Thiel (2007:238). Steiger (1993) writes of skill as an ideological discourse justifying pay, power, and privilege. Yet there has really been no attention to how the concept of skill, and skilled status, is discursively produced in the building trades.

3.3 Skill in the construction trades


3.3.1 Construction as an exception: skill and autonomy One of the aspects of construction most appreciated by those who work in the building trades is the freedom (Thiel 2005:158; Applebaum 1999). Wall (2004: 162) writes that freedom from excessive supervision and the opportunity to plan and control ones work are extremely positive aspects of skilled construction work. As mentioned above, discretion or autonomy in work tasks was one of the factors studied by the Skills at Work surveys, carried out in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2006 (Felstead et al 2002; 2007). Interviews with a representative sample of 4,800 working people enabled comparisons to be made over time, between different industrial sectors and between occupational categories. Workers in skilled trades reported a high level of autonomy and control, as did workers in the construction sector. A decline in job control occurred across all occupational groups, but those in skilled trades occupations were the least affected. This supports the idea of workers in the building trades having (a perception of) a

The rivalry between the printing unions parallels that between UCATT and the former TGWU in construction, and is another example of social closure.

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relatively high level of control over their work, and thus of this work being more highly skilled4 than many other occupations. Possible reasons for this high level of control have been explored by various authors. Of particular importance are Stinchcombes craft administration thesis, and the application of Bravermans deskilling thesis to construction.

3.3.2 Craft administration In a classic article, Stinchcombe (1959) contrasted the craft administration of construction with the bureaucratic administration of mass production. In mass production, elements of the work process are planned in advance by people who do not actually carry out the production. These include the location at which a particular task is done the movement of tools, materials, and workers to this workplace particular movements to be performed in getting the task done schedules and time allotments for particular operations inspection criteria for particular operations.

In construction, however, these characteristics are governed by the worker in accordance with the empirical lore of the craft (the craft principles which form part of workers socialisation). Stinchcombe suggests that craft control by the manual work force persists partly because it is a cheaper form of administration for construction enterprises than the bureaucratic form (Stinchcombe 1959:180). It is the variability of construction demand which makes the development of bureaucracy uneconomic because it needs to function continuously. The variations in the volume of work and the product mix with the season and the business cycle, particularly acute for smaller firms operating in local markets, lead to a reliance on the craft principles embodied in the professional culture of the workers.

Applebaum (1982) puts forward a slightly different argument: that bureaucratic management of construction has been tried on megaprojects but has simply not worked.
4

In spite of a certain circularity in defining skilled trades as highly skilled.

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Applebaum finds that impersonal, bureaucratically-oriented styles of management in construction are ineffective and increase costs needlessly, but what saves the situation is the fact that ... the craftsmen maintain control over the work. This ineffectiveness of bureaucratic management methods is because they do not conform to existing social organization in the construction industry (ibid: 231). He stresses the importance of human relations, and contrasts the mutuality and comradeship amongst the working trades with the competition and selfishness among managers which impedes rational decision-making, and may even lead senior managers to deliberately appoint incompetent middle managers who will not challenge them. He also points to the uncertainty and unpredictability of construction as making it a difficult process for management to control. However, Applebaum could perhaps be accused of a certain degree of technological determinism, as he continues his explanation of why up-todate computer methods and bureaucratic management are ineffective: Managers cannot speed up a machine or an assembly line to increase productivity. They must rely on the skilled tradesmen who control the work process. (ibid: 231). He describes the construction industry as based on craft technology where the work is controlled by the skilled tradesmen, who own their own tools and are responsible for the layout and execution of the work. This kind of argument is also made by others such as Thiel (2007:229) the specificity of the building industrys product led to a relative immunity to technological and managerial innovation.

3.3.3 Bravermans deskilling thesis as applied to construction According to the Marxist view, the separation of conception from execution which occurs under capitalism reduces the human being to the level of the insect. Braverman (1974) argues that, having been forced to sell their labour power, workers also surrender their interest in the work. The labour process becomes the employers responsibility, and the problem of management is how to get the maximum value out of the employees effort. both in order to ensure management control and to cheapen the worker, conception and execution must be rendered separate spheres of work... (Braverman 1974:118). The division of labour, scientific management, and deskilling are all aspects of this separation of thinking and doing, which leads to workers losing control over their own
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labour.5 This process of simplification and rationalisation of skills is often carried out by means of technological innovation. However, Braverman argues that it is not the intrinsic nature of innovation to de-skill, but rather the fact that the technology is shaped by the employers desire to reduce the importance of labour as a factor of production. ... according to Marxs analysis, technology, instead of simply producing social relations, is produced by the social relation represented by capital (Braverman, 1974: 20). Although Braverman warns against technological determinism, he refers to construction as this industry, which because of the nature of its processes is still largely in the era of hand craftsmanship supplemented by powered hand tools, the lowest level of mechanization... (ibid: 208, emphasis added).

However, low wage rates also tend to retard technological change. The point at which the worker is cheaper than the machinery which replaces him or her is determined by more than a mere technical relationship: it depends as well on the level of wages, which in turn is affected by the supply of labor as measured against the demand. (ibid: 237). Thus mechanisation may tend to be self-limiting, as it makes available a supply of cheap labour. Ball (1988) has a somewhat similar argument, which also recalls the craft administration thesis. The reason construction remains so labour-intensive is not technological, according to Ball. It is because of firms need to reduce fixed overheads because of unpredictable work flow even though investment in mechanisation would reduce costs. Since much plant is hired, the investment is separated from the production, so there is little incentive for innovation, and subcontracting extends the economic principles and problems associated with plant hire to all aspects of the construction process (ibid: 91). Because of the ever-present fear of insufficient work, the problem of cash-flow variability in construction means that it is difficult for individual firms to gain a market advantage over competitors through technical innovation, especially where innovation requires large amounts of fixed capital (ibid: 86).

Yet whether the reason is the technological specificities of construction, or all the other sources of uncertainty, or the particular economic structure of the industry, it seems to

Though deskilling, as other labour process theorists have pointed out since, is only one way of increasing management control and/or profit there are also others, which may even move in opposite directions.

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be widely agreed that construction has been much less deskilled than other industries although it is probably moving in that direction. There has been a tendency towards deskilling for a long time in The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1965:37; 93-94), first published in 1914, Tressell notes the conflict between apprentice-trained housepainters and the informally trained brush hands who were undercutting wage levels. However, there has also been fairly successful resistance for a long time. It is an ebb and flow, both sides of which are well described by Reckmann (1979). In general, however, the tendency is towards deskilling. This has its effect on the workers concept of their own skill For the worker, the concept of skill is traditionally bound up with craft mastery that is to say, the combination of knowledge of materials and processes with the practiced manual dexterities required to carry on a specific branch of production. But, with the break-up of craft skills and the concentration of knowledge in the hands of management, What is left to workers is a reinterpreted and woefully inadequate concept of skill; a specific dexterity, a limited and repetitious operation, speed as skill, etc. (Braverman, 1974:443-444) Carpentry and joinery work is the most common example of the partial deskilling of a building trade by the use of factory-made components such as doorsets and windows. This is described by Reckmann in some detail, and also mentioned by Braverman. A carpenter can install six to ten prefabricated door assemblies ... in the time it takes to hang a single door by conventional methods, and in the process becomes a doorhanger and ceases to be a carpenter (Braverman 1974:209). The mechanisation of bench joinery dates back at least to Cubbitts steam-driven machines, and was perhaps made easier by the pre-existing division into site work and workshop. Yet the trade survives. In spite of a substantial history of attempts to deskill construction work, only skimmed over here, there is an equally long history of successful resistance. (For example, in the extract from Engels cited in the previous section, the bricklayers and bricklayers labourers can even successfully resist the introduction of machinery... (Engels 1969: 31).

Kusterer (1978) describes deskilling as composed of two elements. Specialisation reduces the amount of basic working knowledge necessary; routinisation reduces the supplementary working knowledge needed. Extreme routinisation is only possible in
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the mass production of identical products from unvarying inputs. In the construction context, it may be possible to specialise (shuttering carpenters, machinists, window fixers, kitchen fitters), but as long as work takes place on site, routinisation is very difficult. Thus the relative absence of deskilling in construction may be due the everchanging nature of the construction site, which makes control difficult. It is not possible to separate conception and execution of the actual construction work to the same extent as in many other occupations because of the site-based and highly contextdependent nature of the work. Repair and refurbishment, an important part of the construction industry6, is particularly resistant to the separation of control from execution, as so many small but complex heuristic decisions have to be made. This is captured by Reckmanns description of a carpenter, who must decide a thousand times a day what is good enough where to place himself and his work among the almost infinite possibilities of perfection or compromise (Reckman 1979:76). The work is scattered about in different locations and difficult to police. Each job presents unique problems. All require new measurements, different kinds of materials, and different methods of access. Plans change, and disputes over change orders occur constantly, as the very process of repair often reveals new damage previously hidden from view. Thus, the work contains too much uncertainty to be controlled in a Taylorist way, and the constant surveillance of the workers is impossible, as there is always somewhere to hide on a construction site.

3.3.4 Modern methods of construction and the upskilling discourse Braverman pointed out that The idea that the changing conditions of ... work require an increasingly better-trained, better-educated, and thus upgraded working population is an almost universally accepted proposition in popular and academic discourse. [It is] considered so self-evident as to stand above the need for demonstration. (Braverman 1974:424)

Over the 25 years from 1980 to 2004, repair and maintenance varied between 46% and 48% of all construction work (Briscoe 2006).

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Almost 40 years later, this still tends to be the case. It is often suggested that modern methods of construction require more skills than traditional methods. For example, the Barker review of housing supply (2004:113) talks of new production methods requiring new skills and competencies. However, there is a (deliberate?) confusion between the level of the technology used, and the level of skill needed. The placing of in-situ concrete, for example, is low-tech and seen as unskilled labouring though Clarke and Wall (1998), and Seymour and Hill (1995) have pointed to the unrecognised skills involved. Compare this with the skills required to bolt together modular buildings. Tolerances may be small so that the work has to be done accurately, but the skills are comparatively straightforward some generic skills of setting out to line and level, and some specific to the particular modular system in use. This contradiction emerges well in Gann and Senkers paper (1998:578) which asserts that sophisticated construction products and processes are increasing the need for technical knowledge and skills, which can only be implemented by properly trained and skilled workers; yet also talks of technological changes aimed at improving construction processes and reducing the need for on-site skills (ibid: 574). It describes the new site operative skills required as checking tolerances when components are delivered, the use of mechanical handling and lifting equipment, together with alignment, fixing and fitting skills (ibid:575) which does sound a little like the skills needed to put Lego together.

It is commonly assumed that innovation is good for everyone, with no conflicts of interest. Fernie et al (2006) describe the discourse of change running through the construction reform movement (e.g. Latham 1994; DETR 1998; National Audit Office 2001; Rethinking Construction 2002). This discourse assumes innovation, reform, modernising, improving, and improved productivity to be positive, as opposed to resistance to change which is self-evidently bad. Exhortations to learn from vehicle manufacturing suggest that Taylorist mass production is in fact the aim. Green (2007) describes the Egan Report (DETR 1998) as notable for promoting the cause of standardisation and pre-assembly ... possible solutions are evaluated in terms of their contribution to narrowly defined efficiency. There is no recognition of the extent to which pre-assembly de-skills local communities.

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This impact of off-site manufacture and pre-assembly is, however, clearly recognised by small and medium-sized building firms. Dainty et al (2005) interviewed representatives (in most cases working proprietors) from 30 SME construction firms, to determine how skills shortages were affecting their businesses. Concerns were raised by the majority of general building firms regarding the impact of technological change on traditional trade skills. The increasing specification of prefabricated components was seen as a cause of deskilling and as a potential threat to the future of traditional craft skills. This was a view particularly prevalent in the companies more committed to direct employment. Thus resistance to de-skilling can be seen to come not only from workers in the trades, but from owners and managers of (small) building firms (themselves from a craft background) who have a commitment to the traditional crafts. To sum up this section on skill in the construction trades, it is widely agreed in the literature that building trades workers have a relatively high level of autonomy in their work, and that construction has been much less deskilled than other industries although it is probably moving in that direction. It is suggested that this is due to the nature of the construction industry variously because of the variability of construction demand (Stinchcombe, Ball), the nature of its processes based on craft technology (Braverman, Applebaum) or the specificity of the building industrys product (Thiel).

3.4 Constructing (skilled) identities


3.4.1 Social Identity Theory Ashforth and Maels (1989) groundbreaking paper introducing social identity theory (SIT) to organisation studies launched something of a movement. Though Alvesson et al (2008) suggest that the possibilities of SIT have already been delivered to a significant extent, social identity theory offers a valuable way to gain understanding of the importance of group relations in occupational identity. In origin a cognitive theory from social psychology, it looks at the individual as embedded and defined in social groups, but may lack attention to power. Social identity theory holds that individuals classify themselves and others into social groups, and that these identifications have significant effects on human interactions. In particular, it is through the existence of out-

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groups that an in-group becomes salient to individual perception and attachment. The in-group tends to develop negative stereotypes of the out-group.

According to SIT, people tend to classify themselves and others into social categories. Social identification is the perception of belonging to a particular group, usually in terms of I am... (a bricklayer, Irish). The group member identifies with its successes and failures. By a kind of self-stereotyping, the individual member adopts the attitudes and behaviour associated with the group. Hogg and Terry (2000:123) describe the internalisation of group prototypes, fuzzy sets that capture the context-dependent features of group membership, often in the form of exemplary members. The stronger the culture, and the stronger the individuals desire to be accepted by the group, the greater the internalisation of and adherence to, group beliefs, values and norms (Ashforth and Mael 1989:27; Hogg and Terry 2000:123). As a consequence of identifying with a particular group, individuals tend to choose activities congruent with salient aspects of their identities, and they support the institutions embodying those identities (Ashforth and Mael 1989:25). Factors which increase the tendency to identify with groups include distinctiveness differentiating the group from others, providing a unique identity the salience of the out-group (Ashforth and Mael 1989) i.e. the presence of, and particularly competition with, another group, causes the in-group to close ranks and stress their common traits shared threat or negative view from others (Ashforth and Kreiner 1999) shared discomfort and danger

Multiple identities SIT tends to adopt a fairly static view; identification is assumed to be relatively stable. Social identities are commonly treated as coherent, ready-made or self-evident templates for affiliation . But, because there are multiple and competing identity tales in circulation, individuals can take any number of discursive positions according to the situation. The individual can be seen as a collection of more or less disparate and loosely coupled identities. Particular social identities are cued by relevant settings; most people quite easily put on different hats in different contexts (a bricklayer, a DJ, a

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father, a Wolves supporter). SIT has been developed to identify specific contextual influences on identification processes, and the ways in which members of a group vary in the extent to which it is a central aspect of their overall self concept. However, it does not thoroughly address the existence of multiple overlapping complementary or contradictory identities, and cannot fully account for the ways in which individuals make sense of these in different situations. In order to do this it is necessary to turn to concepts such as identity work, and menus of discursive resources.

3.4.2 Identity work and discourses The concept of identity work tries to seize the ongoing social construction processes, seeing identification not only in cognitive terms, but also as a symbolic and discursive process. Sveningsson and Alvesson (2003:1165) define identity work as the ways in which people are continuously forming, repairing, maintaining, strengthening or revising the constructions that are productive of a sense of coherence and distinctiveness. Identity work is how we deal with questions of who we are and who we might become, in seeking to form a positive sense of self. Giddens (1991:54) describes this process of constructing the self by keeping a particular narrative going. Identity (work) can be seen as the set of stories about the self that an individual narrates to the self and to others to fashion preferred versions of their self. The concept of active work which people do on their identities can be traced back through Goffmans The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1958) at least as far as Cooleys notion of the looking glass self(1902).

Many studies on identity work tend to privilege the personal, which may lead to playing down the social influences on the processes of identity work. The concept of identity work serves to focus attention on the aspects of identity construction which are done by the individual, albeit choosing from a limited available palette of discourses and social-identities. Thus, for example, Storey et al. (2005) question the notion of an enterprising self (du Gay 1996) as a hegemonic discourse, arguing that the freelance media workers in their study actively incorporate, modify, or reject notions of enterprise in their reflexively organised narrative of self (Storey et al. 2005: 1050).

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In considering the process of identity construction, discourses, myths, ideologies, social-identities and anti-identities, as well as material practices and institutional arrangements may all be considered as resources or materials which serve to constitute selves (see Alvesson et al 2008). To understand the relationship between the discursive aspects of social life and peoples personal involvement in identity creation, Watson (2008:127-129) proposes thinking in terms of a three-step process. Social-identities, equivalent to what were called role models in social learning theory, are the link between internal personal self-identities and socially available discourses. These public personas or social-identities are focal elements within the discourses to which people make reference in their identity work. Examples include the social-identity of entrepreneur within various discourses of enterprise; or social-identities such as a lawyer or a professional engineer within discourses of professionalism. It is these personas (social-identities; role models) which are recognised as influences on individual self-identities. Watson (2008:131) defines self-identity as the individuals own notion of who and what they are, and social-identities as cultural, discursive or institutional notions of who or what any individual might be. However, perhaps this clear distinction draws too sharp a dichotomy between the internal and the external aspects of a mutually constitutive dialectic.

People can be seen to engage in identity work mainly when the routine, unquestioning reproduction of a self-identity in a stable setting is disrupted. To some extent this is a condition of modernity (Giddens 1991). It is precisely because there are so many diverse, competing and contradictory discursive pressures upon and resources available to every individual in the contemporary world that engagement in identity work is unavoidable. Watson (2008:129) However, identity work is likely to be more continuous and more overt in fragmented, complex or problematic social situations. In more stable contexts, conscious and concentrated identity work may be triggered by uncertainty, anxiety, questioning or self-doubt, prompted or intensified by specific encounters, or transitions. By challenging understandings of self, such events heighten awareness of the constructed quality of self-identity.

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3.4.3 The structure-agency question in identity formation More recently, researchers in the post-structuralist tradition have challenged assumptions that may be present in concepts of social identity theory and of identity work, that individuals freely undertake processes of self-categorisation and identification. These researchers have tended to emphasise the ways in which the persons notion of who and what they are is shaped by discourses, rather than the active role of the individual in identity construction. The focus is on the way in which discursive regimes orchestrate the regulation of identities, and the resulting political and material consequences. Debates continue about the extent to which identities are chosen or the products of social and institutional structures. In their identity construction... [i]ndividuals have to work with the grain of existing and dominant discourses and subjectivities but, as they do this, they can exploit the variety of sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting, discourses and subjectivities in order to craft a self which is, to an extent, their own. Watson (2008:130) Yet, as Jenkins points out, identities exist and are acquired, claimed and allocated within power relations (2004: 25). An individual may draw on available personas as discursive resources to advance what Jenkins calls personal stratagems, but they do not do this freely or as a matter of personal whim. Identities are matters over which struggles take place (Jenkins 2004: 25). The discursive possibilities available are determined by the cultural context, so that individuals can be regarded as sites of discursive struggle (Merilinen et al 2008: 540). The discourse speaks the person; individual subjectivities are constituted and contested through discourse.

These overly deterministic conceptualisations of discursive identity construction can be avoided by a focus on how actors actively construct their identities through discourse. This focus also avoids an over-emphasis on individual agency which fails to account for the role of larger forces in identity construction. It is important to set processes of individual identity work firmly in the context in which they occur. Interpretivist studies of self-identity have a tendency toward highly localised notions of context which neglect the broader cultural, institutional and political influences which are not immediately visible from the vantage point of participants or researchers (Alvesson et al 2008).

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Identities are actively constructed, reproduced and changed through discourse, as part of ongoing, embodied interactions. Yet the building blocks available are limited, as some discourses become so powerful that they are taken for granted as common sense. Discourses are both socially constructed and socially constructive (Fairclough 1995). Identities are shaped by wider social, cultural and historical contexts, as people draw on available discourses or narratives about who one can be and how one should act, some of which have stronger institutional and material support than others (Thomas and Davies 2005; Alvesson et al. 2008). Cultural patterns and dominant discourses offer templates for self-categorisations. Individuals draw on discourses in unique and creative combinations, yet there is a restricted catalogue of approved identities.

3.4.4 Identity in the building trades While identity is a major subject of interest in organisation studies, there has been little work on identities in the construction industry, and even less which specifically relates to the building trades (or to manual work on site). However, as Brown and Phua (2011) point out, though identity has received little direct and explicit attention, identity issues have been addressed in passing, or, perhaps, under other labels such as culture.

Phua and Rowlinson (2003; 2004) apply social identity theory to questions of culture and adversarial attitudes in the construction industry, using concepts of in-group/outgroup and individualism/collectivism. However, there is little here that seems relevant to building workers lived experience of their identities. Very few studies of construction explicitly use this theoretical lens of social identity theory. (Murray et al (2002), on dirty work, is an exception.)

More recently, Brown and Phua (2011) argue that identity issues are still underexplored in construction management, and that identity is a concept that could help construction management scholarship to integrate more fully with mainstream organisation and management studies. The paper introduces concepts of discourse and identity work. The authors suggest that many topics relevant to identity already have an established place in the construction management literature, but that what has generally

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been overlooked is how these aspects of construction management are interconnected as identity issues. Thus, identity could be a useful organising concept for empirical researchers interested in practices of construction management. However, their overview of identity concerns relevant to construction management sees it only as a practice of construction managers, and therefore does not touch at all on the identities of manual workers.

There is some literature exploring the professional identities of architects, engineers and other construction professionals. For example, Gluch (2009) describes how environmental professionals develop alternative identities to adapt to the different situations that they find themselves in. Research on women in construction quite frequently deals with issues of identity, because identity is often contested ground for these women (Powell et al 2010). For example, Chandra and Loosemore (2004) look at womens self-perception as helping to explain how women make sense of the barriers and challenges they face in a male dominated culture and how they seek to attain positive outcomes for themselves. Again, most of this literature concerns female construction professionals, not manual workers.

More relevant to identity in the building trades perhaps, is a small body of interesting ethnographic work carried out on construction sites (Sykes 1969a; 1969b; Reimer 1979; Applebaum1999; Thiel 2005; Baarts 2009). This literature does not specifically look at identity, but often uses closely related concepts such as occupational culture (Reimer 1979; Applebaum1999) or social relations and work attitudes (Sykes 1969a; 1969b). Occupational culture is a set of beliefs about the occupation which define how workers should behave, dress, and communicate, including the specialised argot which members learn as part of their socialisation into the occupational culture, and which provides ingroup solidarity by setting them apart from others. Most tradesmen need not ask anothers trade, since that information is already apparent in the clothes he wears, the jargon he uses, and the tools he carries (Reimer 1979: 42). Also of interest here is Myers (1948); the author describes the myth of the boy apprentice as an example of the mythical and fictional elements of occupational culture in the building trades.

One study which touches upon the effects of changes in the construction industry upon workers self-identities is Green (2006). This describes some of the effects on identity
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of the casualisation of the construction workforce so that even skilled tradesmen could find themselves working alongside others who attracted different conditions of employment and a higher hourly rate (ibid: 247). In a situation where contractors are progressively more removed from the physical work of construction and managers no longer take responsibility for the detailed planning or control of production, the rhythm of the events was driven not by Natcon, but by the group norms within the work teams. (ibid: 245). Hayes (2002) is a work of social history which examines canteens, latrines and masculinity on British building sites from 1918-1970. Rather than considering the effects of changes in the construction industry upon workers identities, this paper looks at the ways in which site workers masculine identities affected working conditions. The central argument is that the construction industrys attitude to welfare provision was determined primarily by operative preferences and perceptions which were underpinned by the identity of site life. This positive site identity was based on skill but also on manliness especially physical toughness and endurance of hardship. If this workplace identity is seen primarily as a defensive mechanism empowering the exclusion of other groups, then improved welfare debased the accepted currencies of physical endurance and self-sufficiency central to building workers separateness. Thus, it was often opposed not only by management but by building workers themselves.

To sum up, then, when looking at the literature relating to identities in the construction industry, there is a lack of attention to the experiences of manual workers. Murray et al. (2002), Phua and Rowlinson (2003; 2004) and Brown and Phua (2011) introduce concepts of social identity theory and identity work to the construction management literature, but few empirical studies have explored these ideas. Almost all existing empirical work relates to construction professionals. Hayes (2002), described above, does explore construction workers identities, but is based on documentary sources. There seems therefore to be a need for empirical studies of construction workers understandings of their identities.

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3.4.5 Dirty Work and identity In their paper on Dirty Work and the Challenge of Constructing A Positive Identity Ashforth and Kreiner (1999) examine how members of dirty occupations collectively attempt to secure positive meaning in the face of social stigma. Dirty work is defined as tasks which are physically, socially or morally tainted7. Though this analysis seems clearly relevant to construction, the only application of it appears to be Murray et al. (2002).

Individuals need a relatively secure and stable self-definition within a given situation, and have a strong desire to see these self-definitions in positive terms. The paper argues that the stigma of dirtiness fosters strong occupational cultures and occupational ideologies which protect members from the identity threat. In the face of social assaults on the work they do, dirty workers draw on these ideologies and deeply-held systems of values, beliefs and norms to affirm the value of their work. However, individuals are likely to differ in the degree to which they draw on these collective resources, and the degree to which they identify with their work. For example, younger and less experienced workers might find it harder to draw on occupational ideologies in order to cope with stigma, but easier to rationalise their job as a temporary stopgap.

Ashforth and Kreiner (1999) explain the seeming contradiction that dirty workers do not tend to suffer from low occupational esteem by reference to the development of occupational ideologies which help make sense of peoples work experience in a positive way. The stigma of dirty work is a threat to self-esteem, and this shared threat helps to foster group cohesion, so that the world is seen in terms of us and them. Being shared by a group and continually re-enacted, an occupational ideology provides a rallying point in asserting the positive value of the work, such as We perform dirty work because were tough, not because we have limited job options.

The meaning of the stigmatised work is transformed by reframing. In some occupations this is done by reference to the larger purpose of the job. Alternatively it may focus on the process of the work itself, so that hard physical labour is reinterpreted as reflecting a traditional masculinity. Strong occupational cultures provide multiple overlapping and
7

In the case of construction work the taint is mainly physical, though the work is also often seen as being of low status.

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even contradictory discourses which put a positive value on the work in different ways. Dirty work ideologies often glorify those aspects of the work that are most stigmatised. Work, and workers, lacking these characteristics are redefined as inferior. Relationships with outsiders are also reframed in order to impugn the motives, character, knowledge or authority of critical outsiders (Ashforth and Kreiner 1999: 424).

3.4.6 The craftsman: skill and occupational identity Work for its own sake Crawford (2010) cites Marge Piercys poem To Be of Use, which concludes with the lines the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real. Work for its own sake, unalienated work, useful work which makes or fixes things, is taken to be a basic human need, but is far from being the norm. Marx argued that it is through work that we realise our species character as humans, that is as social and rational beings. However, alienated work is not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it (Tucker 1978: 74). In real work, the satisfactions of working are their own reward; this is variously described as intrinsic motivation, engagement, inner satisfaction, etc.

Modernity There is a longstanding tension between nostalgia and modernisation in many accounts of the transition to modernity (eg Ruskin, Durkheim, Weber). This is frequently connected with the defence of craft skills and of the traditional identity of the craftsman. Durkheims version sees moral confusion and purposelessness (anomie) as a consequence of the division of labour engendered by laissez-faire economics. He saw social solidarity threatened by corrosive market relationships and a utilitarian philosophy which encouraged egoism (Durkheim 1957; Parker 2002:94; 103; Watson 2003). Durkheim proposed reviving the craft guilds so that economic activity should be permeated by ideas and needs other than individual ideas and needs.8

Corporatism as commended by Oswald Mosley and applied by Petain, Mussolini, and Salazar was an attack on laissez-faire economics and international finance but also involved the suppression of independent trades unions.

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The division of labour Ruskins The Stones of Venice (1900) was not merely an aesthetic and architectural manifesto but also a moral and political one. His emphasis on the importance of the Gothic style stemmed from the (supposed) free and unfettered expression of the artisans working on Mediaeval buildings; and the organic relationship between the worker and his guild, his community, his natural environment, and his God. Ruskin attacked laissez faire capitalism because it failed to acknowledge the complexities of human desires and motivations. Rejecting mechanisation and standardisation, he believed the division of labour to be the main cause of workers discontent. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided, but the men: divided into mere segments of men so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin. Now it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished sand of human soul, much to be magnified before it can be discerned for what it is we should think there might be some loss in it also. Ruskin (1900:162-163). This, in the language of its time9, is clearly describing the effects on workers selves; their souls or identities.

Pride in tangible results The secure being of craftsmanship is also described not merely as something in the past, but as actually existing, even if threatened by modernity. Applebaum was still able to say, in 1982, about the US construction industry we still have some places in American society where workers control their own work, enjoy the satisfaction of comraderie with their work mates and take pride in seeing the physical embodiments of their labor. Pride, and physical manifestation of the work, are defining factors of craft work. As Sennett puts it, the emotional rewards craftsmanship holds out for attaining skill are twofold: people are anchored in tangible reality, and they can take pride in their work (Sennett 2008: 21). Pride in ones work lies at the heart of craftsmanship as the reward for skill and commitment (Sennett 2008: 294) and is central to identity. Crawford (2010) defines a good job as requiring a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Crawford describes the

First published 1853

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satisfaction of making motor cycles run right, but also the satisfaction of feeling that he has a place in society as a result. Appelbaum (1999) introduces his book on construction with the tale of a heroic thousand yard pour. The tale concludes a week after the pour, these men walked on the solid evidence of their labours (Appelbaum 1999: xxi). People working in manual trades are anchored in tangible reality not merely by the output of their work, but in the process of their work. Skilled manual labour entails a systematic encounter with the material world. This leads to a certain sense of security about the basic character of the world, the reality and reliability of the world (Sennett 2008; Crawford 2010).

Identity In these accounts, the competitive individualism and egotism of modernity is often counterposed to traditional craft work as collective. Sennett (2008: 70) describes the building of Salisbury cathedral in the 13th century the masons had no blueprints. Rather, the gestures with which the building began evolved in principles and were collectively managed over three generations. Each event in building practice became absorbed in the fabric of instructing and regulating the next generation. The identity of the craftsman is presented as being secure, but also somewhat anonymous. This is, traditionally, a collective identity. Developing ones talents depended on following the rules established by earlier generations ... personal genius had little meaning in this context. To become skilled required, personally, that one be obedient. (Sennett 2008: 22). Veblen (2003) argued that craftwork provides self-respect. Yet in some sense it also requires a forgetfulness of self. When fully absorbed in something, one is no longer self-aware, even of the bodily self. We have become the thing on which we are working. Action and awareness are merged, so there is no feeling of self-consciousness. This is the state of flow, described by Cskszentmihlyi (1997). Acquiring skill is a cumulative process, reinforced by years of training and socialisation, and then daily performance enacting the skills and other practices through which the individual comes to be the craftsman. This submission and mastery offers a security of being, of existing, but also dependence and subordination. (See Butler 1998; Hodgson 2005.) Existential continuity and security is combined with a lack of self-consciousness.

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3.4.7 Apprenticeship as occupational socialisation Social identity theory sees occupational socialisation as a way of managing newcomers self-definitions by defining the occupation in terms of distinctive and enduring properties (Ashforth and Mael 1989). Acquiring skills implies becoming a full participant, a member, a kind of person (Lave and Wenger 2005:152). The concept of communities of practice points to the importance of the non-technical content of apprentice training - socialisation into an occupational community. The social status of being a skilled worker may be as important as the actual tasks performed (Roberts 1993: 57). The apprentice gradually masters the skills and techniques of a craft and knowledge about its tools and materials, learning how to do the work, when to work, and how much work to do, as well as what standards are applicable and what to do in case of mistakes. However, the process of becoming a skilled craftsman also involves internalisation of the appropriate occupational identity the adoption of a set of qualities that the aspiring member is expected to display (Reimer 1979: 24; 71).

In order to be accepted, the apprentice must prove their mettle and overcome challenges. This is not an easy time for the new recruit, nor is it meant to be (Reimer 1979: 32). The teasing (sending the apprentice for a bubble for your level) and even harassment can be seen as part of the testing of endurance and toughness which forms part of a rite of passage. The work culture of the building trades dictates that new apprentices should be teased, ridiculed, and generally pushed to their limits. As part of their initiation into the fraternity of tradesmen and as a test of their acceptability, apprentices must continually prove themselves. (Reimer 1979: 32) The processes of learning and becoming are inter-related. The apprentice learns the traditions, myths, metaphors and rituals of the occupation. Tools, dress and specialised language are all important in construction trades, as well as jokes and tricks, songs and apocryphal tales. Occupational stories, as well as direct example, convey appropriate behaviour towards those in other trades, managers, clients and members of the public. Behaviour is also important to group identification, so the apprentice is told if youre going to be an electrician, youd better learn to drink like one (Reimer 1979). The more the expected behaviour and values differ from the societal mainstream, the greater the need for a strong occupational identity.

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3.5 Summary of perspectives


This section summarises briefly both those strands in the literature which the current study will draw on and build upon; and those neglected areas in the existing literature which this work will seek to illuminate.

3.5.1 Skill A review of the literature on skills considered skill in the person versus skill in the job, the working knowledge needed in unskilled jobs, skill as social process, skill as discourse and ideology, and skill as a means of achieving social closure. Skill is often treated as having an objective character and thus being amenable to measurement. Skill in the person is usually measured by qualifications, but this poses problems in construction where much learning is informal, workers frequently lack qualifications, and construction firms do not rely on qualifications as the main criterion for operative recruitment. This approach also ignores the importance of context, whereby the identical ability may be skilled or unskilled, depending on the circumstances. A more interpretative view sees skill as situational; skills are embedded in the contexts in which they are developed and used. This perspective offers considerable insights into how learning takes place, and recognises the importance of situating it in its (immediate) context. However, these studies of very specific examples of learning often fail to capture the influence of wider historical, institutional and political influences, and of change over time. Skill may be seen as a social construct. Conceptions of skill are socially and politically negotiated over time, and reflect the power and influence of particular interest groups. This approach is useful in understanding the processes by which some jobs, or some people, come to be defined as skilled. However, seeing skill purely as a social construct may be inappropriate in the construction trades, where the results of ones labour are tangible and their quality often indisputable. The position taken here will be one of weak social constructionism which stresses the importance of the social (and particularly discursive) construction of skills, whilst accepting that there is some basis of real skill. Your joint fits or it doesnt, your
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knuckles are bruised or they arent; this is the realist moment of skill definition in the manual trades. Yet, as will be seen, someone whose work is of good quality may still be a mere handyman rather than a skilled craftsman, if the combination of operations does not add up to an approved trade. This is the social constructionist moment of skill definition. Skills will also be seen very much as social achievements embedded in the contexts in which they are developed and used. This therefore requires the use of methods and theories which can examine how discursive construals of the world can construct and reconstruct concepts of skill, without losing sight of the material reality of the world, and the constraints which that material reality sets on discursive (re)construction of the world. (Fairclough (2005:7)

Turning to the literature concerning skills in the construction industry, it was particularly noted that much of this takes the meaning of skill entirely for granted. Another gap in the CM literature would seem to be a lack of attention to changes over time in understandings of skill. In spite of rhetoric about the need for new skills, the meaning of skill itself is frequently taken to be self-evident and unchanging. There is a strand of thinking which challenges this (e.g. Clarke and Wall 1996; Clarke 2005; Brockmann et al 2007; Chan and Dainty 2007). This thesis will attempt to build upon those views of skill as a changing, context-dependent, and contested concept.

It was noted that official discourses conflate skill and qualifications, but also that in the construction industry, operative recruitment is often informal and firms do not rely on qualifications as an indicator of skill. Studies such as Bresnen et al (1986); Druker and White (1996) and Clarke and Hermann (2007) point to the importance of experience and personal contacts, but have not specifically investigated construction workers understandings of skill and the way this relates to their identities. Recent studies concerning human resource management in construction usually seem to be about managers, and when manual workers are mentioned, it is generally as a resource (skills shortages etc) rather than as humans (Ness 2009). The focus is not their lived experience. There is also relatively little in the CM literature which conceives skill as socially constructed and skill itself as a social process. Skill is frequently seen as a personal possession. (An exception is recent work drawing upon the ideas of Lave and Wenger, carried out from a situated learning perspective:
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however these studies concentrate on specific examples of how learning takes place, rather than looking at how the concept of skill, and skilled status, is discursively produced.) This thesis will combine a recognition of the importance of situating skill in its context, with an interest in how (socially constructed) conceptions of skill are relevant to building workers understandings of their identities.

3.5.2 Identity A review of the construction management literature showed that identity has received little direct and explicit attention: also there is a lack of attention to the lived experiences of manual workers. This pointed to a need for empirical studies of construction workers understandings of their identities.

A review of the main strands of identity theory as applied in organisational studies was also carried out. Identity is a fundamental bridging concept between levels of analysis - individual, group, organisation and society - and can further our understanding of experiences at all these levels (Alvesson et al. 2008; Ybema et al. 2009). The dominant conceptual lenses in the area are (1) social identity theory: how individuals locate themselves as social beings; (2) identity work: how individuals endeavour to construct a sense of self ; and (3) identity regulation or control: how identity is accomplished through the operations of power. Whilst they illuminate different angles, the need to balance the personal and social is common to theories of identity.

Social identity theory offers a valuable way to gain understanding of the importance of the perception of belonging to a particular group in identity formation, but may struggle to account for the chaotic presence of concurrent and conflicting self-images. The concept of identity work recognises that the self is not fixed and stable, and can be useful in understanding how individuals deal with their complex and often ambiguous and contradictory experiences of work. However, there is a tension here between explanations in terms of the individual drawing on discursive resources, and in terms of discourses shaping the persons notion of who and what they are.

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The approach taken in this thesis emphasises discourse as the central means of identity production. The work reported in here is centred upon an interpretative interest in understanding the individuals active (discursive) construction of self as seen in the interviews. At the same time however, the analysis seeks to position actors choices in identity formation as being constrained within conditions imposed by existing discursive resources. Personal identities necessarily draw on available social discourses or narratives about who one can be and how one should act, some of which enjoy stronger institutional and material support than others (Thomas and Davies 2005; Alvesson et al. 2008).

A critical orientation leads to a focus on issues of power and resistance, particularly the local manifestation of wider patterns. How we understand ourselves is shaped by larger cultural and historical formations, which supply much of our identity vocabularies, norms, pressures and solutions, yet which do so in indirect and subtle ways. Alvesson et al 2008:11 People are seen as individuals, but always understood as social beings who craft their identities through interactions with others. Collective visions of self, such as occupational identities, are seen as important resources in the formation of personal notions of self. Interest in micro-analysis of individual identity constructions is balanced with consideration of broader contexts.

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Chapter 4 Methodology and research design


4.1 Theoretical overview
4.1.1 The approach to methodology Methodological debates within construction management have recently tended to espouse a methodological contingency theory where the choice of research approach ...depends on the nature of the problem (Wing et al 1998, see also Raftery et al 1997; Dainty 2008). That is not the position adopted here. Rather it is contended that it is not the problem that determines the method, but the method that shapes the problem (Burawoy 1998: 30). This research follows Fairclough (2005: 5-6) and Bourdieu (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992) in seeing methodology as the process through which, beginning with a research topic, one constructs objects of research. Defining the problem is not independent of assumptions about methodology; we construct objects of research according to our particular standpoint, and the perspectives which spring from that. It is only by bringing to bear theoretical frameworks, perspectives and categories on the research topic that one can settle upon appropriate methods of data collection and analysis.

The methodology and the methods used in this study spring from a commitment to a particular worldview. The methods used were those deemed appropriate for seeking a certain kind of understanding and explanation, attempting to explain how things come to be as they are, as well as to understand their meanings for participants. The remainder of this theoretical overview will set out this worldview and the theoretical assumptions guiding the research, before moving on to present an account of the data collection and the methods and theories applied in analysing the data.

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4.1.2 Critical approaches: Critical theory and postmodernism There is a wide range of critical perspectives, originating in radical humanist, Marxist, and post-structuralist ideas. Although often contradictory, all recognise the importance of the context of social relations in which action is embedded, and all question dominating practices, ideologies, discourses, and institutions. As Scollon (2002: 142) points out, the notion of critique descends from Kant and forms the foundation of Enlightenment thinking. Critical theory seeks to build on the positive legacy of the Enlightenment and the emancipatory power of critical reason. The radical structuralist critique of society stresses structural power relationships and structural conflict, while the radical humanist paradigm seeks to understand a subjectively created social reality, but also to expose the role of language in moulding consciousness as part of a network of ideological domination. Postmodernist thought, on the other hand, focuses on the dark side of the Enlightenment and rejects grand narratives of progress and emancipation, whether Marxist or humanist. A focus on the constructed nature of people and reality leads to the rejection of humanist ideas of the autonomous individual making choices, even as it points to the possibility for reality to be reconstructed along different lines. Discourse, and the constitutive power of language, are central. Postmodernism rejects the idea that objects exist in the world and language simply describes them. The discourse speaks the person i.e. the world, and the persons way of being in the world, are shaped by language. Discourse and other social practices are interdependent, and both interact to produce human subjectivity.

The perspective behind this thesis could be labelled critical theory in terms of the typologies proposed by Burrell and Morgan (1979) or Guba and Lincoln (1994). However, it could also be labelled postmodernism in the sense in which this term is used by Parker (2002: 106) as a form of shorthand which collects together elements of social constructionism, post-structuralist approaches to language, a suspicion of managerial versions of progress, and so on. As Parker comments (2002:182), hopefully they add up to an interesting (if not coherent) story. The position taken here adopts the postmodernist notion of discourse as socially constructive (as well as socially constructed) and a certain postmodernist

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suspicion of claims to universal truth. At the same time, however, it rejects moral relativism and clings to a belief in the power of critique to expose what is really going on, and the importance of understanding both lived reality and structural power relationships, local contexts and wider context.

Part of the justification for the centrality of discourse in this research is based upon the contention that there is a strong case for focusing solely on language use as the only target of enquiry of which we can develop fairly robust empirical knowledge (Alvesson and Deetz 2000: 122). Although a neat synthesis is neither possible nor desirable, a focus on language as actively producing the very phenomena which it appears to represent may be a way of combining insights from critical theory and postmodernism. Studies of specific instances of language use can be a way to ground these ideas in empirical reality. The concept of the becoming ontology (Chia 1996) also directs researchers attention to processes of ordering and classifying our perceptions. The objects of our knowledge are shaped by the categories to which we construe them. Rather than simply naming things, language mediates our perception of reality. In using language to summarise data and build theories about reality, these processes create apparently stable and reified ideas about abstractions such as individuals, organisations and cultures.

4.1.3 Discourse and discourses There is a distinction to be made between Discourse as an abstract noun and discourse(s) as a count noun. Discourse (in general) is language use conceived as social practice. Viewing language use as social practice implies that it is always socially situated. Discourse both shapes and is shaped by its social context. Discourse reflects other facets of the social. Yet discourse also shapes social identities, social relations and systems of knowledge and belief. Particular discourses are ways of signifying experience from particular perspectives (Fairclough 1993). A discourse implies a way of thinking about the world. A discourse is a group of statements that provide a way of talking about and acting upon a particular object. When statements about an object or topic are made from within a certain discourse, that discourse makes it possible to construct that object in a particular way. It also limits the other ways in which that object can be thought about and acted upon (du Gay 2000a: 67).
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Language use is socially shaped, reflecting the wider society, but not in a monolithic or deterministic way. It is socially constitutive in that it reproduces and reinforces existing social identities, social relations and systems of knowledge and belief. Yet it can also be socially constitutive in creative, socially transformative ways. Societies and social institutions contain many discourses and counter-discourses which compete for dominance. Discourses may be combined with others to form new discourses, or may be transferred from one domain to another. Changing discourses reflect and reinforce changes in other aspects of social practices; discourses are never mere rhetoric, although the relationship may not be straightforward.

To take a concrete example from the construction industry, consider the discourse of health and safety gone mad. This discourse combines elements of a traditional masculine risk-taking construction culture (as described by Hayes 2002) with elements drawn from a political and popular climate in which the idea of health and safety gone mad predominates as a result of a sustained media campaign in the UK which attacks the HSE, compensation culture and regulation more widely. Clearly this discourse has potentially very real material effects. This discourse is dominant at a site level, but not unchallenged. One counter-discourse is the trade union view of criminally negligent bosses as solely responsible for the deaths and injuries of building workers. Another counter-discourse promulgated by managers in construction companies attempts to instil safety culture through toolbox talks.

This example can also serve to demonstrate the use of critical discourse analysis (which will be discussed later in this chapter). CDA examines this relationship between a particular text or example of discourse and the wider social and cultural structures and processes. In particular, it investigates the ways in which discursive practices are shaped by power and power struggles. In the health and safety gone mad example it is not difficult to see that a campaign against the regulation of health and safety at work would serve certain interests but many cases are not as clear cut as this. This attention to power and to context is also concomitant with a strong orientation to historical change; changing discursive practices are situated within wider processes of social and cultural change.

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4.1.4 Critical approaches to organisation studies and construction management Critical research asks questions about responsibility, interests and ideology (van Dijk 1986: 4). Within management and organisation studies, the main forms which this critical approach has taken are labour process theory (Braverman 1974; Knights and Willmott, 1990) and Critical Management Studies (Alvesson and Willmott 1992; Fournier and Grey 2000). The discussion which follows is primarily derived from Cooper and Burrell (1988); Burrell (1988; 1994); Alvesson and Willmott (1996); Alvesson and Deetz (2000); Fournier and Grey (2000); Bresnen (2005); and Hodgson and Cicmil (2006).

According to Fournier and Grey (2000: 17), the clearest means of distinguishing between critical and non-critical work is performativity; non-critical management study aims to develop knowledge which contributes to the production of maximum output for minimum input. The purpose of research is assumed to be not simply understanding, but learning how to run and improve organisations. The critical approach questions this subordination of knowledge and truth to the production of efficiency. However, critical work goes beyond a pure research stance, aiming to challenge assumptions and beliefs, to draw attention to what is hidden, and to counteract the dominance of takenfor-granted, common-sense ideas, ideologies, and practices. If we conceive of twentieth-century management theory as ... construction of organizational reality and rationality while effacing the process of construction behind a mask of science and naturalness, we can see CMS as being engaged in a project of undoing this work, of deconstructing the reality of organizational life or truthfulness of organizational knowledge by exposing its unnaturalness or irrationality. Fournier and Grey (2000: 18). It does this by investigating arbitrary and rigid ways of dividing up and understanding social reality; by relating things to their wider political, historic, cultural and economic context; and by paying attention to relations of power and domination. Critical work based on ideology critique1 aims to make people aware of hidden exploitation or coercion, so that they are able to resist it. Ideology, or common sense in the service of power (Fairclough, 1989:154) tells us what exists, what is possible, and what is right and wrong (Clegg and Dunkerley 1980). Ideology obscures the interests

Including Faircloughs (1989) version of critical discourse analysis, upon which this work draws.

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served by ideas; it involves both conscious manipulation of communication by dominant groups, and unconscious, institutional use of ideas in ways which legitimise existing power structures and resource distribution. Alvesson and Deetz (2000) distil four main themes exposed by ideology critique: naturalisation where a socially constructed arrangement is seen as natural; universalisation where particular sectional interests are treated as though they were everyones interests; technical rationality and instrumental reasoning, leading to objectification of people and nature; and hegemony a complex web of conceptual and material arrangements policies, values and culture, contracts and reward systems etc, which manufacture consent to the dominant order. Although the term critical management studies dates only to the 1990s2, the approach may be seen as dating back at least to the 1970s, when Clegg and others drew on ideas which were in the air at that time to sketch out a critical agenda for organisation theory. One of the first critical studies of construction management may be Cleggs (1975) study of power on a building site. Since then, there has been relatively little critical research of construction management, but this is now beginning to change, and there is an increasing body of work drawing upon critical social science thinking from the field of management and organisation studies. Bresnen (2005) explores recent applications of these ideas within construction management, while Hodgson and Cicmil (2006) present various critical perspectives on project management.

Some overlapping themes emerge from critical studies in the field of construction; the importance of power being the first. This leads to questioning the unitary view of organisations, exploring their complex, pluralistic nature and recognising that there are multiple stakeholders (Cherns and Bryant 1984; Green and May 2005). Power and politics both at the organisational level and at the industry level are seen to support, resist or modify the introduction of management initiatives (Bresnen et al 2005). Critical work may also question the privileging of certain values or outcomes over others: productive efficiency over job satisfaction, for example, or value engineering over architectural merit (Bresnen 2005: 490). New management initiatives have been subjected to critical scrutiny, for example business process re-engineering (Green 1998); partnering (Green 1999; Bresnen and Marshall 2000; Dainty et al 2001; Bresnen
2

Fournier and Grey point to Alvesson & Wilmott s (1992) edited collection of that name as having started it.

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2007); and lean construction (Green and May 2005). Fernie et al (2006) have written on best practice and benchmarking from a critical perspective and McCabe (2007) takes a critical view on Respect for People. Commonly held concepts such as innovation (Harty et al 2007; Larsen 2005; Davies 2006) or competitiveness (Green et al 2008) have been deconstructed. Some of this recent research takes a social constructionist view of the world, and stresses the importance of discourse in understanding change (Green and May 2005; Harty 2005; Cicmil and Marshall 2005; Rooke and Clark 2005; Bresnen et al 2005; see also Ness 2010d; 2012). These strands of critical research form the emerging body of work to which this study aspires to contribute.

The choice of research topic and approach was also influenced by an interest in the lived experience of those who do the physical work of construction. Operatives are often strangely invisible in CM research. Research into human topics in construction (HRM, culture, work-life balance) has tended to focus on professional and managerial staff rather than manual workers. In 2002, Murray et al said of building craft-workers the UK construction research community has largely ignored this important group. Perhaps this is now changing. A special section of Personnel Review edited by Dainty, Grugulis and Langford (2007) focuses on the construction labour market and employment practices; papers on HRM policies, skill shortages, recruitment and selection processes, and labour productivity include consideration of operatives, and recognise that managers and operatives have different points of view. At the same time, a volume edited by Dainty, Green and Bagilhole (2007), looks at people and culture in construction, including some pieces which consider manual workers. Much of the research which does focus on operatives concerns craft skills and training; there is a rich seam of work here (e.g. Clarke 2005; Clarke and Winch 2004; Gann and Senker 1998).

The approach taken in this study is partly inspired by some excellent ethnographic research in construction (Sykes 1969; Applebaum 1982; 1999; Rooke and Clarke 2005; Thiel 2005). However, much of that work (with the exception of Thiels study) has tended to avoid theoretical explanation. Ethnographic research from other fields (Kusterer 1978; Cockburn 1983; Burawoy et al 1991; 2000; Roberts 1993; Blum 2000) has therefore served as a model for the analysis and explanation of qualitative data about working lives in a way which makes connections with the wider context beyond the immediate situation. This need for theoretical explanation will be considered below.
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4.1.5 Iterative grounded theory or contextualist research Studying society is a process of back and forth, looking in the world, thinking about what youve seen, and going back to have another look at the world the results of the thinking are clues to where to look next (Becker 1998: 146-147). The approach taken in this research follows neither the purely deductive model of starting from theory to deduce and test hypotheses, nor the inductive model whereby theory is derived from empirical research as in the extreme grounded theory approach. Researchers cannot ignore the literature in the way that pure inductivism proposes (Glaser and Strauss 1967: 37); nor can theory be untainted by actual experience and simply deduced out of thin air. The relationship between theory and data needs to be dialectical and iterative. A complex, two-way process is called for, which is both inductive and deductive and through which pertinent sociological concepts, ideas, and information are carried into the field and are activated both by the observational, interview, and documentary data being gathered and by the process of sociological reasoning(Fox, 2004, p69). This concept of iteration between theory and data is common to some forms of iterative grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Orton 1997) and to Burawoys extended case method. Iterative grounded theory starts with immersion in the field, and produces and refines theory in an iterative process; the extended case method starts with preexisting theory which is reconstructed by dialogue with the empirical situation under study as the researcher reflects and brings theory to bear on what is observed or experienced (Burawoy 2003). It is also out of a dialogue between researcher and researched, between academic theory on the one side and indigenous narratives on the other, that enlightenment (hopefully!) emerges (Burawoy 1998). This study does not start with a favourite theory which is to be improved or reconstructed, as with Burawoys method, but it certainly does not start by ignoring the literature either which leads to a certain reluctance to claim the label of grounded theory, even whilst adopting some of its concepts such as theoretical sampling. Green et al (2009) introduce the idea of contextualist research into the domain of construction management. In this version of iterative grounded theory, new knowledge is developed from a continuous interplay between existing theories and empirical data.

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Researchers must be theoretically sensitive as a result of being steeped in relevant literatures. The authors emphasise the importance of an iterative research process whereby knowledge of existing literature shapes the initial research design, but emergent empirical findings cause fresh theoretical perspectives to be mobilised, and the data are then interrogated against a succession of theoretical models derived from the literature.

The importance of context is another guiding principle behind this thesis. Flyvbjerg (2001: 136) describes phronetic research as studying concrete cases in context both the small, local context, which gives phenomena their immediate meaning, and the larger... context in which phenomena can be appreciated for their general and conceptual significance thus linking micro and macro level, structure and actors. In similar ways, Burawoys method insists on locating lived experience within its extralocal determinants, and Faircloughs CDA studies language use in its social context.

4.1.6 Situated knowledges Contextualism also means recognising that researchers cannot stand outside that which they study (Flyvbjerg 2001: 114-115). As Jager (2002) writes of critical discourse analysis, the researcher must ... see clearly that with his/her critique he/she is not situated outside the discourse he/she is analysing. Weber (1949: 81) raised these questions about the objectivity or neutrality of (social) science, as all knowledge of cultural reality is always knowledge from particular points of view. Weber also pointed out the dangers of spurious ethical neutrality which, under the semblance of eradicating value-judgements and letting the facts speak for themselves, simply serves to legitimise existing power structures. Thus, social science cannot be neutral and apolitical; it necessarily takes sides in political struggles (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). Burawoy (1998) proposes an alternative model of science, a reflexive science that takes context as point of departure. While positive science is based on the separation between scientists and those they examine, reflexive science is premised upon our own participation in the world we study, and embraces not detachment but engagement as the road to knowledge.
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Similar themes emerge from some strands of feminist theory (e.g. Keller 1982; Smith 1987) which assert that the dualist separation between knower and known results in abstract, decontextualised, and alienated knowledge in the guise of objectivity. MacKinnon (1983: 636) writes ..objectivity the nonsituated, universal standpoint, whether claimed or aspired to... tacitly participates in constructing reality from the dominant point of view. According to Haraway (1988), all knowledge is partial and embodied, a view from somewhere. Haraway calls for networks of situated knowledges, where the investigators personal knowledge of that which they seek to understand provides a background of experience and expertise which enables her to appraise it. Abu-Lughod (1990: 100) suggests that women or halfies3, are more forcefully aware of the partial nature of knowledge, the impossibility of standing outside what we study. Inevitably the account is partial in both senses. The researchers self - age, sex, ethnicity, education, skills, social background and lifestyle - tends to direct the possibilities and provide major constraints on the roles that can be adopted. The meanings the researcher attaches to things are also a product of her own culture and personal experiences. The researchers identity, values and beliefs influence (or construct) the findings.

Turner (1988:114-116) suggests the importance of seeking out, acquiring and interpreting data through a unique personal perspective in which the subjective and the objective are in constant interplay. This perspective does not deny the presence and the significance of the values, the passions, and the subjectivity of the observer. Objectivity is not a mechanical recording of the world in the way that it is, but it is an achievement, an overcoming of biases and prejudices. As C W Mills famously remarked (cited by Crompton and Jones 1988: 69) I have tried to be objective, I do not claim to be detached. Detachment leads to amoral research which is dispassionate and, finally, inhuman. The research reported here takes sides with those who work in construction and avoids detachment, yet also struggles to maintain a critical attitude of suspicion as described by Sumner (2003) in order to overcome the researchers own prejudices and taken-forgranted assumptions. There are clear implications here for the research methodology.
3

Abu-Lughod defines halfies as people between cultures, the West of their upbringing, one parent, or training, and the culture of their origin ... in which they do fieldwork.

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4.1.7 The need for explanation Until relatively recently there was little methodological debate in construction management, as research largely followed a taken-for-granted natural science model. Then Seymour and Rooke (1995), in an influential paper, presented a polarised methodological choice between a positivist, objectivist rationalist research paradigm whose proponents aim at causal explanation, and their proposed alternative interpretivist paradigm, using ethnomethodology in order to study meaning, but eschewing all theory. This dualistic view has had a somewhat unfortunate influence on the debate. More recently Dainty (2008) associates explaining human behaviour with positivism, quantitative methods and an objective engineering orientation, whilst suggesting that interpretivism is content with understanding localised subjective meaning.4 Yet this seems to suggest that explanation has to be in terms of causality, so that if we want explanation as well as understanding, then we must draw from the positivist tradition as well as the hermeneutic tradition. On the contrary, the position taken here is that it is possible to adopt purely qualitative methods without giving up on explanation and on theory. Indeed, this argument has long been accepted within mainstream social science although it seems to have had less purchase within construction management. According to Weber (1949: 40), the aim of social science is to understand human conduct and explain it interpretatively. Explanation involves making connections with the wider context beyond the immediate situation. Interpretive explanation may be in terms of conditions of possibility. Rajagopalan (2004) suggests that instead of providing ever more accurate descriptions of how things are [critical researchers] can ask more worthwhile questions as to, for instance, how they have come to be what they now seem to be. In particular, this emphasises the importance of paying attention to the flow of events over time. (This point is picked up in section 4 below.) Becker (1998: 28-63) favours the use of a narrative style of analysis to describe the processes by which events came to happen; to explain what It is and how it got that way. Telling a story of first this happened, then that happened, and then the other happened, and it ended up like this shows how something became possible. This means working out what are the steps in
4

To some extent this is probably a straw man, as Dainty then resolves the dualism by proposing pluralism.

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the process, how they connect to each other, and how each step constructs the conditions of possibility for the next. Events are neither random, nor deterministically fixed, but are contingent upon past circumstances and choices.

Some recent CM research does use this style of explanation. For example, Green et al. (2008b) describe the evolution of a firm from a civil engineering contractor to a major provider of social housing. This is explained with reference both to opportunistic responses to openings stemming from individuals personal contacts, and to structural factors such as the collapse of the speculative housing market in the early 1990s recession and the subsequent growth of the social housing sector. The form of critical discourse analysis adopted (broadly following Faircloughs model) also stresses the importance of explanation in linking the specifics of a sample of discourse to the wider social structures of which it forms part. However, the factors that explain what is going on are not necessarily obvious in the data, so the researcher must sometimes search for the influence of macro-structural features on the observed discourse, behaviour and interaction.

4.1.8 The combination of research methods The position adopted here insists on the importance of combining subjective understanding with theoretical explanation. However, that is not to argue for triangulation in the traditional sense, still less for a methodological pluralism which would claim to combine qualitative and quantitative paradigms as the best of both worlds (Raftery et al 1997; see also Dainty 2008). Arguments for multi-method approaches such as these often use metaphors of paradigms or methodological approaches as different lenses or instruments (Mingers 1997), but this seems to assume different views on one real object, rather than socially constructed objects of research shaped by the research methods and theories brought to bear on them. Rather than multimethod triangulation being seen as a way to minimise the risk of bias (suggesting that there is one unbiased truth), the approach taken here seeks multiple overlapping (partial) truths, which take account of the values and beliefs of multiple

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stakeholders across multiple temporal contexts. Collecting data from different sources and by different methods can enrich the process of sensemaking by which the data are understood. Yet the research strategy is underpinned by certain epistemological assumptions, leading to a particular definition of the problems to be investigated. As well as being appropriate to these objects of research, the methods used need to make sense together and to fit within broadly the same worldview in this case, a critical perspective which is interpretivist, but which insists upon the importance of context and of connecting micro and macro levels using theory. The research therefore attempts to mobilise methodological tactics that are appropriate for elucidating meanings and seeking explanation in terms of patterns and relationships.

The justification for the combination of CDA with other methods follows Fairclough (2005) and Wodak (2002). Wodaks discourse-historical approach to CDA is interdisciplinary and problem oriented, rather than focused narrowly on texts. The approach is abductive, with constant movement back and forth between theory and empirical data. The theory as well as the methodology is eclectic; that is theories and methods are integrated which are helpful in understanding and explaining the object under investigation. Studies incorporate fieldwork and ethnography to explore the object under investigation from the inside. The historical context is always analysed and integrated into the interpretation of discourses and texts.

Fairclough (2005) describes how discourses emerge and are disseminated and how they shift from being mere projections of possible states of affairs to become materialised in the instruments of economic production, enacted in new ways of acting and interacting, and inculcated as new ways of being. These different moments (or research objects) call for different methods in terms of data selection, collection and analysis. Researching the emergence and constitution of discourses requires a genealogical approach. Researching the emergent dominance of discourses entails focusing on relationships between and within texts. Researching dissemination and recontextualisation entails comparing texts in different social fields and at different social scales. All of these are principally textbased methods. However, researching operationalisation calls for accessing insider perspectives in particular localities, companies etc in order to assess how discourses are materialised, enacted and inculcated. It is to this end that data from interviews is

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combined with historical archival and textual research and the use of critical discourse analysis (CDA), as described in the sections which follow.

4.2 Critical discourse analysis Discourse, as discussed above, is language seen as social practice. Discourse is socially constructive: through their discourses, language users enact, confirm or challenge social structures. Discourses are seen not just as representations of the world, but also as (re)producing, (re)constructing and (re)transforming social practice. The relationship between discourse and society is dialectical; discourse not only shapes the social world but is shaped by it. Particular discourses are ways of talking and thinking about the world from particular perspectives (Fairclough 1993; du Gay 2000a). Thus, within a given domain there are multiple coexisting, contrasting, often contradictory and competing discourses, which individuals may draw upon singly or in creative combinations. Discourse reproduces and reinforces existing social identities, social relations and systems of knowledge and belief. Yet it can also be socially constitutive in transformative ways. Changing discourses reflect and reinforce changes in other aspects of social practices.

4.2.1 Discourse and Power; structure and agency Discourse analysis is a methodology that couples a set of epistemological and ontological assumptions with particular analytical techniques (Hardy 2004: 416). Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is distinguished from other forms of linguistic analysis which are not explicitly critical, such as ethnomethodological conversation analysis, content analysis, sociolinguistics, and more psychological forms of discourse analysis, by a focus on power. CDA focuses on the role of discourse in the production and reproduction of power abuse or domination (van Dijk 2002:96). Phillips and Hardy (2002) differentiate between constructivist and critical discourse studies according to differences in the degree to which researchers focus directly on the dynamics of power. Constructivist studies carry out finely grained explorations of the way in which a particular social reality is constructed through the organising properties of discourse. Critical studies are explicitly interested in how discourse embodies
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structures of power and ideology, and in exploring who is advantaged or disadvantaged by a particular socially constructed reality. Phillips and Hardy also differentiate studies of discourse in terms of whether their focus is on text or context: the degree to which the broader social (distal) context is included in the analysis, compared with the local or proximate context, which refers to the immediate features of interaction. There is a continuum from the micro-analysis of particular texts to the study of a broader sweep of the discursive elements of particular contexts (Phillips and Hardy, 2002: 20). The strong social constructionist approach sees discourses produced through daily interactions as contributing to the enactment of social structures, bringing into being objects of knowledge, categories of social subjects, forms of self, social relationships, and conceptual frameworks. The Foucauldian view also regards reality with suspicion, and stresses the constitutive role of discourse. The focus here though is firmly on the discourse rather than the subject (Foucault 1971). In Larcheology du savoir he writes that discourses are to be treated as practices which systematically form the objects of which they speak.

The Marxist view is seen in The German ideology, Part 1 (written 1845-6, first published 1932). The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas; ie the class which is the ruling material force is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships... (Tucker 1978: 172-173) Discourses are determined by social structures, and discourse analysis is seen as a form of ideology critique. This is perhaps the idea which most strongly informs Faircloughs work, though it also draws on elements of the other approaches to discourse.

Fairclough describes an approach in which discourse both shapes and is shaped by social structures. Discursive construals of the world construct and reconstruct the world, yet the material reality of the world sets limits on this. Individuals are confronted with the concrete practices, relations and identities previously constituted in discourse and reified into institutions and practices. This approach is characterised by a dialectical view of the relationship between structure and agency (Fairclough 2005). Social events
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are constituted through the intersection of two causal powers those of social practices (and, behind them, of social structures), and those of individual agents. Social agents draw upon social structures (including languages) and practices (including orders of discourse) in producing texts, but actively work these resources, create (potentially novel) texts out of them, rather than simply instantiating them. (Fairclough 2005:3.) While some writers thus argue that the power effects of discourse are beyond the control of individuals, the approach taken in this thesis broadly follows Fairclough. It rests on the assumption that discourse can be used by individuals in attempts to produce outcomes that are beneficial to them (Hardy et al., 1998; Hardy and Palmer 1999). This may be strategic or it may be unconscious. However, as we focus on the scope for agency, we must not forget the limits: the constraints of discourse and the processes whereby grand discourses infiltrate local discourse (Hardy 2004). The discursive constitution of society does not emanate from a free play of ideas in peoples heads but from a social practice which is firmly rooted in and oriented to real, material social structures (Fairclough 1992: 66). Discourse is not infinitely pliable. Discourse is used as a resource by actors in their attempts to enact their strategic intentions, but they cannot simply produce a discourse to suit their needs. Even the most creative new combinations of discourses must be grounded in the prevailing discursive context. Thus, a complex relationship emerges as the activities of actors shape discourses, while those discourses also shape the actions of those actors (Hardy and Palmer 1999:2).

4.2.2 CDA as an approach Critical discourse analysis examines the relationship between particular instances of discourse and the wider social and cultural structures and processes. It investigates the ways in which discursive practices are shaped by power and power struggles, and seeks to situate changing discursive practices within wider processes of social and cultural change. The analysis used here is inspired chiefly by Faircloughs framework for critical discourse analysis, which aims to combine social relevance and textual specificity (Fairclough, 1992:100). It also incorporates elements from other approaches, in particular Wodaks discourse-historical method and van Dijks sociocognitive approach, which uses the concept of mental models to relate discourse

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structures to local and global contexts. These approaches share an explicitly critical social and political position, rejecting claims that research can be apolitical, objective and value neutral. The principles of critical discourse analysis described here are drawn mainly from Fairclough (1992: 35-36); van Dijk (1997: 29-31); Fairclough and Wodak (1997: 268); and Wodak and Meyer (2002). Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a set of methods and theories for investigating language in use and language in social contexts (Wetherell et al 2001: i). Critical discourse analysis investigates the common sense assumptions and presuppositions on which texts5 rely. In order to do this, it looks beyond the text to place it within a structural, institutional, and historic context. CDA is based on an explicitly critical social and political position, rejecting claims that research can be apolitical, objective and value neutral. CDA does not deny but explicitly defines and defends its own sociopolitical position. That is, CDA is biased and proud of it (van Dijk 2002: 96). The analysis aims to show how discourse shapes social relations, knowledge and beliefs; and how discourse is itself shaped by ideology and power. These relations between discourse and society are often unclear to those involved. The analysis of a text can cast light upon how and why it was produced, what lies behind it, what effects it has, and whose interests it serves.

Most approaches to critical discourse analysis have been strongly influenced by Foucaults work. Discourse is seen as actively constituting and constructing society while at the same time being dependent on a society or institution. Discourses are expressions of power relations and refer to all that can be thought, written or said about a particular topic. Discourses are generated by combinations with other discourses and texts (interdiscursivity and intertextuality). Discourse analysis is concerned with the rules which make a certain statement possible and others not, at particular times, places and institutional locations (Foucault 1969).

Text is used to denote a particular instance of discourse, not necessarily written. It may also refer to a recording of a spoken text.

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4.2.3 Faircloughs analysis Fairclough is expressly political in his analysis and falls within the modernist tradition of ideology critique that descends from Marx, whilst also including elements from Foucaults work. Faircloughs CDA contrasts with postmodern approaches such as Derridaean deconstruction on the one hand, and more psychology-based, cognitive approaches, such as van Dijks, on the other. Fairclough synthesises linguistic and social approaches to discourse, combining the social and political thought of Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault, Habermas and Giddens with methods for studying language developed within linguistics (especially by Halliday). He draws on traditions in critical theory, highlighting the link between language and power. His model focuses on intertextuality in the analysis of discursive practice, and on ideology and hegemony in the analysis of social practice. An actual example of discourse is shaped by socially constructed orders of discourse, sets of conventions associated with social institutions; these orders of discourse are ideologically shaped by power relations in social institutions and in society as a whole. But the relationship is dialectical: discourse affects social structures, as well as being determined by them, and so contributes to social continuity and social change. Fairclough (2001) defined CDA as analysis of the dialectical relationships between discourse and other elements of social practices. This dialectical view allows an oscillation between the perspectives of structure and agency. Faircloughs (1989; 1992) three-dimensional framework for critical discourse analysis sees discourse as composed of text, interaction, and context. One of the strengths of this framework is the interplay of micro and macro levels looking at words and sentences in the text, at the processes of production and consumption of the text, and at the text in its wider social context. This approach emphasises the importance of detailed linguistic analysis on a textual level, but also places description within a web of interpretation and explanation which assists in understanding the connections, linking the specifics of the text to the wider social structures of which it forms part. An instance of discourse can be looked at in several ways: as a piece of text, as an instance of discursive practice and as an instance of social practice (Fairclough, 1992a, p3-4). Faircloughs CDA thus has three levels of analysis, the text (language analysis

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focussing on form the structure of the text including grammar etc); the processes of production and consumption (including intertextual analysis and the way in which texts draw on orders of discourse); and the larger social context (considering hegemony, ideology and systems of power, the ways in which discourse constitutes social entities and relations as well as being shaped by them). Fairclough has called these three dimensions of discourse, texts, interactions and contexts, and the corresponding three dimensions of CDA description, interpretation and explanation (Fairclough, 1989). Analysis therefore consists of description of the text, interpretation of the relationship between text and interaction, and explanation of the relationship between interaction and social context. The analysis moves back and forth between the general and the specific. The aim is to link the specific text (micro level) with the underlying power structures in society (macro level) through the discursive practices which constitute and are constituted by the text. The three moments of analysis may be described by means of an example. The word accident as used to refer to injuries and deaths at work can be seen as a euphemism which suggests a chance occurrence, thus hiding the fact that many workers are killed or injured as a result of a criminal act by the employer (Davis and Pless, 2001; Robertson, 2004). At the descriptive level the use of the euphemism is noted. However, description inevitably shades into interpretation, as What one sees in a text, what one regards as worth describing, and what one chooses to emphasise in a description, are all dependent on how one interprets a text. Fairclough (1989, p27). Interpretation looks beyond the text to the situational and interdiscursive context, asking what discourse types are being drawn on and seeking to make explicit the commonsense assumptions which underpin the text. This level of analysis considers intertextuality, noting that the word accident is so common that its use is automatic and commonsensical.

Explanation then tries to clarify whose interests these common-sense assumptions serve, how they come about, and how they are reproduced or challenged by discourse practices. Whereas interpretation is concerned with how discursive resources are drawn on in producing and interpreting the text; explanation is more concerned with how the text

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contributes to the reproduction of those discursive resources. This level of analysis refers to the way in which every use of accident for an injury or death at work reproduces and strengthens this ideological conception of it as a chance occurrence, thus discouraging real consideration of the causes of those deaths and injuries. This contributes to masking the power relations between employers and employees. One of the strengths of Faircloughs three dimensional framework of analysis by means of description, interpretation and explanation is the interplay of micro and macro levels looking at words and sentences in the text, at the processes of production and consumption of the text, and at the text in its wider social context. This approach emphasises the importance of detailed linguistic analysis on a textual level, but also places description within a web of interpretation and explanation which assists in understanding the connections, linking the specifics of the text to the wider social structures of which it forms part.

4.2.4 The application of CDA to construction Until recently, there has been a very limited application of these ideas to the field of construction management. A paper by Clegg (1987), which hinges around the conflicting meanings of inclement weather in power struggles over the inclemency rule, is an early example of the analysis of language and power. (This pre-dates Faircloughs exposition of the principles of CDA.) However, it is only within the last decade or so that the rapid growth of critical studies of the construction industry has included work which studies language as a source of power. Green (1998) advocates a postmodernist interpretation which is also critical, whereby the reality of construction management practice is defined by the dominant management discourse, and language is a source of power through which individuals compete for influence (see also Green and May 2005).

Recent research critiquing new management initiatives has often pointed out gaps between rhetoric and reality. See for example Green (1998), Green and May (2003) on business process re-engineering; Green (1999a, 1999b, 2002), Green and May (2005) on lean construction; Bresnen and Marshall (2000a, 2000b, 2000c), Dainty et al 2001,

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Bresnen 2007) on partnering; Fernie et al (2006) on benchmarking. Some of this work discusses the ideological uses of these best practice discourses. For example, Green et al (2008a), writing on the Discourse of construction competitiveness, contend that competitiveness is better understood as a discourse rather than a characteristic that is supposedly possessed, and that the discourse of competitiveness derives its legitimacy from the enterprise culture that came to dominance during the 1980s. Similarly, Green (2006) discusses how calls for lean construction were also an extension of the enterprise culture of 1980s Britain, and helped to justify deregulation, thus having practical consequences. Sage et al (2012) trace the dissemination of lean construction from government reports and organisations, into a construction firm across a training meeting and onto the building site. The authors seek to illustrate how the arrival of a specific strategic discourse, and its power effects, cannot be understood separately to the associated material forms and embodied practices. There is also a strand of work which uses ethnomethodology to look at the way language use constructs meaning. For example, Hill (1999) found that similar situations on construction projects might be labelled as either chaos or disorder, and this would affect subsequent actions. Luck and McDonnell (2006) studied meanings in the architectural briefing process. However, the focus differs from CDA in not being explicitly critical and in paying attention principally to the immediate local context rather than the wider context.

A few studies explicitly use a research approach based on critical discourse analysis. Davies (2006), from a theoretical perspective that stresses the social construction of technology, considers construction innovation through the analysis of extracts from the report Constructing the Future (DTI 2001). In the related field of project management, Raisanen and Linde (2004) draw on critical discourse analysis to study a project management model used in telecoms. They see it as a powerful discursive tool aimed at standardising both project management activities and discursive practices. Also in the project management field, Buckle and Thomas (2003) deconstruct the project management guidelines of the PMBoK6 in order to make visible the gendered discourse operating within the profession, and conclude that the PMBoK is heavily influenced by

Project Management Body of Knowledge

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masculine logic, but largely excludes the feminine sensemaking associated with flexible responsiveness to emerging realities. Green (2006) demonstrates a significant disconnect between the prescriptive discourse of the project management literature and the lived reality of the way that the management of projects is enacted. In the same field, Thomas and George (2010) draw on Wittgenstein to study Language games of organisational investment, asserting that it is not possible to understand an expression in isolation from the context in which it is used. Vague concepts only acquire specific precise meanings when used in practice in particular language games.

The literature cited here from within construction and project management takes a variety of approaches but all has a focus on language use in context. Some studies pay attention to the detailed explication of how participants produce texts (as with conversation analysis). A few use critical discourse analysis to investigate the discourses drawn on and promulgated by particular texts. Others look at discourses within their wider social and cultural context, including consideration of their material effects on ways of (inter)acting and their inculcation into ways of being (identities). It is within this latter tendency that this study is positioned. These studies have often not drawn on the methods and theories of discourse analysis in a very explicit way, but have applied a discursive orientation to the empirical investigations which have been carried out.

4.2.5 Data collection, selection and analysis The main material used for the discourse analysis in this study was drawn from interviews; the production of the interview texts is discussed in section 4.3. In addition, a body of historical texts was drawn on. The texts comprised policy documents from a 60-year period (1950 to 2010), and archival material from the City of Manchester Direct Works Department in 1979-1982. (This latter material is described in section 4.4.2) This main corpus of written texts consisted of policy documents on the UK7 economy, the construction industry, and vocational skill and training, produced by government departments, by quangos, and by government-sponsored working parties drawn from
7

Earlier texts refer to the UK and/or to Great Britain. Some later texts refer only to England.

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industry, over a 60-year period from 1950 to 2010. No attempt was made to analyse all the documents within the corpus, or to sample it in a way which would allow statistical inferences to be drawn. Data selection is based on a mental model of the order of discourse of the institution or domain one is researching (Fairclough 1992); thus it requires, in this case, a background knowledge of issues in the construction industry, and can never be objective. The texts within the corpus, and the excerpts within the texts, were selected to yield as much insight as possible into the questions being investigated, regarding the meaning of skill and the construction of skilled identity in the building trades.

As already mentioned in Chapter 2, the texts were divided into two groups, those published from 1950 to 1979 and those published from 1980 to 2010. This division enabled a comparative analysis of continuity and change what had changed and what had remained constant in official discourses of skill. Texts in the first group included the Phillips, Emmerson and Phelps Brown reports (1950; 1962; 1968), and reports from the BRS and the CITB (1967; 1969). Texts in the second group included the Egan report (DETR 1998), the Respect for People report (2000) and the Barker review (2004), as well as several publications by CITB-ConstructionSkills, and the Leitch Review of Skills (2005; 2006). Also included were websites such as those of DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Discourse analysis cannot be reduced to a set of procedures, and many leading analysts are reluctant to describe a method. Van Dijk (2002) stresses that CDA is a perspective rather than a method, while Fairclough (2002) expresses reservations about the concept of method if one understands method to be a technique, a tool in a box of tools. Nevertheless there is a need for explicit and systematic analysis based on serious methods and theories (van Dijk 1990: 14; see also Antaki et al 2003). One may search a text for particular linguistic features, or code it in terms of topics some discourse analysts work in those ways, but Wodak (2002: 85) points out that care is needed. Because of our definition of textual meaning as acquired in use, it would not make sense to count the appearance of certain categories, since the meaning and structure of the whole text would not be accounted for in such a manner

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There can be no such thing as a complete discourse analysis, because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant units, levels, dimensions, moves, strategies, types of acts, devices and other structures of discourse (van Dijk 2002: 98). Instead, the analyst must make choices, and select those structures for closer analysis that are relevant for the study of a particular issue. The choice is twice context-bound: it depends what is most relevant both within the context of the discourse itself, and according to the research questions being studied.

In this study, the analysis was not carried out by coding texts into predefined categories, but by letting themes emerge. (Though of course the analyst has some preconceptions based both on theory and on experience; it is not possible or desirable to approach the text with an empty mind.) The interpretation itself is hermeneutic. The analysis works by asking questions, by approaching the text in many ways, zooming in and out, moving between levels, trying various lenses or filters, forming impressions, counting words, reflecting, speculating, returning again and again to the text with different questions, with different aspects of the context in mind, asking what is this all about?, what is going on?, what is the rle of language here?, why do I react to this as I do? what is implied here, what is the background to this? what is hidden or missing? how could this be different?. A simple example would be noticing the absence of any mention of trade unions or employee representation in a text, comparing the text with similar but earlier texts which did mention them, and asking questions about why this change might have come about. Or noticing the use of competence rather than skill in a text, perhaps counting the occurrences to confirm the impression, reflecting on why the concept of competence rather than skill might be used, considering the literature on this subject, returning to the text... These steps are taken several times, always coming and going between text, ethnography, theories and analysis. The written texts such as the reports were analysed mainly as background, and to show the role of discourse in constructing social reality. The spoken texts of interviews were analysed more to show the role of discourse in constituting or constructing selves; this is discussed further in the section on the interviews. The analysis of the reports focussed mainly on two aspects of the meanings expressed in the texts: firstly what van

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Dijk calls the topics or macropropositions of a text, and secondly the lexical study of the vocabulary used; the implications and shifting meanings of individual words.

Because topics have such an important role, defining the gist of a discourse, and because macrostructural analysis can be applied to a large corpus of texts, it constitutes a good starting point. Topics and arguments (topoi) are also important in investigating intertextual and interdiscursive relationships. Having gathered information about the context of a text (social, political, historical, and so on) and established the genre and discourse to which the text belongs, interdiscursivity and intertextuality were established by the study of texts on similar topics, texts with similar arguments or macro-topics and of similar genres. Much of the macrostructural analysis has been included in Chapter 2 (history), dealing with changes in policy on vocational education and training. However, it also forms a background to the site discourses identified from the interviews in Chapters 5 and 6.

Lexical analysis can also easily be carried out on a large corpus or as part of an intertextual analysis. It is, according to Fairclough (1992: 185), worthwhile to focus on culturally salient keywords. He gives the example of enterprise8. It is important to note that this is not simply a matter of the words which are used for things, as that would imply that there are things independent of the words. However, The relationship of words to meanings is many-to-one rather than one-to-one, in both directions the meaning of words, and the wording of meanings are matters which are socially variable and socially contested, and facets of wider social and cultural processes. It would be more helpful to say that there are alternative ways of giving meaning to particular experiences, which entails interpreting them from a particular theoretical, cultural or ideological perspective. Different perspectives entail different ways of wording them ... as one changes the wording one also changes the meaning. (Fairclough 1992: 190-191). An example in this thesis is the idea of investing in skills as a reflection of human capital theory. Some of this lexical analysis appears in Chapter 7, where official discourses are compared to site discourses.

Fairclough 1992 (187-190) analyses the restructuring of the meaning of 'enterprise' in speeches by Lord Young when he was at the DTI in the mid-eighties, and interprets this as a matter of achieving hegemony.

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The process of interpretation and analysis was iterative and abductive As themes emerged from an initial study of texts, attention was then focussed on particular issues or categories, or particular aspects of the texts. In both macrostructural and lexical analysis, a historical comparison was carried out between texts produced in the earlier part of the period (1950s, 1960s and early 1970s) and later texts. This revealed important themes which had remained constant (for example a modern methods of construction discourse which stresses innovation and presents prefabrication as the solution to skills shortages) and those which had changed (for example the declining attention paid to building craft workers and craft skills, and increasing emphasis on markets).

4.3 The interviews


4.3.1 Interviewing as a method The interview has come to dominate social science research, and is often regarded as somehow providing a gaze into the others soul (Kvale 2006). However, it is important not to fall into the trap of assuming access to reality or what is inside peoples heads. Quotations from interviews can have a seductive appeal as authentic raw data, yet there is a danger in seeing the interview as a revelation of a genuine inner self. Holstein and Gubrium (1995: 4) point out that all interviews are reality-constructing, meaningmaking occasions. Interviewers and interviewees co-construct data; both parties are involved in a process of identity construction which affects the course and content of the interview (Cassell 2005). Factors such as differences or similarities in age, sex, accent, temperament and life experience affect the rapport between interviewer and interviewee and thus affect the reality which is constructed. The interviewer can be seen as the instrument in unstructured or semi-structured interviewing as in participant observation. The instrument can be affected by factors like fatigue, personality, and knowledge, as well as skill at interviewing. These factors may be considered threats to validity, but can also be strengths because an interviewer can use their personal experience and insight to construct an in-depth understanding of the others experience. In this case, the interviewers own background in construction was made clear to the interviewees in order to lay claim to a common understanding. The language used to

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pose questions emphasised an industry rather than an academic identification. The interviewers reactions to the interviewees stories (laughing, smiling, nodding) aimed to convey sympathetic understanding in order for the interviewees to feel comfortable. This common understanding was inevitably more marked in some interviews than others - for example a perceived similarity of age and background led one interviewee to assume a similarity of views on skill and training, as demonstrated by the comment Well we always say cause were older dont we (John T). However, others were feeling their way before expressing potentially controversial views I have to be careful because I might offend you, but I am not a fan of Margaret Thatchers attitudes... (John L). It would probably have been impossible (as well as counterproductive) not to show some slight reaction of approval, encouraging the interviewee to continue.

The interviewer being female would definitely have had an effect on what interviewees would and would not say. No questions were asked about masculinity or gender, as the focus of the interviews was to explore issues around skill and identity, but some interviewees (male and female) spontaneously raised the question. For women working in construction, it is impossible to be unaware of ones gender being abnormal. All of the female interviewees spontaneously raised their own gender, and also assumed that a female interviewer with a construction trade background would be in sympathy with their experiences. For the men, being male is often taken for granted. Most of the comments about masculinity came from the women, not the men. However, the interviewer being a woman with a background in a building trade seems to have sparked off thoughts about the issue from some of the men.9 On the other hand, being female would possibly discourage the men from talking about masculinity, and certainly affect the manner in which they would talk about it. (Some of them treated the interviewer as a woman i.e. not swearing etc whereas others treated me as a bricklayer, and yet others seemed unsure how to treat someone who was both.) These particularities of the research instrument are not reported as strengths or as weaknesses, merely as pertinent facts. It is of course impossible to say how things might
9

For example, when asked about the relevance of formal qualifications, Bernie suggested that although his own lack of qualifications had never been a problem, the interviewer, as a woman, would need references or qualifications if walking on site to apply for a job.

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have been different with a male interviewer, or a nave interviewer, but every interviewer is different and would obtain different results. The generation of the interview text is seen as a shared task, where the meanings ascribed to skill and identities were jointly constructed by researcher and researched. The interview setting is treated as an empirical situation in itself, rather than as an arena for finding out facts, opinions and perceptions (Thomas and Davies 2005: 688). My own background in construction influenced the social interaction that took place in the interviews the questions asked, the answers given and the reactions to those answers. There was a sense of empathy and mutual understanding arising from shared experiences, understandings, language and vocabulary. However, with the male interviewees my gender was a reminder that I was not fully one of them, and doubtless influenced their responses.

4.3.2 Access to and selection of the interviewees A table giving details of all the interviewees can be found in Appendix C. Initial interviews were opportunistic, discussing the predetermined research topic with those to whom access could easily be arranged. Later interviewees were chosen through an iterative process of theoretical sampling, as particular themes emerged from early analysis of the data. There was no attempt at representative sampling. Contact was initially made with two construction companies, one large, one small, working on local sites in the same town10 in southern England. The firms and the sites are described in more detail in Appendix A.

Keybuild is a major national contractor considered to have a good reputation. 2009 turnover was 1,500 million. The project, contract value around 50 million, was a 10storey steel-framed office building. On the first visit in May 2008, piling was in progress. On returning for further visits in November 2008, initial groundworks were coming to an end, the concrete core was complete, and the construction of the steel frame was well advanced. The final site visit was in January 2009, when the frame was complete and cladding was in progress. The site had turnstile-controlled access with hand-swipe providing a record of everyone on site. Signs saying no smoking no mobile phones and PPE must be worn were prominent. All those out on site were
10

Reading.

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wearing hi-vis clothing, helmets, and safety shoes. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic were carefully segregated, and the office area segregated from the working area where PPE was required. There were two tower cranes on site. There were about 20 Keybuild staff on site construction managers, quantity surveyors, buyers and administrative staff. Keybuild employed no operatives on the site, either directly or through agencies. All work was subcontracted. The overall control by Keybuild seemed focussed primarily on cost, rather than practical co-ordination issues. Keybuild did, however, take overall responsibility for site safety, running site inductions, insisting that site rules are followed, and encouraging the subcontractors to hold toolbox talks.

Access was arranged through contacts between academic colleagues and senior managers in the company. However, site managers were not willing to have a researcher simply wandering about the site talking to subcontractors operatives, and attempts to set up access via the official supply chain (Keybuild senior managers contacting subcontractors senior managers) were unsuccessful, probably simply because it was seen as a distraction which would hold up production. Thus it was initially only possible to interview managers and supervisors directly employed by Keybuild. Fortunately, attending a site induction provided an opportunity to speak with subcontractors employees, and it was then possible to interview some of them off site, in a local cafe. Access to Abbeybuild by contrast, was arranged by simply walking onto the site and asking to speak to the site manager. As consent was only required from the site manager and the interviewees themselves, it was possible to speak to almost everyone except the groundworkers, who, curiously, were not considered suitable. Abbeybuild is a private company with a turnover of 4million. The firm undertakes contracts in the South East between 300,000 and 4million in value. The project was a 2-storey brick-clad building with a steel frame, value just over 1 million; this was a building on an almost domestic scale. It was a tidy site with clean hoardings displaying Considerate Constructors banners, but it was possible to walk onto the job unchallenged. The steel frame was erected using a mobile crane; there was otherwise no crane on site. On the first and second visits in December 2008 the brickwork was the main operation in progress. A forklift was in use to load bricks onto the scaffold, from where they were transported in hods by the bricklayers themselves. Two carpenters were working on the roof; there were less than a dozen people on site. On the third and fourth visits (March
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2009), fitting out was in full swing with plumbers and electricians on site, ceilings going up, and painters, tilers and groundworkers; probably a total of twenty to thirty men on site. Abbeybuilds only direct employee on site was the site manager; there was also one agency labourer. All other work was carried out by subcontractors.

All empirical work was carried out in England. All interviewees were natives of the British Isles (one Welsh, one Irish, the remainder English) and had learned their construction skills in the UK. There were no non-British building workers on the sites where the interviews commenced, and they were not sought out as the interest was in studying the interaction between skill and identity in the British context. The initial interviewees on the two local sites, a mixture of managers, supervisors and manual workers, were a reflection of the construction site workforce; all were male and all white. Themes emerging from analysis of the early interviews were then followed up by seeking out and interviewing people in specific categories to see whether they had different understandings of skill. These later informants included craftsmen and women, clerks of works, project managers, a trade union convenor, trade trainers, retired construction workers, and those who had left the industry. The final composition of interviewees was thus (deliberately) less representative or typical of the industry; in particular, by including 10 women out of 49 interviewees when the building trades are over 99% male (CITB 2002; Michielsens et al 2004: 82).

The women were sought out in order to shed a different light upon the overwhelmingly male building trades, and with an initial hypothesis that they might take a different view of skill.11 Most of the tradeswomen were contacted through Women and Manual Trades (WAMT), an organisation which represents women in skilled manual and craft occupations. The Clerks of Works were sought out because most were traditionallytrained and they were mainly older (some were retired), thus giving a point of view and a range of experiences not available by interviewing those working on site. They were contacted through the Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW)12 a professional institution somewhat reminiscent of the old craft guilds. Trade trainers were contacted through a local college. Some personal contacts were also interviewed both those working in construction, and those who had previously worked in construction but had left the
11 12

In fact, the differences were remarkably few. Which has since become the Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate (ICWCI)

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industry; again, this allowed potentially differing views on skill to be sought. Some interviews were associated with the retrospective case study of the City of Manchester Direct Works Department; these are described in section 4.4.

49 people were interviewed, 39 men and 10 women, whose ages ranged from the midtwenties to the mid-eighties. All were working or had worked on construction sites. About half were currently working on the tools; the other half had moved into construction management, retired or left the industry. (See Appendix C.) The number of interviews was not determined in advance but was regarded as sufficient when theoretical saturation was reached. The initial sample was extended to different groups in order to maximise possible differences in the data. The criterion for judging when to stop sampling was that nothing new was emerging in response to similar questions.

4.3.3 Research ethics All interviewees gave their informed consent in that they were aware of the interviewers purpose in talking to them. However, with many participants the word interview was avoided because of its overtones of officialdom, saying rather, I would like to talk to you about.... Interviewees were clearly informed of the purpose, the nature of the study, and the topics to be covered. The request to record the exchange was also a signal that this was not simply a normal conversation. Anonymity was discussed with all participants, but most did not require it and were happy to be identified. One ex-tradesman now in a senior position was concerned not to be identified, and to this end some details have been changed. The tradeswomen of the WAMT focus group declined to be recorded, and members were dubious about being cited, as many tradeswomen have had bad experiences of media distortion. This is why most of the direct quotes from women are from Fliss, Helen or Janie, who were not part of that group. The approach taken to research ethics draws on Kants notion of the categorical imperative - the unconditional moral obligation to preserve the dignity, humanity and values of others. This means treating research participants as important in themselves, rather than viewing them as a means to an end. One of the aims of this work is therefore to enable the interviewees stories to be heard.

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4.3.4 The conduct of the interviews and questions asked Interviews took place on site (in site offices, in workers site cabins and at the actual place of work); in pubs and cafes; at interviewees homes; and by telephone. Length of the interviews varied from half an hour to more than two hours, with most being a little over an hour. The length was determined by the amount of time the interviewee had available, or the attainment of a mutual feeling that everything had been explored. All interviews were recorded except for four three where the interviewees did not consent and one telephone interview where technical issues prevented recording. The tradeswomen of the WAMT focus group declined to be recorded.

Qualitative research interviews may be placed along a continuum from the most informal, conversational interview, where the respondent may not see it as an interview, to the standardised open-ended interview, where the interviewer adheres to a strict script, although the responses are open-ended. They are usually classified as structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. The interviews used to collect data for this study tended to cluster towards the unstructured end of this scale. The wording of questions, and even the questions to be asked, were not predetermined, although the general topic of craft skills was stated in advance. Interview guides were prepared in advance for particular categories of interviewee. (See Appendix B.) These listed questions to be asked or outlined issues to be covered. However, questions were deliberately vague so that people could talk about what was important to them. For example, asking do you think things are better or worse than they used to be? does not prejudge what things might be better or worse, or what the appropriate measure of better or worse might be (Becker 1998: 91). More specific probes were used only if necessary. No attempt was made to ask the same question in the same way of different interviewees, or to ask it in the same position relative to other questions. The guide was treated flexibly, with questions allowed to emerge from the immediate context. This means, of course, that answers cannot be compared in a straightforward way, as different respondents were not asked the same question in the same way. However, given the discussion above about the construction of interview data, no two interviews could realistically be the same. Conversation ranged over many subjects, allowing interviewees to raise issues which they deemed relevant, sometimes producing insights that the interviewer could not have anticipated. For example, the university-trained

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project manager was a category which often arose, either spontaneously or in response to a question as to what had changed in the industry. Many interviews were started by saying Tell me how you got into your trade, and this was in most cases enough to get the respondent talking for a considerable length of time with only minimal prompting and direction, eliciting rich stories. Views on skill and training, on the construction of skilled identity, and on changes in the industry, often emerged during these discussions. In trying to unpick the meaning of skill, questions were also asked aimed at discovering how skills are evaluated when selecting construction workers. These questions were along the lines of What would you look for if you were taking somebody on? Similar questions were asked both of managers and supervisors responsible for engaging others, and of workers themselves - the dividing line between the two groups was in any case sometimes unclear13. If necessary, this question on the selection of construction workers was followed up with further questioning to understand the criteria used in deciding whether someone has the required skill.

4.3.5 Group interviews Group interviews which could also be described as focus groups were carried out where appropriate or convenient.14 These had quite a different dynamic from the one-toone interviews, being more like naturally-occurring conversation and discussion, reflecting the fact that the natives are in the majority and on their own terrain, and that they respond to each others points as well as the interviewers questions. Four group interviews were carried out. One interview with three bricklayers and a labourer, and another with a group of tradeswomen, focussed on ways of learning a trade. An interview with a site manager and a trade supervisor explored subcontracting, and recruitment by trade contractors. Lastly, in a group interview with a diverse group, the discussion focussed specifically on the question of whether it is important to be time served.

13

Many people who do not have formal responsibility for engaging labour are nevertheless involved in the processes of finding suitable candidates for work and judging their worthiness, as will be seen.
14

The first one came about fortuitously when a site agent said the brickies are in the cabin if you want to talk to them now. Finding it useful and illuminating, I repeated it when possible.

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4.3.6 Analysis There may be a tension between the interview as a way of understanding subjective meanings to the participants, and the need for social science to aim at both understanding and explanation, discussed above. Analysis must do more than mere description. This leads to the attempt to connect the micro level of the interview text with the macro level of institutional discourses. Court (2004) is useful here, describing her attempts to carry out an analysis that could illuminate the shaping/reshaping of individuals by discourses and of discourses by individuals. She suggests that individuals stories about their daily lives flow from cultures and back into them. Thus, if a persons experience is understood as inter-subjectively and culturally constructed, personal stories can provide a window onto the complicated workings of discourse. The analysis of language and practices produced in local sites is linked to analysis of the academic and policy literatures, in an iterative process. A particular aim is to identify whether and how dominant discourses are being resisted and challenged, reproduced or reconstituted, in the local discourses.

Treating interviews as samples of (mutually produced) discourse also overcomes some of the difficult issues involved in trying to say something about interviewees experiences, whilst not being committed to a realist position. Thus, in analysis of the interviews, the focus is on language, since it is language that both allows and limits possible ways of naming reality- and thus ways of acting, knowing and being. The analysis asks what discursive categories and concepts are used to organise the field; what terms are used and what assumptions, presuppositions and values underlie this choice of terms; what subject positions are available in the discourses and who can assume these; how this discourse is produced and how it exists in the world. So, rather than assuming that the individual houses identity and that this can be accessed through interview accounts, the focus is on processes of identity construction within the interview, exploring the meanings ascribed to skill, and the interviewees own positioning relative to these meanings.

In view of the type of analysis being attempted, a decision was taken not to use specialist computer software designed to assist with qualitative data analysis. (See Ness 2011 for more detail.) The main functionality of these programs is based on code and

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retrieve once the text is coded by the researcher, searches are fast and comprehensive.

This assistance with mechanical aspects of the analysis is often said to free up the researcher to concentrate on the conceptual aspects (Thompson 2002; Seale 2000). However, in this case coding was not the key strategy used in the interpretation of the data. As Lonkila (1995: 48-49) suggests, it may be that at least some kind of coding is needed in most qualitative research, but it is also possible that coding is overemphasized, given the fact that a large part of the qualitative researchers work consists of interpretation and a fine-grained hermeneutic analysis.....

Critical discourse analysis in particular studies how language works by examining its use in context; the material to be analysed has to be understood in relation to its rhetorical, interdiscursive, interactional and social context (Fairclough1989; 2005; Wetherell et al 2001; Wodak 2002). It would, as Wodak argues (2002: 87), be impossible to grasp the meaning of phrases in a text without contextual information, which may include an ethnographic understanding of the phenomena being studied, as well as knowledge of recent political history and structural and cultural changes in a particular country or institution. Systematic procedures for chunking and coding (computer-based or not) may exacerbate any tendency to focus on literal meanings and superficial content, rather than implied meanings embedded in context. Fowler and Kress (1979: 198) emphasise that examining texts using any tool or method which creates distance by lifting discourse out of context to consider it in isolation would be the very antithesis of critical linguistics.

Memos were written to track themes which recurred in interviews, and the analysis continued in an iterative process well into the writing up stage of the research. The decision not to use code-and-retrieve also meant that full transcription of the interviews (almost 40 hours of audio recordings) was not required. This was not merely timesaving. The need during analysis to return again and again to the original recording meant that there was less distance from the interview situation than would be the case with a transcript. Hesitations, tone of voice, interruptions and background noises helped recall gestures, expressions, and other embodied aspects of each interview. Although there are disadvantages in not having a large searchable database, the advantage of remaining close to the data was felt to outweigh them.

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The same interview data was interpreted and analysed in different ways. Firstly a narrative style of analysis was used to distil life histories, putting together the accounts and experiences of different people in order to tell a typical story, describing how they came to enter the construction industry, how they went about learning their work, and what happened afterwards. The trajectory of men who served a traditional apprenticeship is described first and at most length, as this is still regarded as the norm. This is followed by a description of the experiences of those who did not fit this pattern first men who learned by non-traditional means, and then women entering the building trades. The life histories of site managers are then presented both those who started in a trade, and those who entered the construction industry via the graduate route. This is followed by a section which considers the changes that have taken place in these life histories and in particular the process of learning a trade. These life histories form Appendix D.

The interviews were then studied in terms of different understandings of skill and identity. A set of remarkably consistent criteria emerged here, which differed surprisingly little across different categories of interviewee. This analysis is presented in Chapter 5. Finally, critical discourse analysis was applied to the interview texts in order to distil the discourses being used to construct identity. Five discourses of occupational identity emerged from the empirical study; these are presented in Chapter 6.

As already emphasised, the focus was on processes of identity construction within the interview rather than on the interview as an arena for finding out facts, opinions and perceptions. The interview is privileged as an empirical situation in itself. (See Alvesson and Deetz 2000; Thomas and Davies 2005.) The meanings ascribed to skill and identities were hence jointly constructed in the interviews by the researcher and researched. However, all of these analyses also drew on the researchers background knowledge of the construction trades in order to link the data from the interviews with the wider context.

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4.4 Historical study


4.4.1 The flow of events over time Reality is not static, but is in a continuous state of becoming. Thus it is important to pay attention to the flow of events over time. Situations cannot be understood from a single snapshot in time, irrespective of the number of viewpoints. It is impossible to understand what something is without understanding how it came to be that way. Reconstructing past contexts, processes, and decisions can help the researcher locate present understandings in the context of their historical antecedents (Pettigrew 2003; Mills 2002). Occupational practices and cultures need to be studied over time and in context in order to understand them as dynamic, developing and changing. Yet the longitudinal focus also illustrates the rooted understandings that keep apparently unchanging practices, attitudes and feelings in place, by helping to understand something of the processes that shaped them. Thus the historical view is helpful in understanding both continuity and change.

According to Burawoy (2003) who theorised the ethnographic technique of the archaeological revisit, excavating the historical terrain that gives rise to the present can be used not only to connect the present to the past, but also to compare the present to the past (Burawoy 2003: 672). Understanding what happened in the past helps to explain how things came to be as they are. However, the retrospective case study can also be used to compare the past with the present in order to bring out the differences. This is similar to the comparative analysis described by Glaser and Strauss (1967: 5558). They recommend maximising differences among comparison groups in order to maximise the different relationships, strategies, processes, and structural mechanisms which may be discovered in attempting to explain the differences. Thus, both differences and commonalities in the meanings of skill and occupational identity can be explored, and possible explanations investigated.

Mills (2002: 298) suggests that a potentially fruitful way of studying time is not as a continuous process but as a series of junctures or moments in time, each as a coherent whole. To understand a particular juncture we need to understand the particular subjectivity of the time.

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To understand a particular time frame we need to piece together the various factors - rules, actors, discourses, and formative contexts - which shaped the world-view of organizational members at the time. This is what is attempted in this thesis with a historical case study of the City of Manchester Direct Works Department from 1979 to 1982. This is juxtaposed to contemporary data in order both to connect the present to the past and to compare the present to the past.

4.4.2 Data collection and analysis: Manchester The focus on the City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD) from 1979 to 1982 is intended to provide as great a contrast as possible with the interviews carried out on sites in the southeast at the present time. The particular time and place was chosen for several reasons. In addition to maximising differences, the period is seen (in retrospect) as a pivotal one in which important structural changes in the construction industry were interwoven with wider political and cultural changes. This impacted on the process of learning a trade, the understanding of what it is to be skilled, and the available discourses of occupational identity.

Personal experience also plays a part, as one way of accessing lived experience from the past is by drawing on the researchers own memory. The author was employed by the Department as a bricklayer during this period, and experienced the training carried on at that time. This is participant observation of the most direct kind as Roberts (1993) says of his employment as an apprentice plumber a decade or more before his research was carried out. Whilst personal experience is rarely overtly drawn on in CM research, there are precedents and theoretical justifications for this.15 Glaser and Strauss (1967: 252) recommend that the researcher should reflect on personal experiences prior to or outside the research, arguing that it is not necessary for field notes to have been taken at the time, as insights may occur later when experiences are reviewed. Similarly Weick (1995:191) suggests that sensemaking research demands a willingness to use ones own

15

The wider theoretical justification lies in the arguments laid out in the first section of this chapter concerning situated knowledge and the spuriousness of objectivity. Exemplary precedents include Applebaum 1982 and Thiel 2005.

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life as data, as a starting point in inquiry. This retrospective ethnography was combined with interviews drawing on other participants memories of the period.

To form a background to these, records of the City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD) were consulted in the local studies archive at Manchester central library. In some cases, it was possible to interview those who were affected by the decisions reported in the minute books of meetings of the Direct Works Department Policy Committee of Manchester City Council.16 This data is presented in narrative form in Appendix E, The decline and fall of a DLO.

Historical data from multiple sources cannot simply be aggregated as though they described a singular, fixed reality. Viewed from within, external forces appear and disappear in ways that are often incomprehensible and unpredictable to the participants (Burawoy 2003: 653). This is set against historical (but equally contested) written accounts of wider events. There may be particular problems in placing reliance on retrospective accounts if they are taken as representing fact. Gaps and distortions in memory, selective recall, and post hoc rationalisation are all likely. Therefore, these accounts are not treated as giving access to past experience in an uncomplicated way; past experience is presented first through the prism of the informants present-day understanding, and then through that of the researchers interpretation. The retrospective ethnography is the product of a dialogue between the researcher as participant (then) and the researcher as observer (now). Neither the written records nor peoples memories can be accepted at face value. Instead the evidence is read for what it reveals about how people appropriate and use discourse, how they are shaped by it and in turn redefine its meaning. Changing discourses reflect and reinforce changes in other aspects of social practices. Another view on the changes experienced at this time was provided by official reports on skills and the construction industry, as well as more general publications on the

16

For example, members expressed grave concern at the continuing reduction in the number of apprentices that the Department was able to employ and reaffirmed their belief in the immense social value of apprentice training. In November 1982 a detailed proposal was put forward, making use of unused workshop capacity and redeployed craftsmen to train unemployed young people who would work on socially useful construction projects. I was able to interview one of the building craftsmen who were retrained to work as an instructor on this scheme.

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history of the construction industry and its trades unions. Much of this is reported in Chapter 2 (History) but it also informs the later analysis, being regarded not merely as literature but also as data. The selection and analysis of this corpus of texts was described in section 4.2.4.

This chapter has described and justified the approach to the empirical work, setting out the underlying theoretical assumptions guiding the research, and discussing the approach to methodology, with particular reference to recent debates within construction management. Interviews were the main data collection method. However, the interview is seen as a process through which interviewers and interviewees coconstruct data, and this data can be understood and analysed in multiple ways. In the next chapter, Chapter 5, the data from the interviews is presented in terms of different understandings of skill and identity. The interpretation of the interviews as discourse is then presented in Chapter 6. In addition, a series of life histories derived from the interviews, is presented in Appendix D in a narrative style.

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Chapter 5: Description Skilled identities


5.1 Introduction
The next three chapters comprise the results, discussion and analysis. The division into three aspects loosely follows Faircloughs structure for critical discourse analysis of Description (Chapter 5), Interpretation (Chapter 6), and Explanation (Chapter 7). The description stays close to the interview texts. The interpretation identifies a series of discourses drawn on by the interviewees; while the explanation links these discourses back to the literature, and to wider contextual influences. This chapter begins with a section on the informants understandings of skill, and skilled identity. A section on Identity work in progress then gives some vignettes of identity construction in flight in the interviews. The next section describes the ambiguities of employment status as this relates to skill and identity. Finally, a section on Craftsmanship and identity explores what makes a craft and a craftsman, apprenticeship as a process of occupational socialisation, and competing discourses of the roles of theory and practice in learning.

A table giving details of all the interviewees can be found in Appendix C. The interview data were also used to distil narrative life histories, putting together the accounts and experiences of different people in order to tell the story of how they came to enter the construction industry, how they went about learning their work, and what happened afterwards. These life histories form appendix D.

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5.2 Site understandings of skilled identity


This section discusses how construction workers are recognised as being skilled - both by workers themselves and by site-based managers. In the interviews and discussions, a consistent set of criteria emerged by which self-identity, and others identities, are judged. Initial data showed that craftsmen, and site managers with a trade background, use a remarkably consistent set of criteria to define and judge skill. The main criteria were personal acquaintance or recommendation; inspection of tools; and the informal trial period. Craftswomen, and degree-qualified site managers without a trade background, were therefore interviewed in order to discover whether they use the same or different criteria for judging skill. Somewhat surprisingly, there was little difference between the criteria used by different categories of people. All talked about the importance of experience, and none mentioned formal qualifications. As women are unable to look the part and might be thought less likely to have personal connections and be considered a good lad, one might suppose that women would be forced to fall back on having qualifications. However, the women interviewed did not have a different view on this, they also saw qualifications as irrelevant to their craft identity, and had often made their way into the industry through family connections or through connections with other tradeswomen.

5.2.1 Being a good lad A recurring theme throughout the interviews was the importance of networks of connections, and the importance of the workgroup in defining skilled identity. Often personal recommendation is the key to employment, being vouched for by someone who is known and trusted. Mike described this chain recruitment Somebody will know them, and say, Oh yes, I know Brendan, hes a good lad... Brendan comes on board and after a couple of weeks, he says to the foreman Well actually, theres two friends of mine that are good lads... Kinship networks are important, and there were many stories about the exclusivity of particular ethnic groupings in particular trades, whether Irish groundworkers from County Donegal, or Sikh carpenters from Southall. Mike again:

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Its like the tunnel gangs in London. Theyre exclusively Irish, and mostly Donegal. And its a father and son job.... It is a father and son, uncle and nephew job. That is almost a closed shop. If youre not married to one of their nieces or their daughter or something, youre not going to get in there. Who you know, not what you know is important, or rather who and what you are.

Being able to identify as skilled depends on acceptance from colleagues (and to a lesser extent, supervisors/employers.) An assessment of the way a new recruit goes about their task is often carried out by their workmates. As a bricklayer explained within half an hour they will assess you... if youre no good, youre out of it. I mean ... your general bricklayer stood next to them, theyre not gonna want to work with him because hes reflecting on your work. The mere presence of a rough, poorly skilled bricklayer is felt to reflect on your work. This suggests a feeling of collective responsibility for the honour of the craft; hence the necessity to protect its status by excluding those who do not live up to the standard. It may thus be the other craftsmen who decide to get rid of someone not perceived as sufficiently skilful, as with the 6 month bricklayer whose new tools gave him away. John recounted how this man was taken on by the employer, but was disapproved of by the other bricklayers because he had come from a six month government training scheme. He got persecuted, so the pressure was insurmountable and he virtually just called it a day, you know, packed in... This demonstrates the role of the work group in deciding, and defining, whether someone counts as a skilled craftsman. If the group decides a worker is no good, it is almost impossible for them to remain. Yet someone judged pretty rubbish can nevertheless survive a whole year if looked after. Dean (informally trained) explained there were people there who were pretty rubbish actually, and they one guy got sacked, he was too slow and just wasnt very good, but hed been working for the subby for about a year, I think the others had just kind of looked after him. A key point in whether people are given the chance to pick up skills appears to be whether they are accepted by their workmates. It is thus vital to fit in, to be a good lad in order to be accepted. Fitting in may involve particular behaviour such as drinking

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alcohol and socialising in the pub, having the craic1 and being able to give and take joking abuse. It is also important to use the right language. Dean explains this clearly: Even the way you speak, some of the terminology, I mean theres a lot of slang, you know, mortar, bricklayers call it compo and I guess if you havent been immersed in theres lots of things, a lot of little terms like that, that you just wouldnt know, and I can remember, you know, feeling quite I didnt know what people were on about, when I started doing it, so theres a kind of language, as well... Youd instantly be suspicious if a bricklayer was calling mortar cement I dont think they were consciously doing that... but it certainly served their purpose, to be able to judge people. Construction workers (like academics and many other occupational groups) use a special language to judge who is and who is not one of us. This is an important part of building an occupational identity.

5.2.2 Tools For those who work on the tools, the tools themselves are crucially important to identity. The tools are of course of practical importance, but are also strongly symbolic. The bricklayer with a full set of new tools, or the carpenter with a saw and a hammer in a Tescos bag immediately loses all credibility as a skilled tradesman. Peters answer to What would you look for in a tradesman? was typical. Straight away you can see by the state of his tools. (...) So you look at their tools, first and foremost, and you see how they use them. ... Like, say youve got a man coming out as a bricklayer, if hes got all brand new shiny stuff, if every piece is new, then theres something wrong, unless hes had them all stolen, and hell tell you that ... but if hes just got a replacement, say a pointing trowel or something, cause the other ones worn out. ... His kit of tools, usually, you can identify the man, and the way he looks after them, does he clean them at the end of the working day...You can see whether a mans a painter or not... It was repeated many times that theres something wrong with a craftsman who has new tools. It is universally agreed that well worn but good quality tools signify a good tradesman, whereas cheap but brand new gives warning of a chancer attempting to reinvent himself. John said of a bricklayer from a six month government training scheme: you could tell him a mile away, like hed come out, everything was new, cause they used to give you the tools.

Having the craic (or crack) is an Irish expression which has become ubiquitous in the British building industry, meaning joking or having a laugh.

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It is even important what the tools are kept in, particularly for the carpenter who should have a toolbox. Leroy described a chancer as someone who has a bag of tools. See we, one of the first things we did at Tech was to make our toolbox. To make a toolbox in a certain way, with dovetails and all that sort of good stuff. And, your tools are kept in the drawer, and you put the plane, and the saws are there... So if someone comes with a bag... that represented a person whos more in tune with doing shuttering or groundworks and stuff like that... Leroy Frank gave a very similar account of how he would judge a tradesman I used to say, Right, wheres your tools? ... show me your tool kit. Cause Ive had them come with a saw and a hammer in a plastic Tescos bag. But a proper carpenter usually had a toolbox. That was what you made in your apprenticeship, and your toolbox was your signature to your work. I made three, in my time, because the first one was plywood, and it had loads of dovetails on the top, and there was a drawer you put all your screwdrivers in... I always kept progressing, wanting it better. And I think most apprentices used to do that. And when you finished your apprenticeship, usually by then youd collected enough hardwood, and then you made yourself a Rolls-Royce when you finished, and it had brass hinges on, and brass catches... In any particular trade, it is possible to go into great detail about what the tools say about the person. For a bricklayer, a clean shiny trowel is the first essential; a dirty trowel is a definite sign that the owner is rough. The size and pattern of the trowel can indicate a concern for speed (big trowel, crash lots of bricks in) or quality (smaller trowel, slow and careful). A bricklayer who owns more than one trowel may be an adaptable all-rounder. The pattern of wear shows whether the trowel (rather than a brick hammer) has been used to cut bricks, indicating the owner was in a hurry. The make of trowel or hammer also says something. A cheap trowel such as sold in DIY shops would cause the owner to lose all credibility. A WHS trowel indicates a traditionalist, whereas the aspiring young up-to-date cosmopolitan will have a Rose or Marshalltown. Similarly with the brick hammer: an expensive steel-shafted Estwing (cosmopolitan perfectionist), traditional hickory shaft (traditional perfectionist) or cheap hammer (chancer). A wide range of chisels also indicates a wide range of work and if the chisels are tungsten-tipped, so much the better. Blunt chisels, with burrs on the handles, show a lack of care. Ownership of more specialised tools such as a brick scutch (used for shaping arch voussoirs) signifies an interest in more fancy brickwork; possession of a perp rod, or a tingle plate, indicate a concern with quality.

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5.2.3 Qualifications, experience, and being time served Qualifications were not spontaneously mentioned by anyone as part of what it means to be skilled. In several cases follow-up questions were asked along the lines of What about qualifications?, but not one person replied Oh yes, that too of course. Several informants who had served formal indentured apprenticeships said No-ones ever asked to see my papers. For example Peter, who served a 5-year indentured apprenticeship as a plumber, said that, in 54 years in the industry I dont remember anyone ever asking for my qualifications. You said you could do the job and that was it. Bernie, who served a 4-year apprenticeship with a small jobbing firm, had no indentures and no qualifications because he only did 2 years day release at college. The lack of formal qualifications never prevented him getting jobs (it was rather the limitations on his experience that prevented him feeling competent to apply for certain jobs). However, although his own lack of qualifications had never been a problem, he suggested that, as a woman, the interviewer would need references or qualifications if walking on site to apply for a job, as the response would be Youre a woman, I was expecting a bricklayer.

Qualifications might be a last resort; a way in for those (male or female) with no connections or who do not look the part to establish their identity in their own and others eyes. Paul, who became a painter and decorator via YTS (the youth training scheme of the 1980s widely regarded as merely providing cheap labour for employers) said that in spite of its problems it was a way in for those who didnt have family networks. However, qualifications (with the exception perhaps of the old City and Guilds Craft certificates) are widely regarded as irrelevant to skilled status. One interviewee referred to NVQ as standing for not very qualified. Theres a joke about NVQ translating as not very qualified and Id tend to agree having seen what turns up with a wedding album of certificates but little or no real on the tools experience. Mike N NVQs in particular may not merely be irrelevant; they may actually detract from an attempt to build a skilled identity. In a focus group discussion (group interview) the question was posed whether it is important to be time served. The consensus in the group discussion, (and the opinion
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of many individual interviewees) was that having served a traditional indentured apprenticeship is not a necessary condition to being a skilled craftsman; what matters is having a craftsmans attitude. Those who disagreed stressed the importance of socialisation into a craft from a young age as forming the right attitude, as well as long practice so that a manual skill becomes second nature. Being time served may be distinguished from having qualifications, as it is more about the process rather than the end result. What is of symbolic importance to identity is the indentures, rather than the end qualification. Where experience was mentioned, it was more in terms of the specific type of experience rather than simple length of time in the trade. Having worked on prestigious projects, or for firms with a good reputation, is sometimes taken to demonstrate a level of skill. A wide range of experience of all aspects of the trade is seen as important. (This is discussed further in section 5.6.)

5.2.4 Changes: present and past concepts of skill(ed identity) Trade union membership Trade union membership was once a key criterion in defining skilled status. According to John T, in Manchester in the 1970s You couldnt get on a job in town without a union card, and likewise in Liverpool. So, the big jobs in the middle, theyd never be allowed to touch anything, you know what I mean? You wouldnt be allowed to pick up a bricklayers trowel, or hammer... What did you have to do to prove you were a tradesman? Well, you had to get someone to witness when you came to the branch ... to be allowed into the branch, someone would have to verify that you were a bricklayer. You just couldnt get a card by Im a brickie. Well, have you got proof and evidence? That proof, did you need qualifications or indentures? Or could you be somebody that had been on the hod? You didnt have to produce any documents. As long as you had somebody to... verify that you were a bricklayer. You know, qualify that you were a bricklayer. It wasnt said, well Im sorry, youll have to bring your papers (scathing tone) you know what I mean? It wasnt to that extreme. Was the union a big force in keeping the skill level? Yes. Yes. Without a question of doubt. Without a doubt. I mean, thats all gone.
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In the late 1970s at the time of the historical case study, the City of Manchester Direct Works Department was still a closed shop. It was not possible to be employed as a skilled building worker without being a member of the craft union, UCATT. Similarly, plumbers and electricians had to be members of the EEPTU. Labourers (and groundworkers and flaggers) were members of TGWU, and were not allowed to use tools, that privilege being jealously guarded by UCATT. Many other DLOs and similar public-sector organisations were also closed shops. This was also the case of some large private-sector organisations which employed building workers. In addition, as John describes above, certain large construction sites in major cities were closed shops, even if their constituent organisations were not.

By contrast, only one of the contemporary interviewees (Leroy) mentioned trade union membership as a factor in assessing or defining a workers skill. If someones a very strong Union person, theyre probably good they will piss you off, but you cant get rid of them because they will be very good... Leroy also said, in a rather magnificent diatribe: If we had a union that had looked after construction...like the sparks... its a bit like going back to the Freemasons, if you dont know what about sparking is, then you cant be one. And they were very adamant that they would have so many apprentices to ensure that learning was done...construction unions should have gone for barriers to entry, regulations...whereas the sparks have barriers... We should have apprenticeships, and they should be given credence, and you shouldnt be able to work on a construction site in the United Kingdom unless you have the proper qualifications, and we should have a union that ensures that gets done In casual conversations outside the interviews, the electricians were frequently mentioned as a model for the regulation of skills. Yet no one suggested membership of a craft union as a sine qua non for skilled status.

Formal and informal assessment of skills Currently, the definition and assessment of skills are almost completely informal. There are no job descriptions needed because everybody knows what skills are expected of a bricklayer or a joiner. The lack of importance accorded to paper qualifications, and the importance instead of contacts, are longstanding. Several informants with over 50 years experience of the industry, covering the entire post-war period, said that this was always the case. Informal recruitment, and informal practices for assessing skills, are associated
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with casual employment, also a longstanding characteristic of the construction industry. (Recruiting the right person is not seen as too important, because if they fail to meet requirements, you just get rid of them, dont you?) There have, however been some changes.

In the historical case study at the City of Manchester Direct Works Department, interviewees mentioned replying to advertisements, application forms or letters, references and interviews. In such organisations, where employment was expected to be a stable, long-term relationship, recruitment and selection tended to be more formal. More emphasis was placed on the possession of qualifications in assessing skills; it was often necessary, or at least preferable, to be time-served.

On the two sites where the contemporary interviews took place all work was subcontracted and no operatives directly employed; this is now the norm. The predominantly informal means of skills assessment described here were therefore those of the various subcontractors, mainly smaller firms. This does not preclude longer-term relationships developing over time, but what is different is the emergent, informal, contingent nature of the relationship, as opposed to the more formally structured relationships of direct employment by larger organisations. This is reflected in definitions of skill. Building workers themselves continue to have considerable influence over the definition of those who are suitably skilled, but whereas it used to be by means of trade unions and other formal mechanisms, it is now through informal networks.

5.3 Identity work in progress


The aim in this section is to show examples from the interviews of how the informants drew on various discursive resources in constructing their identities. The discourses that the interviewees draw on in these vignettes will be described and analysed in more detail in the next chapter.

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5.3.1 Paul, the labourer who is just a passer-by In an interview with a labourer and three bricklayers, the labourer has been silent whilst the bricklayers describe how they learnt their trade two having started as hod carriers. When the interviewer starts questioning the labourer, the bricklayers are keen to portray him as inferior to them as tradesmen and inferior to hod carriers too; he is only a general labourer. They do this with comments like You dont need to know anything and describe his work as sweeping up, picking up bits of crap. But the labourer, Paul, presents himself as superior to them, because he is just passing through he is not really a labourer. Paul says Im just a passer-by and jokes about having stumbled on to the site by accident. He is clearly not identifying himself as a building labourer. I work for XYZ, its just something to do, really I wouldnt say its something I want to get into, but its something Ive got to do at the moment to make a bit of dollar Im just here just to make a bit of money and thats about it really A bricklayer says You want to get a trade, though, dont you?, thus again stressing their superiority as tradesmen and suggesting in a slightly condescending way that the labourer should better himself. Paul agrees, but turns this neatly back on the others by suggesting that bricklayers are not that much different from labourers themselves... Id like to get a trade, but I dont think bricklaying or being a labourer, thats not where I want to be. Maybe electrician.... Affronted by this, one of the bricklayers ripostes with electricians arent real men though, are they? and everyone laughs. This demonstrates the hierarchy of trades, whereby the higher status, more intellectual trades are considered least masculine, whilst labouring and lower-status, rougher trades like bricklaying are seen as more manly.

5.3.2 Dean, the bricklayer who is more things than that Dean acquired his bricklaying skills informally. Having first done a little work with family members, he later went to an agency and told a load of lies, saying he had been a brickie for years. He got the sack off a few jobs, but picked up some skills from experience and by learning from more experienced workmates. Thus he could do the basics of bricklaying, and felt that he was quite good at it. When asked, would you say you are a bricklayer? (as he had said that he worked as a bricklayer) Dean replied
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I never felt that... I mean...Im more things than that I used to DJ a bit and that was a more glamorous identity than being a bricklayer. it might have been different if I was a carpenter or something like that, cause its a higher status trade... you know, thick brickie, youre one above the labourers, just putting one brick on top of another... It is a very low status kind of dirty job, you know, youre very identifiable... you go to work all dirty with muck on your clothes... Dean also recounted tales of people not wanting to sit next to a dirty builder on the bus, and of a group of them being refused service in a pub when they were in their work clothes. Here there is clearly a strong reluctance to be identified with work that is seen by those outside construction as dirty and stupid, and which, even within the industry, is perceived as a low status trade within the hierarchy. Dean overtly draws on another aspect of his life for his identity, as a DJ.

At other points in the interview, however, Dean asserted that he considered himself to be a good tradesman and that he got a sense of satisfaction from doing a good job thus making reference to a discourse of craftsmanship. He was asked whether the bricklayers that he worked with looked down on him because of the way he acquired his skills in an ad hoc fashion rather than serving an apprenticeship or being formally trained: Oh no, most of them did the same thing! ... I think thered be more pisstaking if a guy comes straight from college, he might have done 6 months at college, I think, you know, theyd be right at the bottom of the hierarchy. So even if theyve got formal qualifications, its more about the time youve served... Dean is not time served in the traditional sense of having served an apprenticeship. Here, he draws on a discourse, common in construction, which asserts that practical learning on site is more important than formal qualifications. He then, in a creative move, talks about the time youve served in the sense of time spent on site learning the trade, and claims that this is what matters. This is a redefinition of serving time, which allows Dean to reassert his identity as a skilled tradesman.

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5.3.3 Alan: Feeling slightly inadequate at the lack of label time served Whereas Dean redefined time-served to suit his own circumstances, Alan admitted to feeling slightly inadequate at the lack of label time served . He learned his trade at the age of around 30 by taking an NVQ at a local college and working as a selfemployed bricklayer. In spite of this not-entirely-traditional way in, he identifies very strongly as a craftsman. Not surprisingly, as Alan did not serve a traditional apprenticeship himself, craftsmanship is not defined in terms of having done so. He is at particular pains in the interview to distinguish himself from the chancer. This stark dichotomy between the craftsman and the chancer is described in terms of having the right attitude rather than merely being good at laying bricks. (That is taken for granted.)2. Describing a bricklayer who learned in the same way as himself but who was classed as a chancer he would never be a craftsman, he didnt have the right attitude... to look at something beautiful constructed in brickwork didnt make his hair stand on end, you know, it didnt make him choke up. He didnt give a shit. Whereas craftsmanship is expressed through the satisfaction of doing a job well. Its a feeling - I know it sounds odd - its got to be your thing. But craftsmanship is about the passion of producing something, and feeling, like, a deep kind of happiness somehow, at having done something well being able to walk away in the knowledge that youve done a nice job... And that work that you do may be there for a long time, visible to all. And if youre from that community, and somebody knows that you built that, then if its crap, then youre not gonna be proud of that. But if its good then its gonna be there not just for you but for your children and your family. Alan ends by saying But I suppose all that may seem rather old-fashioned these days. Several interviewees made similar statements. This should not be understood as apologetic, but as an assertion of the value of these old-fashioned views in the face of modernism.

At one point Alan adds, in parenthesis, I mean, youve got to be able to do it as well, you know, you cant just be totally useless and be incapable of building a wall straight and clean and neat, but be passionate about what youre doing I mean, that doesnt work either!

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5.3.4 Leroy, the craftsman carpenter Asked about how he learned his trade, Leroy replies November 18th 1974 was when my apprenticeship started. He is clearly stating that this was an important date which he remembers 35 years later. You had proper indentured papers (Ive got mine still) and your father had to put a pound note up and they tore it in half and they stuck one half on the apprenticeship papers, and the owner of the company kept the other one on his copy. When you finished your apprenticeship, the two pound notes were joined together, and your father got them back.... Here, Leroy is stressing that he served a proper indentured apprenticeship. The anecdote of the pound note serves to emphasise the traditional nature of this mode of learning. Many other phrases recurred which stress this claim to a continuity with an ancient tradition: its steeped in history.... the biblical skills...the old boys... from generation to generation to generation... You practice what youre told; you do not go off the script.

In his description of the apprenticeship, Leroy makes reference to the traditional masterapprentice relationship, saying: you would be someones lad...the chap I worked with, he never had children, and he treated me almost like a son and he gave me lots of good opportunities. This relationship imposed obedience on the lad: I remember I used to ask, Bert, is it alright if I go to the toilet? and hed say, Yes, fine or, No, hang on until weve put all that timber through the planer. Leroy also describes the physical discipline by which learning was inculcated: I can remember getting a lump of wood round the back of my head, you know... we made the joints, I remember cramping it all up, thinking, this is great he came along and said I can get a bit of paper in there Wham!. Leroy also refers to his baptism of fire on his first site where the general foreman was an old brickie who smoked Senior Service. This is a reference to his socialisation into the wider identity of building worker. All of this helps Leroy to construct his image as a traditional craftsman who has served his time. It is not simply a question of what he learned, but of the necessary dedication of the apprentice. It was a craft and there was a price to pay... This price is not merely the years of apprenticeship on low pay, but also the patient practice and obedience needed to acquire the skills.

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5.4 Skill, identity, and the ambiguities of employment status


5.4.1 The informants Almost all the contemporary informants had experienced both employed and selfemployed status, often moving back and forth between the two. At the time of being interviewed, of those 20 informants currently working on the tools, 9 said that they were directly employed (all by either subcontractors or employment agencies) and 11 were self-employed3. Of these, 4 were self-employed artisans whilst the other 7 could be described as falsely self-employed4. Those in management jobs were more likely to be directly employed (18 out of 23); those 5 who were self-employed were all clerks of works. On the two contemporary sites in Reading where many of the interviews were carried out, neither main contractor employed any operatives - all work was subcontracted and the only direct employees were staff or managers. Employment status was often imposed rather than chosen. According to John S, It was the only option, if you wanted to work. Paul did not feel he had much choice it was just what you did; the firm wanted to get you off the books. Will said Im self employed because a lot of the time, youve got to be CIS to get work, this is ideal for firms but not in the best interests of the workers. There was a clear association between employment status and routes to acquiring craft skills. All but one of those who had undertaken formal training in a trade whilst working were directly employed at the time, though many later moved to selfemployment. Those who had learned informally were divided between directly employed, self-employed and agency status. The self-employed had acquired skills informally, undergone formal training in previous employment, or arranged their own part-time training. None had been provided by firms engaging self-employed labour with formal training to acquire their craft skills. These firms take no responsibility for the development of workers skills. The only training provided was basic induction or health and safety training, widely regarded as a box-ticking exercise.

It is not suggested that the figures are in any way representative; they are given merely to place the discussion in context. 4 According to the OECD definition cited by Harvey (2001:21), people whose conditions of employment are similar to those of employees, and who are declared as self-employed in order to reduce tax liabilities or employers responsibilities

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5.4.2 Employment status often ambiguous In the following extract from a discussion with the electricians on the Abbeybuild site, they talk about their employment status. Andy was running the job on this project, acting as something between a working chargehand and an independent subcontractor. So are you in effect paid as a chargehand? Andy Yes. Bert company vehicle and that... So you work directly for the company? Andy Yes So youre not self-employed? I am self-employed. Oh, you are self-employed? Well, Im self-employed, but... youre working regularly with the same company? Yes, thats right, yes. So how does that work? Andy A lot of our work is price work, so I give him a price... But youre only working with this one company? Yes. Which isnt entirely straightforward. Youre not supposed to work for the same company. But there are ways round it. If you give them a price to do some work, its different than them just paying you a day rate... Ill go through it with him and go, right, you give me 4 days to put all them lights in. So then, I get 4 days to put the lights in, and if I do it in 3... If you do it in 5, then I normally say to him, give me 5 days money. And what does he say? (General laughter) Andy No, hes alright. The element of a price for the job seemed largely designed to sidestep the regulations on self-employment, as the electricians worked exclusively for one firm, providing only their own labour. This may be seen merely as disguised employment, but there also seem to be real ambiguities in the categories of worker, employee, or independent subcontractor, which affect the way in which people see themselves. Here, the electricians explain that an advantage for the subcontract firm of selfemployment is the ease with which they themselves can be disposed of: Andy if you get someone and theyre rubbish, you just get rid of them... Bert and thats where the self-employed thing comes in. However, Andy says you just get rid of them rather than they just get rid of you, thus indicating his identification with the firm. It is not only employment status which is often unclear; the boundary between workers and supervisors is often blurred and shifting. The same individual may move in and out of positions as chargehand, leading
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hand, foreman, ganger, working supervisor or simple tradesman. The same person, working for the same firm (whether employed or notionally self-employed) may be in charge of one job, but merely one of the workers on another job, depending on the size and complexity of the work package and the availability of other supervisors. This was the case with the electrician, and also one of the bricklayers had simply been designated as in charge when the foreman moved to another project, but expected to revert to being an ordinary bricklayer on the next job.

5.4.3 Skills and employment status Self-employment and subcontracting were spontaneously offered by many of the interviewees as the main cause of a collapse in training numbers, declining skill levels, skills shortages and skills gaps, and fragmentation of trade skills. Even those who were self-employed themselves often regarded it as having nefarious effects on skills. The main arguments were 1) self-employment (and widespread labour-only subcontracting) has led to a decline in apprenticeship and training 2) subcontracting (with lowest-cost tendering), and particularly multi-layer subcontracting ending in a self-employed workforce, leads to poor-quality work. 3) self-employment leads to fragmentation and deskilling. Leroy associated being a chancer, having picked it up as theyve gone along, with being a subcontractor: if you were a subby, you would potentially not be a craftsman..... Many informants plainly associated direct employment with traditional relationships and traditional ways of learning a trade. The direct employment relationship was associated with taking pride in what you built and loyalty on both sides. Several respondents asserted that with self-employment theres no loyalty on either side. However, others asserted that there never was any loyalty between workers and employers. Direct employment may also frequently be on a project-by-project basis. Tom, who served his time as a carpenter and joiner in the 1940s, recalled Some of them worked for that firm their whole lives but every one was considered a casual worker, hourly paid. Even when employed for many years, hourly-paid employees were traditionally subject to being disposed of at an hours notice.

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5.4.4 Fragmentation and deskilling Several interviewees made the point that it is only when trades are employed directly that the contractor has an interest in the workers breadth of skills. According to Paul I was very fortunate; I had a broad range of experience Well now, its just painting. Or its just paperhanging. And the reason for that is because, its efficiency to wallpaper this room ...people wouldnt want anybody to take more than probably 3 hours to do this now, whereas for somebody of old with a range of skills it would have probably taken them the day. But thats not the way, thats not efficient for industry, industry wants specialisms... When asked Is there not an argument that its actually more efficient to then the following day be able to send that person to do something completely different? Paul replied It is if that person is your employee. But not when the labour market is the way it is, because Ive got a pile of decorators over there, Ive got a pile of paperhangers over there ...You shuffle the pack accordingly, you know...Yes, and thats really why NVQs are I think becoming very narrow... Many informants referred to these changes in the labour market and the employment relationship (the rise of self-employment, agency work and temporary work contracts) as leading to deskilling, because firms simply require a short-term worker with the skill needed for the particular job in hand, rather than the broad range of skills of a traditional trade.

5.5 Craftsmanship and identity


The terms trade and craft are commonly used interchangeably, and that usage is followed in this thesis. However, there are some differences in exactly what is implied. One informant corrected the interviewer for using trade to describe bricklaying, saying We are not a trade, we dont sell anything. Another distinguished between the two terms, saying there are tradesmen, and craftsmen; a craftsman has pride in his work, a thorough knowledge and the experience to boot, whereas a tradesman has basically got his papers, and in my opinion that doesnt mean much. Leroy said of carpentry, it is a craft and referred to craftsmen, who could do the biblical skills.

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5.5.1 What makes a craft... and a craftsman Neither too narrownor too broad A concept which commonly emerged in the interviews was that there is a particular, traditional set of skills which form a proper craft or trade. The range of skills must be neither too limited (the shuttering carpenter) nor too broad (the kitchen fitter or handyman). Only the traditional skill set gives fully skilled status as a craftsman. Other combinations of skills are considered illegitimate. The following extract is from a discussion exploring these questions with Alan, a bricklayer. Interviewer: What makes a craft? Alan: er? Well, bricklaying is a craft, plasterings a craft, joinerys a craft... Mm Is ceiling fixing a craft? No, its not complex enough Is concrete finishing a craft? No! (emphatic) Is groundwork a craft? No! Is window fixing a craft? No! Is kitchen fitting a craft? No! So why? Well the others are crafts because theyre the original basis for you know bricklaying is a craft because its the original wet trade ... and its complex, its not just one-dimensional, its not just one thing, its broad; the best way to describe it is its not one-dimensional, its multi-dimensional, in its application... So carpentry is a craft and joinery is a craft, cause its not one-dimensional, its multi-dimensional in its application to construction. What about a shuttering carpenter? Well thats just a carpenter. A carpenter can do shuttering... A carpenter is a carpenter, they do everything... But there are shuttering carpenters who only do shuttering? Maybe theyre not carpenters then. If theyre real carpenters theyve done the been brought up as carpenters and theyve done their training and their trade and everything, you know, so theyre not only capable of doing shuttering carpentry, they can do all kinds of carpentry. So its about breadth of knowledge? Yes, multi-dimensionality of the craft, of the trade, in its broadest sense.... What about somebody who works for a small firm, maybe they do maintenance work or they fit bathrooms or kitchens ... being able to do the joinery on the kitchen units, fit them all plumb and level, patch the plaster up, plumb the sink in, put some tiles on the wall say you could do all those things and do them to an acceptable standard and do a nice job. Is that a craft? Is that person a craftsman? Um.... um...No.

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But why not? Because theyre not specific enough.... Theyre a DIY.... But you said part of the definition of a trade was being broad? Yes, but within that trade! A bricklayer is a bricklayer if he can do all kinds of bricklaying ...whatever kind of bricklaying, from cavity walls, to complex walls to chimneys to arches to everything within that craft. And a carpenter the same, you know. Being a carpenter that can only do shuttering isnt a carpenter. If you cant construct a roof then youre not a carpenter, or you cant do all the craft of carpentry, everything that is included in that craft of carpentry. Why cant kitchen fitting be a craft? Because it isnt. Because carpentrys the craft. Kitchen fitting isnt a craft. Carpentrys a craft (sounding annoyed). If youre a carpenter and you can fit a kitchen then youre a carpenter. It doesnt matter what youre fitting. But say that you can do the carpentry thats involved in fitting a kitchen, you dont know how to do shuttering or frame a roof... Then youre not a carpenter OK, youre not a carpenter. But, you can also do those other things that a carpenter doesnt praps know how to do, like plumb the sink in and put the tiles on the wall... Youre a form of DIYer, essentially Why cant that particular group of different skills be put together and called a trade? To be able to fit a kitchen or bathroom youve got to know how to do several completely different things, so whys that not... Its not pure enough. It hasnt got the pedigree of a real craft. Somebody whos a carpenter is a carpenter. They will do carpentry, any kind of carpentry, and theyll take pride in doing that. They wont be interested, they wont feel that they want to do a bit of fucking dog-rough tiling, or a bit of plumbing here and there or whatever. Theyre a carpenter. They work with wood, they like wood. They have an affinity with wood. Thats what makes it a craft. Its something deeper than just doing a bit of this and a bit of that... dunno ... According to Alan (and the other interviewees who took this traditional view, a real craft is not only complex and multi-dimensional but is defined by its tradition and history. The Biblical trades have a pedigree, and an affinity with a particular material. Does that mean you can never have a new trade? Concretes a material, so can there not be a trade that deals with concrete? No. Why not? It isnt complex enough... Its difficult to get to the bottom of it... Perhaps its to do with - age and tradition. History. ...Tradition is important in calling yourself a craftsman or a tradesman. When you start to lose that tradition then the craft becomes diluted.... Alans explanation of what is considered a proper craft or trade, an appropriate set of skills, is quoted at length because it was a typical view. Having a particular skill, or a collection of individual skills (or competencies) does not mean that a person is

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recognised as being a skilled tradesman. To be considered as such, it is necessary to be skilled in a recognised, legitimate craft or trade, to be identified as a bricklayer, a painter and decorator, or a carpenter and joiner not a kitchen fitter, a concrete worker or a window fixer. There was widespread agreement that the scope of a craft or trade is defined by tradition, and by the association with a particular material, or a particular set of tools.

Many informants deplored the trend towards specialisation, where separate operations (for example first fix joinery, second fix joinery, shop joinery, framing carpentry, shuttering) are carried out by operatives who may only be competent in that one type of work. They dont want a joiner now that can do everything. They want a kitchen fitter (scathing tone); they want a window fixer. Theyve carved it up, broken up all the trades. John T This fragmentation of traditional trades is almost universally condemned. Leroy said they should put a gun to the head of the people who wanted to bring in NVQs, and wanted to segment things... Yet, if the fragmentation of trades is not felt to be right, neither is the move in the opposite direction, to multi-skilling. Many stressed the broad nature of their own training learning all aspects of the trade (from the use of woodworking machines in the joiners shop, to framing cut roofs on site) is an important part of their identity. Up to a point, respondents were happy to learn a diversity of skills and saw themselves as fortunate to do so. Bernie, apprenticed as a bricklayer to a small jobbing builder, also learned to do flagging, salt-glazed pipework, rendering and plastering, roofing work (pointing up ridge tiles etc), and unblocking drains5. There is commonly some overlap plasterers will learn wall tiling; bricklayers will do a little plastering, joiners may fix plasterboard. Learning something of another trade is seen as helpful in understanding the construction process as a whole, being able to appreciate how your work went into everybody elses work... (Leroy). Having another string to ones bow may be acceptable. However, there comes a point when the diversity is seen as going too far, so that people are asked to become a Jack of all trades, or a form of DIYer. This is fiercely resisted. The multi-skilled operative needs a furniture van to come to work, cause they want him to do that many things
5

All linked by the use of mortar.

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but hes just an odd-job man (JohnT). The handyman or odd-job man is looked down upon, regardless of their abilities or the quality of their work, and accorded a status barely above the general labourer. There is definitely an assumption that the JackOf-All-Trades is master of none. (Frank referred to ...Jack of all and bodger of everything.) Multiskilling and fragmentation are both condemned. Too broad a range of skills is just as suspect as too narrow a range, or the wrong combination. It is only possible to be a skilled craftsman or tradesman in a recognised craft or trade. The right set of skills is the traditional one, passed down from generation to generation6.

5.5.2 Identity formation through traditional apprenticeship The craftsmans trade is central to his identity. Even those who have not worked on the tools for many years (having moved into management) often continue to define themselves by saying I am (a bricklayer, a carpenter). Im a carpenter by trade... Mark I am a time served bricklayer. Dave S These turns of phrase were common in the interviews; both in speaking of ones own identity and that of others. John T explains that to be allowed into the union, someone would have to verify that you were a bricklayer (not that you could lay bricks) and Peter says You can see whether a mans a painter or not by the way he prepares... (whether he is a painter, not whether hes skilled, or how skilled he is). The interviewees commonly referred to apprenticeship as a process of becoming (a bricklayer), rather than learning (to lay bricks, for example). John B spoke of teaching kidshow to become bricklayers. Apprenticeship was not just about learning to do certain operations, but the process of becoming a craftsman. Leroy spoke of the importance of apprenticeship in this process of identity formation. One of the things apprenticeships give you is a sense of being, a sense of selfesteem. You are becoming a... Thats why you have awards evenings. You have achieved. You have become... You are a... When you look at the photos of all the old boys, you can sense their pride because they are Im not so sure thats still... the greater good. As an apprentice you are for the greater good of your craft...
6

It does not matter that it is not entirely true that the trades are unchanging, as many new methods and materials have been introduced since the industrial revolution. What matters is that that is how the building trades are widely seen as dating back to time immemorial.

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Some informants described construction as a vocation, saying that they had always been interested in building, or in their particular trade. Others described ending up in their trade by sheer chance. Yet often there seemed to be a sense that this pure chance was fortuitous (or even fated), that all had worked out for the best. This suggests that the powerful processes of socialisation into an occupational identity meant that they ended up with the sense of commitment and belonging to their craft, even if it was not there at the beginning. 7 Yet with the traditional apprenticeship, a certain commitment was needed from the start an investment of time, 3 to 5 years of low pay, and usually 2 evenings a week at college. As Harold describes it As an apprentice, in the first 2 years a boy labourer was getting 50% more than me. And therefore there were people who abandoned the apprenticeship, and were employed by the same firm as boy labourers all they were interested in was beer money, not a long-term career. There is perhaps a view of low pay during the apprenticeship as weeding out those who did not have the right attitude. Those who have been through the process are seen in some sense as morally virtuous, and deserving of their higher status because they have made sacrifices.

5.5.3 Apprenticeship and other ways of learning a trade Those who served traditional apprenticeships stressed the importance of combining practice with more theoretical knowledge You were sent to college to understand why, and during your normal daily work you were there to learn how you did it. Leroy Practical without theory is relatively useless... I mean, why bother putting a lintel in the right way up... Harold Yet even those who went to college and who see the importance of understanding why and of underpinning knowledge, will often say you learn more on site than you do at college. The embodied nature of the skills means that repeated practice is essential - as Leroy says, its difficult to go and read in a book how you get hold of a plane. In construction, practical, experiential knowledge and the wisdom of mentors passed down
7

Of course, this may simply show that only those who were reasonably well suited to construction work stayed. The sample is inherently biased as only two interviewees had left the industry. However, the idea that immersion in a social milieu shapes interests, skills, and self-conceptions is present in the literature see Becker and Carper (1956).

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from generation to generation to generation (Leroy) is contrasted to theoretical, classroom-taught knowledge, or parrot fashion learning. The old boys, that most of us have had teaching us, have got more knowledge than any of the college teachers... At college you learn one standard practice of doing it for each operation that youre doing, whereas, you know, knowledge on site, people will show you different ways of doing stuff Mark Even the trade trainers in colleges agreed that experiential learning is superior. They explained that this is because college training cannot give experience of working around others, the need to co-operate or negotiate in order to get the job done, coping with the weather, ground conditions, time pressure, and problem-solving. This complex tacit knowledge comes from trial and error, and is vitally important in dealing with the ever-changing, unpredictable nature of work on the construction site. Though apprenticeship is still the gold standard, there is a strong site discourse which privileges experiential, practical ways of knowing. This is drawn on by, for example, hod-carriers who have picked up bricklaying, to assert that learning informally is the best way, and to disparage apprenticeship by associating it with theoretical booklearning rather than practical knowledge. Asked whether his workmates looked down on him because of his lack of formal training, Dean replied ... I think thered be more pisstaking if a guy comes straight from college even if theyve got formal qualifications... It is interesting though that the different opinions on this point do not necessarily align with the different ways in which the members learned their own trade. Alan spoke of the importance of being time served, of being brought up in the trade from a young age yet he himself did an NVQ at the age of around 30. Those who identify themselves as craftsmen tend to gloss over the other, lesser ways they got into the trade. Kevin admitted that I would always mention having my City and Guilds advanced craft and having done day release at college because that sounded like part of a standard apprenticeship, but I would play down the TOPs course though it was actually very good because it was just one of those 6-month courses. TOPs courses, YOPS, YTS and NVQs are clearly seen by almost everyone as inferior to the traditional apprenticeship. Some saw these new qualifications and ways of learning as part of an ideological attack on apprenticeship. It was mentioned in Chapter 2 that new government rules (introduced in 1980) on DLOs revenue accounting, which

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meant that apprentice costs had to be included as a normal part of costs, but also stipulated that any DLO not making 5% return on capital employed could be closed down, appeared designed to prevent the employment of apprentices. Why would the government wish to prevent the DLOs employing apprentices, when this was providing a valuable source of trained labour to the private sector of the construction industry? Several interviewees saw the changes to VET in the 1980s as a calculated, deliberate and determined political assault on a particular way of learning a trade. The biggest problem was, the Thatcher years, when she got rid of a lot of the apprentices, their skills went... your training base disappeared... particularly hard hit was the PSA ... she got rid of that, she got rid of a big training base, because we had apprentices in all the trades in the District Works Offices. Peter Thatcher got in. She came in, and its gone [construction training in the DLOs]. Tragic really, but throughout the land, its happened everywhere John B Maggie came in and there was this lunatic period... at a political level, we have not promoted apprenticeships. Leroy I have to be careful because I might offend you, but I am not a fan of Margaret Thatchers attitudes...to me, she destroyed it [construction training] I can see what she was doing. Her way was, divide and conquer. No question about that. And one of the reasons were in the mess today is because of her attitudes 20, 30 years ago. Since 1980 when she came into power ... she was the government which started the train of thought which said, if industry wants training, industry should pay for training whereas before, it was basically paid on the rates, and everybody paid for training... John L These comments, which were in response to very general questions about construction training, clearly describe what happened as an attack on apprenticeship in general, and apprenticeship in the public sector in particular.

In the 1980s, as NVQs were introduced, there was criticism of the teaching of unnecessary knowledge and theory in college. A detailed instance of this is described by John L: I remember in my second year of teaching, a college governor coming round. He came into my workshop, and I was teaching graining. He said Oh, what are you doing? I said Im teaching graining and he said Oh, is that still done? I said Well, not as much as it used to be, but its still a skill that we need to know Oh he said, What do you gain from learning about graining? I said, Well you learn about how to use paint to alter the appearance of something...you learn about colour mixing, and you learn about the application of tools to get certain effects, all of which are part of a painters job... And, a few weeks later I was called to the Principals office, and he said What have you been telling this Governor? ... He says youre down as teaching
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outmoded practices and teaching areas of work which are no longer done in the industry and a waste of time. For a painter and decorator, a knowledge of graining is one of the things which distinguishes them from a mere paperhanger or a brush-hand. John L clearly felt this denigration of graining as a waste of time to be an attack on his own status and identity, as well as a threat to the proper formation of the trainees identity.

5.5.4 Competing discourses It seems that, in times and places (and people) where the time-served craftsman discourse is clearly dominant, those who learned in other ways will adapt their own experience accordingly. Similarly, in times, places and situations where the dominant discourse stresses practical know-how, even those who are time served themselves may say that it is not important to have served a formal apprenticeship and may go along with the idea that what matters is what you can do. In a site cabin discussion between bricklayers on ways of learning, the only bricklayer who did a formal apprenticeship agrees with others who acquired their skills in an ad hoc fashion after working as hod carriers, thats the best way. A better way of doing it than what I done it...I didnt have a clue what a shovel was. Just watching, as a labourer, you learn... What you do at college you dont relate to on site...You learn more out here than you do in there... By miles. It seems a somewhat strange proposition that one would learn more as a labourer just watching and occasionally having a go, than as an apprentice who is in college one day a week, but on site laying bricks the other four days. Perhaps not having a clue what a shovel was refers to the general knowledge of the wider site context which the labourer, moving about the site, acquires, but which the bricklayer working in one place and especially the inexperienced apprentice lacks.

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5.5.5 Craft pride and the right attitude Is being a skilled craftsman synonymous with being time-served? The question was posed in a group discussion (focus group). The majority view in the group was that having served an indentured apprenticeship is not the defining characteristic of a craftsman; what matters is having a craftsmans attitude i.e. trade pride and selfrespect. Typical comments were: I have seen time-served bricklayers who I would personally exclude from bricklaying for life. I have also seen 6 monthers who leave a very neat job indeed. only those with pride in their work do a good job. (Buggins) I have had the pleasure of working alongside some brilliant chippies who never did an apprenticeship, but nevertheless could use a roofing square as good as anyone who did ... Good craft teachers and trade pride is the key (Molly) A craftsman has pride in his work, a thorough knowledge and the experience to boot. (Bill) For these respondents, the defining factor is that a craftsman has pride in his work. Experience was also stressed, and having learned from the right kind of mentors. Formal time-served status, and qualifications, were seen as unimportant.

However, others (John S, Frank, Alan, Leroy) stressed the importance of having been brought up in the trade during an apprenticeship. Although they differed in the importance accorded to being time-served in determining skilled status, what was common to both groups was the frequent reference to pride, and the importance of having a craftsmans attitude as the defining characteristic. There was also agreement about the importance of experience, because a craft cannot merely be understood intellectually; manual skill has to be in the hands and it has to become second nature. Long practice and repetition is the only way to achieve this. The traditionalists however also stressed the importance of socialisation into the trade, which inculcates craft identity and pride. I think at that age in the right environment you can breed that attitude, that craftsman attitude, and kind of inspire a youngster to feel part of a a brotherhood. if you can breed a sense of pride and belonging to a particular trade into a youngster, then thats how you get really good work in a way, thats how you build a tradition of great craftsmanship. It starts with youngsters, and its to do with breeding the right attitude from the start ... Alan

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This is the myth of the boy apprentice, described in the next chapter. It seems that the main difference of opinion between those who stress the importance of serving your time in defining craftsman identity, and those who claim it is unimportant, may be that the former group see trade pride as something which is inculcated through apprenticeship, whereas the latter group see the right attitude as being more innate, part of the individuals personal character. However, having spoken of the importance of breeding the right attitude, Alan goes on to say People that did a proper apprenticeship ...are more likely to be craftsmen than chancers, but not necessarily so, they might still be chancers! Some people, no matter how hard you try to instil into them a sense of pride in good work and a sense of tradition, theyre still not gonna have that sensitivity... Thus it seems that in fact the two factions each tacitly embrace the others view. Those who point out that not all skilled craftsmen are time served would nevertheless probably agree that they are more likely to be and those who describe apprenticeship as the key to craft pride accept that this is not so in every case.

A craftsman takes pride in his skill and in the tangible, concrete expression of that skill in his work. A craftsman will take a pride in what they do. And they wont be happy if theyve not done what they know they can do. Even if youre not well paid for it. Or youre not paid what you feel you ought to be paid for it. If youre a craftsman then youll do it right anyway, or you wont do it at all. Frank He will do a decent job even if he feels underpaid, because it is a matter of self-respect. To do otherwise would threaten his identity as a skilled craftsman. Some people say, if youre doing a good job when nobodys watching over you, somebodys making a profit out of you, so youre just an idiot if youre doing that. But the thing is that if you do have a feeling for the craft, then to do a crap job is to cut your own nose off to spite your face. You might as well do a good job, and feel satisfied with your days work. Its your pride, isnt it? I do believe its a natural human thing to get satisfaction out of doing a job properly. Kevin Some things have to be for the greater good... as an apprentice you are for the greater good of your craft... Leroy The craftsman is committed to, and identifies with, his occupation. The defining characteristics of the craftsman identity include a sense of pride and self-respect which obliges him to work according to an internalised right way to do things even when it is not in his own narrow self-interest.

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5.5.6 Anti-identities Most interviewees, whether or not they had served a traditional apprenticeship, considered themselves to be a craftsman/woman or a good tradesperson. (For example Dean, who admitted to having been sacked from several jobs for poor work whilst picking up his skills informally, nevertheless considered himself a good tradesman.) Some simply identified themselves by their trade, a bricklayer, a sparks etc. A smaller number did not identify with their occupation and were just passing through. Many, however, identified others as chancers. This anti-identity of someone who is not a (proper) tradesman was associated with having learned informally: its the chancers that you just know theyve picked it up as theyve gone along... (Leroy). Others described chancers as those who come out of a car factory and done a 6-week course (John T). There is a strong association between the refusal of craftsman status to others and illegitimate ways of learning, whether just picking it up, or government training courses (seen as illegitimate because they are too short and not site-based). Having entered the industry as an adult is also somewhat suspect. As well as chancer, derogatory terms such as trowel hand or brush hand are often used (especially by the time-served craftsmen) to refer to those who are informallytrained and considered semi-skilled. Those who learned in ways seen as illegitimate and who are not considered fully skilled are not dignified by the title of bricklayer, carpenter, painter etc. Bricklayers who have learned informally are just hod carriers or navvies. Harold spoke of saw and hammer hands, but also recognised that some people had not had the opportunity to learn in the traditional way I dont think you should denigrate a person because they started that way. Theyve done so because of some combination of circumstances, they didnt have a better opportunity... Some craftsmen spoke of jumped-up labourers, suggesting that those who start that way should know their place. However, what really seems to determine whether someone is viewed as a craftsman is their attitude. a chancer will have a wheelbarrow thats had the inside beat out of it with a sledgehammer to knock everything out, cause hes too lazy to wash it out. Frank M

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Those others who are not proper tradesmen may have acquired a recognised trade such as bricklaying in an illegitimate way, or they may have an illegitimate set of skills not recognised as a trade because they are too narrow, or too broad. (As discussed above in section 5.5.1.) John T describes the informal acquisition of a limited set of skills youve got a formwork carpenter that just does shuttering. And then, theres plenty of lads who are general labourers, who assist the joiner in erecting it, cause its that heavy a work - and theyre like the hod carrier within the space of eighteen months, 2 years, hes a shuttering joiner, you know, he has a hammer round his round his middle and a flaming crowbar, and they get away with it, you know. This is clearly seen as an illegitimate way of learning (they get away with it) as indeed the skills are seen as illegitimate skills; the real trade is carpentry and joinery. Skills which are too general are also derided. A chancer can take their hand to anything; it doesnt matter, theyre not bothered, theyll take their chance with anything, theyre not bothered what it is... Thats a chancer. Alan Being able to take ones hand to anything (like the despised handyman) is taken as a negation of an identity rooted in a particular trade or craft. It also points to a lack of commitment to a particular trade, and even to construction in general. In spite of the importance accorded to whether or not the person learned a recognised trade in a recognised way, it is attitude which is the defining characteristic. Its not to do with whether theyve got a City and Guilds or whatever; its something deeper than that. Its to do with their attitude The chancer is a jumped-up labourer and even if you managed to teach them to do the job correctly, you know, to the required standard, theyll never unless youre watching over them, they wont do it to that standard, theyll do whatever they can get away with and as crap as possible and get the money and theyre outta there, you know? Kevin It was even suggested that someone with the chancer attitude to do whatever you can get away with - should not be allowed to learn. If he has no feeling for the craft itself and does not care about what he produces, then as soon as he is not being watched, he will cut corners. The chancer is the other who does not have trade pride. He is motivated by money8 and takes a purely instrumental, self-interested approach to his work.
8

When it is oneself who is motivated by money, that is different of course!

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5.5.7 Pride and passion versus greed and selfishness The craftsmans distinguishing characteristics are often said to be pride and passion.
Its to do with passion ... a craftsman is somebody who loves - who is passionate, who loves the work that they do...

On the other hand, those who dont have the right attitude are distinguished by their desire for money.
One of the guys I worked with had a love of what he was doing and a pride in doing it right. Even if he wasnt happy with the money he was paid, hed try and do the job right anyway. Whereas, there was another guy... who couldnt give a shit. For him the important thing was to get the job done as quick as possible, for as much money as possible, to the minimum standard he could get away with

Here, Kevin is describing two bricklayers working alongside each other, with different attitudes. However, several interviewees spoke nostalgically of the craftsmanship of the past as against the unprincipled, opportunist greed of the present. Frank contrasted the past, when small local builders had pride in a job to the greed of the present, when nobody wants to do the job properly as the focus is bottom line, bottom line, all the time... Unlike in the past, there is no concern for quality, and passing on the traditions of craftsmanship, people dont want apprentices. Training became a dirty word .... the younger management didnt want it...theyre only interested in profit.... John S also drew strongly on a discourse of craftsmanship, yet he saw things slightly differently, counterposing the craftsmans desire to do a good job to an unspecified them presumably managers of construction firms.
Its all about money, thats all they care about. They wont let you do the job properly; they never give you time to do a proper job. If you can earn more money by doing a crap job and you generally can earn more by doing a crap job...

John says they never give you time to do a proper job but it seems this is not so much about managers rushing to get the work done quickly as about methods of payment, as he then says you generally can earn more by doing a crap job. It appears there is a structural problem with methods of payment which encourage short cuts. The individual workers choice of whether to earn more by doing a crap job is obfuscated by They wont let you do the job properly, which places the blame on the employer. When asked whether the right attitude is innate or can be inculcated, one interviewee pointed to changes in the attitude of society.

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...it was just the attitude of society as well. Youre influenced by the society youre brought up in and by the class youre brought up in. And if that class says, you know, and society says, its respectable, and its something to be proud of to be a craftsman and to have that attitude of being a craftsman, to leave something... to produce something that is gonna be there as a heritage for posterity, then youre gonna have that, youre gonna develop that attitude. Whereas if your upbringing says, if society says, well youve just got to earn a crust and if you can get a bit more money for something else then do that the end of everything is how much youre paid for it, then youre not gonna have the same outlook... The dichotomy between craftsmanship as work for its own sake, and making as much money as possible, arose frequently in the interviews9. The contrast was sometimes drawn between individuals good and bad attitudes, sometimes between past and present, direct employment and self-employment, smaller and bigger construction firms. Sometimes workers pride is counterposed to managers greed; sometimes managers from a trade background with a passion for construction are set against universitytrained managers and QSs ruining the industry with their emphasis on profit. The present/past duality was the most frequently invoked.

5.5.8 Identity and context Aspects of the social situation (i.e. which discourses are dominant) were seen above to affect the view expressed on learning a trade. It seems they also affect the workers sense of identity and hence their actions. A persons identity as a craftsman was agreed by many informants to depend on their attitude more than on their technical competence or the way in which they acquired their skills. Thus they could be more of a craftsman (i.e. draw more strongly on the craftsman discourse, including in their behaviour) when working at one firm, or with one group of workers, than when working in another situation where different discourses dominate. However, a craft identity with its norms and precepts may be so strong as to overcome this pressure.

It should be remembered, however, that these views were expressed in the specific context of discussions of craft skill. It seems likely that in other contexts many of the interviewees would express different views on being motivated by money.

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[When the attitude of the majority on site is Near enough is good enough, do you go along with it?] It depends how strongly you feel your identity in the craft, whether youre prepared to go yeah, fuck that, just get the job done and fuck off. Or whether your identity is so strong that you say, well, no, I dont work like that, Im not happy to just do some shit. And if youve got a strong identity in the craft that youre brought into, you wont be able to do that, it wont be possible, its like lying or cheating. Some have such a strong identity as craftsmen that their pride will not allow them to do rough work, though it may be generally accepted by their workmates, or even demanded by an employer who only wishes them to get over it quickly. For many, however, the skill they use and apply, and the discourses on which they draw, will be affected by the situation in which they find themselves working.

This chapter has attempted to present a straightforward descriptive account of the interviews, organised around key themes of skill and identity. However, description inevitably shades into interpretation, in deciding which aspects to pay attention to. The next chapter will analyse the interview data in terms of discourses. This was begun in this chapter in the vignettes of Identity work in progress which gave examples of how certain discourses were drawn on in the interviews. Chapter 6 moves beyond these specific examples, to give a detailed account of five popular site discourses, each built up from overlapping expressions from many different interviewees. Chapter 7 will then give the explanation, linking these discourses back to the literature, and to wider contextual influences.

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Chapter 6: Interpretation Site discourses: Identities and anti-identities


6.1 Introduction
As explained in Chapter 4 (Methodology), discourse analysis can be seen as having three moments or dimensions: description, interpretation and explanation. Broadly speaking, Chapter 5 consists of the description whilst the current chapter presents the interpretation, and Chapter 7 the explanation. The interpretative level is concerned with how discursive resources are drawn on in producing (and interpreting) a particular instance of discourse. Explanation is more concerned with how a particular instance of discourse contributes to the reproduction or change of those discursive resources. Chapter 5 can be seen as giving descriptions of the texts produced in the interviews. Interpretation considers the process of producing the text, asking what discourse types are being drawn on. This was begun in the vignettes of Identity work in progress in chapter 5 which gave examples of how certain discourses were drawn on in the interviews. The analysis of the discourses in this chapter moves beyond these specific examples, combining the overlapping expressions of each discourse from many different interviewees to extract five popular site discourses. These are labelled as the discourses of craftsmanship, of the resourceful survivor, of masculinity, of practical wisdom and of just passing through.

What follows is only one of many possible ways of making sense of the empirical data described in the previous chapter; it is the authors interpretation of that data. As discussed in Chapter 4, this analysis is built on the empirical work, but is also informed both by the authors 25 years of previous experience on construction sites, and by theoretical concepts drawn from the literature. The discourses will be described in this chapter without reference to previous work, before linking them back to the literature at the start of the next chapter.

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Site discourses and identity construction This chapter identifies five discourses of occupational identity emerging1 from the empirical data. These discursive formations construct particular versions of self, skill, and work, and can all be regarded as part of construction culture. Most of them are drawn on to some degree by most of those who work on construction sites. Yet different individuals draw on very different combinations of discourses, and the same person in different situations may draw upon different combinations. This depends upon the degree to which a person appears to have a stable self drawing upon the same discourses in differing situations or multiple selves contingent upon the context. Some draw mainly upon ready made discourses and compatible combinations, whilst others reinterpret the meanings of existing discourses or make new, creative combinations of elements from competing or contradictory discourses. The vignettes of Identity work in progress in chapter 5 gave examples of how the discourses were drawn on in the interviews. In the interview with 3 bricklayers and a labourer, the bricklayers first drew on the practical wisdom discourse. In response, the labourer drew on a discourse of just passing through. The bricklayers then drew on a (weak) version of the craftsmanship discourse to assert their superiority over a mere labourer, and on the discourse of masculinity to assert their superiority over others such as electricians. In his interview, Leroy drew mainly on the discourse of craftsmanship. Alan also drew strongly on the discourse of craftsmanship although he did not serve a traditional apprenticeship. Dean, by contrast, drew on several different discourses. Even within the space of one interview, Dean combined the just passing through discourse, according to which he is not really a dirty building worker at all, but a DJ; and the craftsman discourse where he asserted that he considered himself a good tradesman. He also drew on the practical wisdom discourse to redefine the meaning of serving time to support his identification as a skilled tradesman. His redefinition of serving time is an example of the creative ways in which individuals respond to dominant discourses. He also drew to a lesser extent on discourses of masculinity and resourcefulness thus demonstrating that it is possible to draw on all of them at once (especially for those who have multiple, overlapping and somewhat fragmented identities).
1

Of course these discourses did not emerge on their own but from the dialogue between researcher and researched.

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6.2 The discourse of craftsmanship


6.2.1 Who draws on the discourse Craftsmanship is the main discourse which is drawn upon by skilled building workers in forming their identities. In the interviews, it was particularly drawn on by older workers (50+) and by the Clerks of Works. For those who followed the traditional trajectory of the indentured apprenticeship, the process of occupational socialisation often results in their identifying very strongly with their particular trade, and with the craftsman figure. For those who fit the model, the craftsman is a ready-made social-identity which can be adopted without requiring a great deal of identity work, almost just stepped into. Or, even stronger than that, they have completely become a craftsman through the process of socialisation. There is no sense of playing a part; a powerful occupational identity means being a plasterer or a stonemason, rather than merely happening to be doing that job. Yet craftsmanship is also a discourse which is drawn on (to varying degrees) by many or most of those who do skilled manual work in construction, even if their own trajectory was quite different, and even if many of their values are in contradiction with craft ideology. The identity of the craftsman is an ideal to which reference is constantly made, and to which many aspire.

6.2.2 Worldview The discourse of craftsmanship describes an orderly world where people know who and what they are, and how they relate to others. In this world, the craftsman is an aristocrat of labour, whilst the labourer (and the apprentice) knows his place. Loyalty is valued, though its decline in the modern world is often lamented. People employers or managers as well as workers are supposed to care about the work itself, not simply about money; there is strong disapproval of those who take a purely instrumental view. Pride in workmanship is a core value. Craft skills are seen as essentially unchanging in spite of changes in materials and methods.

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6.2.3 Tradition Tradition is central to the discourse of craftsmanship. In a book recommended by one of the interviewees, Hilton (1963) traces the origins of the AUBTW2 back to the masons lodges established in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. This shows the importance to contemporary trade unionists of tracing their identity back to time immemorial. The discourse insists on continuity, on the unchanging nature of tools and techniques.3 For thousands of years the crafts of plasterwork, carpentry, masonry, bricklaying and tiling have been handed down from father to son, and the history of the trade is written all over the world, not in pen and ink, but in brick and stone and wood. Postgate (1923: 2) The craftsman feels a connection with others in the same craft who produced Victorian brickwork, or mediaeval timber-framed houses. He can take a vicarious pride in the achievements of these forebears which he sees around him, incarnated in the built environment. There was frequent reference in the interviews to the old boys, and the passing down of skills from generation to generation. Carpenters make reference to the biblical trades, and the tradition that Our Lord was a carpenter.

6.2.4 The trades This discourse of craftsmanship is common to all the traditional building trades, but the craft identity is specific to a particular trade: a carpenter or a plumber rather than a craftsman or a builder. At the same time that all skilled building craftsmen are assumed to have much in common (thus differentiating trades from unskilled work or the dubious semi-trades), the trades are also differentiated from each other. Each trade is of course regarded as superior by its own members whether because it is seen as more skilled or as tougher and more masculine. The competition between trades can be seen as partly about differentiating each one as distinctive. Defining the specific occupation in terms of distinctive and enduring characteristics satisfies desires for clear and stable identities. The semi-joking stereotypes of other trades (electricians arent real men) help to affirm the positive value of ones own.
2

Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, the stonemasons and bricklayers union which was one of the forerunners of UCATT. 3 Postgate (1923, p 1) opens his history by stressing the continuity of the building trades: Plasterwork is still to be found undamaged in the Egyptian pyramids that was completed four thousand years ago the principal tools that the plasterer used in those days were the same for practical purposes as those we use now. If today a competent [plasterer] were to meet the ancient Egyptian who used those tools, he might not understand his language, but could work with him all day till sundown without suspecting that four thousand years lay between them. It is still true today that the modern plasterer would recognise the tools and techniques of his forbear although of course the inverse is not true.

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6.2.5 The myth of the boy apprentice The craftsmans identity was formed in the trade, man and boy. The boy apprentice can be seen as one of the key foundational myths of craft identity, forming a crucial part of the discourse of craftsmanship. The symbolic importance of the indentures was discussed in the previous chapter. Several interviewees stressed the importance of being brought up in the trade in order to have the right attitude and to truly become a carpenter, a bricklayer, or other craftsman. In situations, contexts, times and places where the discourse of craftsmanship was dominant, shortcuts to learning were disapproved of or seen as inferior. There is a proper way to learn, and a proper set of skills to learn. Yet in fact, several of those who identified strongly as craftsmen did NOT serve an indentured apprenticeship. Those who learned by means of 6 month courses or by picking up skills informally tended to feel inferior, as Bill and Kevin described, and thus to keep quiet about them. Even without a formal apprenticeship, socialisation into a construction tribe identity and a sense of the traditions of a particular trade can be very powerful. The person who learned in a non-traditional way such as TOPS or YTS, but who aspired to a craft identity, would be likely to believe in the myth of the boy apprentice almost unconsciously, as part of the tribal culture of construction. They would thus try to fudge the question of exactly how they learned, emphasising even to themselves the elements most similar to the ideal.

6.2.6 Pride and passion The discourse of craftsmanship presents work as intrinsically satisfying. Many interviewees spoke of their pride and pleasure in seeing the tangible results of their work at the end of the day.4 Intrinsic motivation or job satisfaction seem very weak ways to describe this love of a craft which is central to ones identity; the satisfaction and self-expression in producing something both useful and beautiful which will last. Craftsmanship is also about the embodied passion of producing something. Tom spoke of a feeling for wood, of running his hands over it, of the smell of English oak. Alan spoke of passion as a defining characteristic of the craftsman. Pride and passion are key ingredients of natural (as opposed to alienated) work.

Some also spoke of feeling rushed, exploited, frustrated, under economic pressure (theyll never let you do a proper job) as well as cold and wet and just wishing for the next break.

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6.2.7 Immutable trade boundaries The discourse of craftsmanship expresses strong disapproval of the fragmentation of skills, or of their broadening if this means that trade boundaries are transgressed. The right combination is the traditional one, neither too narrow nor too broad. The boundaries between the trades, originally defined by the materials with which they worked, going back to the craft guilds (and beyond), are assumed to be immutable. The ideology of craftsmanship resists very strongly any tendency to break down the barriers between skilled trades and semi-skilled occupations. The status of traditional trades is fiercely defended against any suggestion that a collection of skills drawn from different crafts or trades could be recombined to make a new trade with skilled craft status. Kitchen fitting is not accepted as a trade because it makes use of an illegitimate combination of skills. The kitchen fitter or the multi-skilled maintenance worker cannot be a skilled craftsman, regardless of their abilities. In order to be recognised as skilled, it is first necessary for those skills to be in a proper trade. Only then is the actual level of skill considered (cf Foucault, 1971: 31-38 on the organisation of disciplines). Alan became quite angry when pressed as to why kitchen fitting, for example, is not a legitimate trade, and was very scathing about DIYers. The craftsman does not want to be associated with such people. Their very existence seems to be a threat, not only financially, but existentially a threat to the skilled identity of the craftsman. It is slightly more accepted if a jobbing builder has one proper trade and then adds other skills, but still somewhat suspect. It is strongly felt that one should not be asked to do other peoples jobs. A real craftsman skilled at a trade would see it as beneath his dignity to attempt to do the work of another trade. It is an affront to powerfully felt craft identity, so only those whose craft identification is not very strong tend to accept working across traditional trade boundaries. Asking a painter to lay a few bricks implicitly disparages both the painters and the bricklayers skill, suggesting a belief that long craft training is unnecessary and that anyone can lay bricks. A real craftsmans pride in his work means he would not wish to do something less well, a bit of fucking dog-rough tiling as Alan describes it. It is difficult to have an in-depth knowledge of a broad range of skills. Therefore, those who claim to have skills in more than one area are assumed not to be very skilful at their main trade, to have failed in some way. Their claims to be able to do everything are often treated with derision.

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6.2.8 Anti-identities: visions of the others The craftsmans main anti-identity is the chancer or DIYer, or the labourer. The discourse of craftsmanship accepts labourers who know their place as nevertheless having their own, lesser but useful, skills. They are inferior because they did not spend long years on low pay as an apprentice learning a trade this makes them morally and socially inferior as well as (or as part of) being simply less skilled. Jumped-up labourers, trowel hands or chancers, those who acquire some skill by illegitimate means, but who cannot properly claim skilled craft status, may, depending on the circumstances and the balance of power between the different groups, be disapproved of, denigrated, despised, tolerated, laughed at or seen as a threat. They are out of place, a threat to the established order of things. It seemed in the interviews that what one might call the would-be craftsmen (those who drew on the discourse of craftsmanship without having served a traditional apprenticeship) particularly used the anti-identity of the chancer or the jumped-up labourer as the other against which to construct their own identity. The traditionally-trained craftsmen may feel more secure and thus have less need to do this. Chancers were said to have the wrong attitude. The chancers overtly instrumental and self-interested approach to his work is seen as amoral. It is this bad attitude which is said to define the chancer, suggesting that the classification is not completely deterministic. It was widely agreed by the informants that, in theory at least, someone who learnt the wrong way could work hard at acquiring skills, and have the right craftsman attitude. Those who served traditional apprenticeships are somewhat aware of having been fortunate, and may feel uncomfortable disparaging those who have not had their opportunities. The craftsman will often say that he does not blame the labourer for trying to better themselves, and the fragmentation of trades is rather to be blamed upon the employers. Yet often in the next breath, the craftsman will suggest that labourers and groundworkers are naturally stupid, or that those who acquired skills in an ad hoc fashion are morally inferior as they did not have the commitment required to learn in the proper way. Offering the theoretical possibility for those who learned informally to become craftsmen may actually be a way of holding them responsible for failing to do so.

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Several interviewees held forth often in somewhat offensive terms on the association of regional and national cultures with being a chancer (or a craftsman). Scousers and Cockneys were commonly identified as inclined to be chancers, seen as sharp-witted, streetwise and bright, fast-talking unscrupulous wheeler-dealers, disinclined to the discipline required to become a craftsman. The Irish are also commonly seen as chancers by the English tradesmen. Historically, Irish migrants who had previously worked in agriculture had restricted opportunities to learn a trade, and usually started out as general labourers. Many then acquired sufficient skills to become groundworkers, flaggers, drainlayers, or shuttering carpenters the less regulated and less recognised trades. They also carried the hod, and sometimes became bricklayers. In this case, the chancer association can be clearly seen to emerge from the situation in which Irish migrants found themselves.

6.3 The discourse of the resourceful survivor


6.3.1 Who draws on the discourse The discourse of the resourceful survivor is drawn upon principally by those who have not followed an approved, traditional route into a trade. This includes both those who have acquired a level to get by in a particular trade without any formal apprenticeship or training, and those who have no settled trade but turn their hand to many things. However, it is by no means the only discourse drawn on by such people. They are very likely also to make at least some selective use of somewhat contradictory craftsmanship discourses, as well as the discourses of masculine toughness and of practical wisdom which are more consonant with this discourse of resourcefulness. Some may identify themselves as a plasterer, a bricklayer etc, some may identify as a builder rather than with a particular trade, and many simply say I was doing a bit of..., thus calling on a discourse which I have labelled just passing through.

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6.3.2 Worldview The discourse of the resourceful survivor describes a disorderly world, full of opportunity and danger, where it is necessary to be resourceful and self-reliant because anything can happen. The aim is to be a survivor in this tough world, and one can only draw on ones own resources because its dog eat dog out there. To do so, it is often necessary to take a risk in order to get an advantage, even if it means doing something that others do not approve of. This is justified by the law of the jungle; only the strong survive. Opportunities are there to be seized; those who do not are weak or foolish.

6.3.3 Freedom and autonomy All who work on construction sites share to varying degrees the value of independence as part of their identity. Building workers look down on work in factories or call centres, not only because it is seen as less skilled, less useful, and less interesting, but also because of the lack of freedom and autonomy. The freedom of work on site, not having a boss looking over your shoulder is appreciated by all, but not taking any shit is particularly associated with the discourse of the resourceful survivor. 6.3.4 Getting by and getting away with it The resourceful survivor has the ability to get by, not just in a particular building trade, by avoiding or covering up problems, but in life more generally, by spinning a tale, by finding work, by doing deals, by being an all-rounder who can set his hand to anything. Just picking it up shows initiative and daring, not being afraid to have a go, to take risks, to fail. Ive been thrown off better jobs than this one is often said as a joke, but a worker who may in reality have been dismissed from projects for poor quality work needs to have the nerve, the resilience and toughness to bounce back and confidently blag his way onto the next job. A bold, self-confident persona is built up, both in order to convince others and to build a positive sense of self but it may be a somewhat fragile identity. Humour, piss taking and having the craic are common parts of construction site culture, but perhaps particularly associated with this discourse of resourcefulness being quick-witted, wisecracking, and telling tall tales of putting one over on bosses or private clients.

The identity thus constructed is bold, streetwise, masculine, cocky, resourceful, enterprising and tough. The attitude to work is cavalier, especially if the work will later
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be covered or hidden. The aim is to do the work as quickly and easily as possible and get paid. Putting one over on others is a source of pride, but to be taken in oneself is shameful. The discourse of getting by celebrates the cleverness of getting away with short cuts, of pulling the wool over the eyes of supervisors or clients who lack a detailed knowledge of construction work. They are seen to invite this deception by their stupidity, and a man would be foolish and weak not to exploit them. Those who lack practical experience are not seen as worthy of respect, and thus deserve to be tricked.

Rather than taking pride in a broad knowledge of a craft and an ability to do high quality work, this discourse redefines skill as speed, as being able to crash a lot of bricks in to a minimum acceptable standard. This redefinition of skill can be seen as a strategy of self-justification, allowing the lesser skilled to take pride instead in their volume of output. However, this positive self-conception is always open to question by others if the finished work is not up to standard. To be challenged for poor work is shameful, and may provoke a violent altercation which allows the interpretation that the person challenging the standard of work was unreasonable, whilst the person challenged was simply asserting his independence in refusing to be spoken to like that and (preemptively) walking off the job. Otherwise, there are two options in order to maintain a positive self-image when work is criticised. One can draw on the resourceful survivor discourse to assert that one was capable of doing better work but chose not to (for example because the rate of pay was not good enough), or one can revert to not really being a building worker if the attempt to construct a skilled identity falls apart. 6.3.5 Anti-identities: visions of the others Anti-identities include the effete office worker or the tightly supervised factory worker, lacking the resourceful survivors independence, ambition and pioneering spirit. Closer at hand is the craftsman, seen as old, plodding, self-satisfied, and lacking in enterprise. Craft skill is stigmatised as outmoded and theoretical knowledge as unnecessary. The discourse of the resourceful survivor affects a disdain for fine work, and sees the more complex and arcane parts of any trade gilding and graining, or axed arches and tumbling in as irrelevant, out-of-date and almost effeminate. The old boy craftsman is slow and overly fussy, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality. He may even be seen as stupid, soft, and lacking in nous, because of his lack of reference to his own self-interest.
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6.4 Just passing through


6.4.1 Who draws on the discourse One strategy for avoiding the low status associated with construction work is to regard oneself as just passing through rather than to identify with that work. Those building workers who draw on this discourse in their identity work tend to be the unskilled labourers, those in lower status occupations such as groundworks, or the informally trained who learned a trade in a non-approved manner. The interviewees who drew most strongly on this discourse were working as a labourer, a painter, and a bricklayer. Some may claim that they are not really building workers even if they have worked in construction for years. (Contrast this with those who identify with a trade and will still claim to be a joiner even when they have not worked as one for many years.) Others may move in and out of jobs in construction according to business cycles, the seasons, and what is happening in their personal lives. Whichever is the case, they just happen to be working in construction, and in a particular occupation, rather than having a strong occupational identity. 6.4.2 Just passing through The discourse of just passing through stresses the temporary nature of the work, and its instrumental attractions principally money, but also flexibility and informality. Paul the labourer saw his work as something Ive got to do at the moment to make a bit of dollar; while Chris said, I paint houses all summer so I can go climbing all winter. Reluctant to be identified with work that is seen as dirty and stupid, those who are just passing through may accept the negative stereotypes of building workers to some extent as their anti-identity, but differentiate themselves by drawing on some other aspect of their lives to define their identity and self-esteem as a climber, a DJ, or a husband and father providing for his family. This discourse of just passing through prevents a collective identification, because it rests on seeing oneself as different from ones workmates they are building workers, but I am not really a building worker. There may be a sense of playing a part at work, in order to fit in, especially if the person is not altogether comfortable with aspects of construction culture such as its overdone masculinity and antiintellectualism.

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6.5 Discourses of masculinity


6.5.1 Who draws on the discourse Masculinity is so much part of construction culture that virtually everyone working on site even women5 draws to some extent on discourses of masculine toughness. However, masculinity discourses tend to be drawn on most strongly by those men who are least able to draw on craftsmanship discourses. In other words, the less a man is able to take pride in his skill, the more he takes pride in his manly strength, endurance and toughness. Even within the building trades there is a hierarchy, with the rougher, dirtier trades perceived as more masculine than the higher-status, more refined and intellectual trades. Thus labourers, hairy-arsed steelfixers, thick bricklayers and groundworkers are at the bottom of the status hierarchy but the top of the masculinity hierarchy, whereas electricians are a high-status trade and commonly believed to feel superior and look down on other trades, but theyre not real men as one of the bricklayers said.6 6.5.2 A mans job As one of the few remaining occupations to be carried out almost exclusively by men, construction work is infused with gendered meanings, taken as proof of masculinity. The discourse of masculinity portrays construction work as uniquely tough, manly, and practical, whilst celebrating the freedom it can offer. A mans job implies physical labour and getting your hands dirty. This is real work. Physical labour, dirt, discomfort, and even danger are believed to be necessary concomitants of true manhood. Discourses of masculinity are drawn on and reproduced through practices as well as speech. Masculine identity is constructed not only by what is said, but by the manner of speech speaking roughly and swearing a great deal. Masculine body language is acted out in ways of moving or sitting. Then there are specific actions such as feats of strength or risk-taking stunts riding on the hook of the crane, testing live circuits with a wet finger which demonstrate manly courage.

Womens use of the discourses in identity construction is disc ussed in a separate section. See also Greed (2000). 6 Dean, another bricklayer, said The mechanical and electrical and the carpenters actually seem a bit more genteel, more skilled and qualified, and then were a bit rougher and readier... Bricklayers hav e a kind of image of being you dont want to mess with them... a bit, you know, ruthless.... Leroy, a carpenter, said that carpentry had a little bit of the finesse about it, whereas being a brickie was... a blokey thing to do but it hurts your hands.

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Masculinity is associated particularly with manual skill, physical toughness, strength, endurance etc. Different discourses of masculinity are associated with each of the other discourses. The craftsmanship discourse tends to take embodied skill itself as sufficient proof of masculinity. The discourse of resourcefulness is associated with a particular masculinity, based on being generally handy, capable, and knowledgeable about practical things. This practical masculinity is also associated with the practical wisdom discourse.

6.5.3 Honour and shame Being manly is also related to being honourable, though again this is interpreted in different ways as discourses of masculinity are combined with the other discourses. Honour for the craftsman lies in doing work one can be proud of. Being asked to do unskilled work, or the work of another trade, would be taken as an affront to that honour. In other discourses, masculine honour is associated with fearless risk taking whether in gambling ones entire wage packet, or taking physical risks. Honour is also associated with independence and the propensity to jack rather than suffer the slightest indignity. The real man on site will do hard physical labour in uncomfortable conditions for long hours without complaining. He will accept getting cold and wet, muddy, dusty, or working in noisy conditions. But he will not accept being talked down to or ordered around, because he is touchy about his honour. There are many tales (which take on something of the quality of myths or legends) of the labourer who hit the bullying ganger with a shovel and walked off the job. Physical violence, or the threat of violence, is often related to aspersions having been cast on an individuals honour.

Pride is self-esteem, confidence in the narrative of self-identity; honour is based on a public image, seeing oneself through others eyes. Honour has to be earned by correct behaviour, and can quickly be lost by appearing cowardly or weak. Pride in masculinity is counterbalanced by shame if one fails to live up to the masculine image. Exposing feminine weakness compromises the narrative, and is shameful; masculinity is fragile and has to be constantly re-enacted. Even ageing is a threat to masculine identity, as declining physical strength and an inability to keep up with younger men lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame.

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6.5.4 Macho site culture Discourses of masculinity help to form a strongly macho culture, sometimes seeming almost a caricature. Talk in the site cabin is often about football and other sports, manly exploits of drinking (and sometimes fighting), or the ubiquitous pornography. Racist jokes are common. Gambling is a frequent pastime. Swearing is an important part of this macho site culture, seen as an expression of freedom and masculinity. Speaking nicely is associated with women, and thus with weakness and constraint.7 Shouting at passing women from the scaffold is stereotypically macho construction worker behaviour which some men seem to feel is expected of them though only a small minority of the men on site behave like this. There are on most sites plenty of quieter men who do not necessarily feel the need to perform an overacted masculinity (particularly older men, and those who draw most heavily on the discourse of craftsmanship). Yet neither do they challenge this hegemonic masculinity.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was mainly the women who described this culture as problematic; most of the men did not comment on it, or described it approvingly. Dean found it easy in that you kind of know the rules of masculinity, but two men did mention having had (male) friends who had left the industry because they were alienated by the macho, beery culture. However, the joking banter (comedy hurling abuse sessions), and the ability to have the craic was mentioned by many, male and female, as one of the best things about working in the industry. It is also appreciated for being a very direct culture where people say things to your face, not behind your back.

6.5.5 Class and masculinity With the decline of heavy industry and mining, construction work is one of the last remaining traditional male working-class jobs. The building trades can be seen as one of the last bastions of traditional working class masculinity. Practical occupations which call on embodied skills seem to be the most strongly gender-segregated. The discourse of masculine toughness called upon in construction work can be seen in part as a reaction against a middle-class value system in which the embodied skills of craft
7 In his site induction (attended by the researcher), Michael has to lay down rules on appropriate dress and behaviour which include not shouting at passing women, and not swearing where members of the public might hear. This can be seen as part of a modernising discourse and an attack on a culture which has historically been unconstrained by the necessity for politeness. Yet in order to do this, Michael calls on the traditional need for women to be protected from bad language, which is part of the discourse of masculinity saying you wouldnt want your granny to hear it.

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workers are devalued by comparison with the more cerebral knowledge of professionals. The discourse of masculine toughness describes a specifically workingclass masculinity. In many traditional working-class cultures, men are supposed to have physical strength and manual skills, whilst women are supposedly better at reading and writing; it is somewhat suspect for a boy to be too good at such things. In terms of this working class masculinity, men are superior to women, and to weedy, bookish men. 6.5.6 Anti-identities: visions of the others The anti-identities which serve by opposition to constitute and confirm the building workers masculine self are not women, but effeminate, weak, unmanly and incompetent men. The point is to be stronger, tougher and more masculine than other men. The masculine discourse is contemptuous of those weedy, effeminate men who go to work dressed up and are assumed to be inept and impractical, as well as cowardly and untrustworthy. This type of anti-identity is often described as gay or queer; these others are poufters or not real men. It is of course not homosexuality8 which is the issue here, but the perceived effeminacy of white-collar work.

6.6 The discourse of practical wisdom


6.6.1 Who draws on the discourse All those who do manual work in construction share the satisfaction of working with ones hands and producing a concrete output. Construction work is physical work, and the skills of the building trades are embodied skills. Whilst the wider society values cognitive skills and cerebral work, the discourse of practical wisdom identifies real work and real skill as manual work having a tangible, useful outcome. This is common to all site discourses. All in construction draw (to varying degrees) on discourses which value the practical knowledge and wisdom arising from experiential learning on site, rather than formal learning at college. It is such a central tenet of construction culture that even university-trained managers from non-trade backgrounds had often adopted this view. Not surprisingly, those who learned informally tend to subscribe most strongly to this view, but it is even shared by craft instructors in colleges, who agreed about the primacy of site experience.

The author has worked on site with masculine gay men who were perfectly accepted.

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6.6.2 Practical wisdom Youll learn more in a week being out on site than you would in a couple of months at college was a typical comment in the interviews. Those who work in construction commonly agreed that practical, experiential knowledge and learning from mentors (old boys) is superior to theoretical, classroom-taught knowledge and booklearning. Using a plane or a trowel is an embodied skill which cannot be learned from a book, only from practice. Those trained in college may learn to lay bricks in a workshop, but cannot be seen as skilled, as they do not gain experience of problem solving in the ever-changing site context in which their work will be carried out. This experience of the muck and bullets of construction, is vitally important in being considered as skilled. The building worker needs to learn to co-operate or negotiate in order to get work done. He needs experience of coping with the weather, ground conditions, time pressure, poor materials, difficult access... This complex tacit knowledge comes from trial and error, and is vitally important in dealing with the everchanging, unpredictable nature of work on the construction site.

Within the construction industry, there are competing views of skill rooted in experiential and classroom-taught modes of learning, with experiential knowledge valued by site workers, and more theoretical or scientific knowledge valued by officebased professionals such as engineers. Even on site and at a trade level there are competing discourses of skill and learning. Those who did formal apprenticeships including attending college tend to take a more nuanced view whereby both theory and practice are necessary. Most of those who served traditional apprenticeships stressed the value of both practical, on-site experience, and underpinning knowledge learned at college on day-release in achieving skilled status. Leroy said that in addition to learning how to do something during normal daily work, you were sent to college to understand why. Harold gave the example of needing to know which way up to put a lintel and why. Several people said that they had later consulted their college books in order to solve a real-life problem.

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6.6.3 Anti-identity: the pen pusher A building worker is not a pen pusher. This is often someone outside the construction industry, especially someone who does a job seen as not being of any practical use, such as an estate agent or marketing manager. Professionals and managers within construction may also be seen as pen pushers, especially those who are not site based, who do not have a trade background, or whose work is related to financial management rather than the management of production. The management of paperwork is seen as at best irrelevant. Engineers and (especially) architects are regarded as lacking in practical wisdom or nous, and may often be the subject of jokes and anecdotes about their lack of understanding of what a brick is. Construction managers from a trade background and others who know their stuff are respected, but the useless collegetrained manager is a strong negative stereotype and there were several tales of disastrous management which finally had to be put right by the old hands.

One interviewee compared the degree-qualified site managers to officers straight from Sandhurst/ as opposed to NCOs who had come up through the ranks. There is an interesting class dimension to the military metaphor. The pen pusher is presumed to be middle class, whereas the practical man is working class. Male working class culture is typically suspicious of theoretical knowledge, and construction as an industry also values practical wisdom, so it is no wonder that theory and book-learning tend to be disparaged. Because of the value placed on learning from immediate experience, theory, intellect and reflection can become suspect qualities.

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6.7 Womens identity and the discourses


The tiny number of women in the building trades would seem to face particular problems in constructing an occupational identity by drawing on these discourses, as all take completely for granted the male gender of the construction worker. A bricklayer, or a plumber is conceived as male. Simply being female is seen as incompatible with being a tradesman. Being female is often seen in the wider culture as incompatible with manual skills and physical strength and toughness9, and these assumptions underpin the discourses which (male) building workers draw upon. Thus, the identities the women are forging have few precedents, and women may need to be creative in drawing selectively on some of the discourses.

6.7.1 Class The discourses also take for granted the working class nature of the work, particularly when drawing comparisons with penpushing middle class jobs. This is especially true of the discourse of craftsmanship, solidly based in the respectable working class. The discourse of masculine toughness also describes a traditional working class masculinity, and the discourse of the practical man resonates with traditional working class values in embodied rather than intellectual skills. Whilst the men interviewed seemed clearly working class, the womens position was more ambiguous. Most seemed to come from working class family backgrounds but their own position was less clear. Some had done waitressing or similar womens working class jobs prior to training for their trade, but others had previously held professional jobs one was a teacher, one a physiotherapist. Many had a higher education (one had a PhD and several had degrees). This ambiguous position might even be related to their going into a trade in other words, it might be harder for a woman who was more solidly anchored in working class culture to make the move into a manual trade. (Paechter 2007 suggests that gender occupational segregation is more entrenched in working class populations.)

Only certain manual skills and certain uses of physical strength of course. The strength used in lifting children or the toughness needed to work in nursing or cleaning do not count; neither do traditionally feminine manual skills.

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6.7.2 The wrong sex? The discourse of craftsmanship is immediately problematic because the craftsman is assumed to be a man and the boy apprentice is a boy. This is exacerbated by the fact that hardly any of the women went into construction via traditional apprenticeships straight from school. However, women are accustomed to terms which exclude them it is only very recently that terms such as cavemen, businessmen, and mankind have become less common and might therefore adopt a craftsman identity without too much trouble, simply ignoring the need to be male. The problem comes if they feel that they are not accepted as such by the other members of the group, leading to a feeling of insecurity in their craft identity. One response to this is to study for qualifications.10

If the discourse of craftsmanship is problematic for women, the discourse of the resourceful survivor seems even more so. Only men commonly just pick up manual skills like tinkering about with cars or doing building work, and have the confidence that they can turn their hand to anything.11 Women tend to lack the brash selfconfidence needed to build an identity as an enterprising all-rounder, but even if they had the audacity, they would almost certainly not be found credible by others. Women also tend to be very committed to their trade for its own sake otherwise they would not have overcome the idea that it is a mans job. It is thus rare to find women who draw on this discourse, or on the discourse of just passing through which also sees the work in instrumental terms.

Women may also feel the need to prove themselves in other ways, whether by the quality and quantity of their work, their ability to handle heavy weights, or showing that they are one of the lads socially by swearing, telling tall tales of drinking, or giving as good as they get in the site banter. This need to prove oneself is not unique to women; everyone has to prove themselves and it is part of the traditional process of socialisation for the apprentice. The difference for women seems to be that, because they do not look the part, they continue to have to prove themselves on each new site, to each new group of men.
10 11

This was also mentioned by some of the men who felt inadequate at the lack of the label time-served . Even in the electrical trade, one of the most regulated, a female informant recounted: The guy that I was teamed up with to work with, hes only been in the trade 2 years, and god knows how he managed it but he managed to blag himself the job he can talk the talk, and tell outright lies he said even he was surprised when they offered him the job I just couldnt do that, just completely lie in a job interview... Helen.

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Women may therefore draw on discourses of masculine toughness in order to fit in. It is not merely the toughness required to endure hard physical work in uncomfortable conditions, but the social toughness required to stand up to the piss taking. One woman said everyone gets the piss taken ...its certainly not an industry for anyone thats got self-confidence issues, is it? Those women who thrive on site either adopt a tough persona in order to survive and become one of the lads, or they fit in because they already have some of the stereotypically masculine qualities and interests. I havent become one of the boys; I always was one of the boys (Fliss). Some women actually said that they think like men (i.e. in a stereotypically masculine way, more interested in problem solving than in empathy) and attributed their interest in construction to that.

A few women had counter-discourses which stressed the advantages of being female, suggesting that women were more able than men to refuse to carry out dangerous work or to handle things that were too heavy, because they were not obliged to demonstrate masculine toughness. In general though, the women seemed to adopt, with slight adaptations, the existing discourses of toughness simply ignoring the elements which suggest that being male is an essential attribute for being tough. Women do also draw on the discourse of practical wisdom, in spite of often having a higher level of education than the men. Many female informants made similar comments to those of the men, along the lines of you learn way more on site than you do in college. The women did not seem to have different criteria for assessing skill than the men; they also stressed personal contacts and experience rather than qualifications. Thus, altogether, women in the building trades commonly draw on discourses of craftsmanship, practical wisdom, and masculine toughness in ways which are quite similar to those of the men. It was striking that womens occupational identity with their craft as well as their tribal identity as part of the construction industry, tends to be very strong, perhaps because it has been hard won. Thus the women will criticise the industrys macho culture in private to other women in the industry, but resent any criticism by outsiders and deny that there are any problems.

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6.8 From a dominant discourse of craftsmanship to multiple fragmented discourses


In Manchester 30 years ago (and in particular at the CMDWD) the craftsmanship discourse was dominant. In theory at least, it was necessary to have served a recognised apprenticeship and to be a UCATT member in order to be recognised as skilled and engaged on the craftsmans rate. The myth of the boy apprentice laid down the proper way to learn a trade, and craft ideology laid down the proper way to work. Great stress was placed upon the antiquity of the building trades, and ones own trade was always seen as superior to others in semi-joking exchanges. The boundaries between trades were in general unproblematic and taken for granted, although any attempt by employers to change the scope of work carried out would be fiercely resisted. The division between craftsmen and labourers was carefully policed in order to prevent the labourer getting above his station by using tools. This also extended to policing the divide between the time-served and the rest, as exemplified by the sixmonth bricklayer being harassed until he left.

In general, over the past 30 years in the UK, there has been a move away from the stable, taken for granted identity associated with the discourse of craftsmanship and the myth of the boy apprentice. Many building workers now need to actively construct their complex, fragmented identities. These identities often still draw upon a discourse of craftsmanship, but combine it with the apparently contradictory discourse of the resourceful survivor and other discourses, as seen in some of the material in the previous chapter. The next chapter will explain why and how this has come about, and what effects it has had. Shifts in site discourses (and site identities) are interrelated with shifts in official discourses (as expressed in government and industry reports) and with changes in the structure of the industry. They are also interrelated with changes at a broader social level, in the wider culture and institutions of British society. There have always been those with lesser skills, those who acquire those skills in non-approved ways, and those taking a purely instrumental attitude to their work. It seems likely that in most times and places the resourceful survivor discourse (of getting away with it) has been a dominated and somewhat underground discourse, circulating only among those lesser skilled people. However, with the increase in numbers who acquire skills

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informally, and the cultural changes in wider discourses since the Thatcher years, it has now (in certain places at least) become the dominant discourse. Structural changes since the end of the 1970s such as the collapse of apprenticeship and training, and changes in employment practices are in a dialectical relationship with changes in the discourses used to construct identities. As less training is available, acquiring skills in an ad hoc fashion is the only way into the trades for many who are unable to find apprenticeships. An NVQ cannot be awarded unless someone is already working in the trade, so the only option is to chance ones way into a trade and to obtain the qualification afterwards if at all. The discourse of the streetwise, masculine survivor and the practical man makes a virtue out of necessity, and provides selfjustification. The discourse of craftsmanship may still be drawn on selectively, but it produces an uncomfortable feeling that one does not measure up to the ideal (cognitive dissonance) and thus it will tend either to be modified, or simply abandoned. Thus, the movement away from the dominance of the discourse of craftsmanship is further advanced.

Occupational identities are shaped by wider social, cultural and historical forces, as well as being crafted by individuals. It is thus important to set the discourses described in this chapter within the structural context in which they occur. This is what the next chapter attempts to do.

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Chapter 7: Explanation Continuity and change in building worker identities


7.1 Introduction
This chapter is the third of three which describe, interpret and explain the results of the research. Chapter 5 described the texts produced in the interviews. Chapter 6 interpreted this in terms of five popular site discourses. The current chapter explores the situational and interdiscursive context. The discourses expressed in the interviews are related to wider processes of struggle and change. The site discourses are compared with discourses current in the wider society and with official discourses expressed in government reports. The chapter also considers both the effects of structural changes on the use of the discourses, and the material effects of changes in the dominant discourses. This links back to the recent history discussed in Chapter 2.

This chapter also links back to the literature discussed in Chapter 3, drawing on concepts from social identity theory and discourse theory. These help to explain some of the ways in which discourses function as menus of discursive resources available to individuals (Watson 1995), and how discourse can be mobilised as a strategic resource (Hardy et al 2000) so that the available discourses are drawn on, transformed, and integrated into other discourses. Explanation also considers the power relations within the construction industry and wider society which have helped shape the discourses; the ideologies which are drawn upon; and the ways in which discourses contribute to sustaining existing power relations or transforming them. The discourses are considered as ideologies which guide ideas and actions. They can work to construct consent to the present structure of the industry, but also to express resistance.

The next two sections, 7.2 and 7.3, will consider in turn each of the five discourses drawn out in Chapter 6. After this, the discussion moves on to a wider discussion of skill and identity in the building trades. Important themes here include construction as a backward, pre-modern industry. Changes in discourses and identities in the construction crafts are related to changes in employment status and to changes in wider working-class identity and culture.

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7.2 The discourses in the literature


Five site discourses relevant to skill and identity in the British building trades emerged from the empirical work and were described in the previous chapter. Many of these discourses are barely mentioned in the CM literature. As referenced in Chapter 2 there are works on the history of the craft guilds, of the craft unions, and of specific trades such as stonemasons (Postgate 1923; Knoop and Jones 1933; Hilton 1963; Wood 1979) which are helpful in understanding craft identity. However, there is little in these histories which is helpful in understanding the other discourses. There is, as mentioned in Chapter 3, a rich literature on occupational identity, but little of this is specific to the building trades, and hardly any describes discourses and identities other than that of the traditional craftsman. Steiger describes the experienced craftsman, the specialist, and the Jack of all trades in his 1993 paper on common sense notions of skill and craft in the US construction industry. This may be the closest approach to the analysis here, but categories in the US are clearly different.

Therefore, for help in understanding discourses and identities other than that of the traditional craftsman, one has to turn to work outside the field of construction. Even here, whilst there is a wide literature on masculine identities (and some work on craftsmanship), there is little that is directly relevant to the other discourses, such as that of resourcefulness. This section will sum up the main links which can be made between the specific site discourses identified in Chapter 6 and the existing literature, especially when there is any relevant work within the CM discipline.

7.2.1 The discourse of craftsmanship The discourse of craftsmanship underpins historical studies of the construction crafts, and also some more recent ethnographic studies, such as Applebaum (1999) which describes occupational identities in the building trades in the USA. However, there is surprisingly little published research which makes explicit reference to craftsmanship. Sennett (2008) is a monograph on the craftsman in general, but not specifically in the construction context. Sennett (ibid: 294) identifies the pride and passion of unalienated work as central to craftsmanship

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Pride in ones work lies at the heart of craftsmanship as the reward for skill and commitment. Passion, which emerged strongly in the site discourses as vital to craftsmanship, is also a theme in the literature on communities of practice, which are defined by Wenger and Snyder (2000) as groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise.

One important element of the discourse of craftsmanship, the ideal of the boy apprentice growing up in the trade was identified by Myers (1948) as an occupational myth among building tradesmen, factually untrue but socially real. A study in the American mid-West in 1940-1941 found 39% of the tradesmen had entered their particular trade at age 25 or above and 42% had no formal apprentice training but had picked up some skills in an informal, unsupervised way. Yet the myth of the boy apprentice was important, as it represented the arduous acquisition of high skill and symbolised the linkage of familial tradition and occupation. Myers also notes that the tradesmen interviewed were inclined to respond with a quick if rather vague affirmative answer to the question of formal apprenticeship, but in many instances this was finally changed to a negative answer after a request for exact details. This was reflected in the findings from the interviews described in the previous chapter.

7.2.2 The discourse of resourcefulness This discourse does not appear to be explicitly identified anywhere, but can be inferred in some recent ethnographic work. Thiel (2005) describes a London building site on which only a minority had served formal apprenticeships but many had chanced their way into the building industry. A substantial number of the builders grew up the sons of artisans... For the bad boys however, things were different. They carried chequered pasts and had chanced their way into the building industry by firstly working as labourers and gradually learning the skills to become a tradesman of some sort. (ibid:109) The opportunist discourse of resourcefulness, (along with a corresponding discourse of masculinity) would seem to have been dominant on Thiels site.

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More broadly, however, the site discourse of resourcefulness can be seen in some ways as drawing from the enterprise discourse which has been described by du Gay and Salaman (1992). This will be discussed further in section 7.7.3.

7.2.3 Just passing through Paul the labourer saw his work merely as something Ive got to do at the moment to make a bit of dollar; while Chris said, I paint houses all summer so I can go climbing all winter. This strategy of distancing oneself from an unwelcome occupational identity has been reported in other occupations. Jackall (1978, reported in Ashforth and Mael 1989) found that people working in menial jobs in a bank often distanced themselves from their implied identity, by seeing the job as a temporary expedient.

In construction, Sykes (1969) carried out an ethnographic study of navvies, and found that many of them did not identify as navvies - they were just passing through, doing the job for a while, they were going to get out whether in reality or in their dreams. This lack of identification with their occupation may also have been a factor in the situation Sykes describes, where the joiners were in a trade union and acted together to defend their interests, but the navvies were not in a union, and tended to act individually and to value their independence.

7.2.4 Discourses of masculinity There is of course a large literature on masculinity and occupational identity in general, or in occupations such as factory work, printing, and the army. (See Cockburn1983; Collinson1992; 1998; Collinson and Hearn 1994; 1996; Willis1977; 1979; Woodward and Winter 2006) Mens paid work is seen as a central source of their identity, status and power. As an example, Barretts 1996 study of the US Navy showed how the Navy reproduces a dominant heterosexual masculinity with women and gay men serving as the others against whom heterosexual men construct and project their masculinity. This masculinity took multiple forms, so that the aviators emphasised masculinity as risk-taking, while supply officers prided themselves on technical rationality and the surface warfare officers on toughness and endurance. One can clearly see parallels here

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with the differing masculinities associated with different building trades, and with the differing masculinities associated with each of the other discourses. Bourdieu (1991:96) describes a social world conceived of purely in terms of toughness through which the men most deprived of economic and cultural capital grasp their virile identity by rejecting feminine (or effeminate) weakness. This rejected anti-identity is shown in the account (ibid: 266) of the mason who, asked to classify a list of occupations, dismissed the higher professions as a bunch of queers. This demonstrates the perceived effeminacy of professional work. Similarly, in a classic study of teenage boys, Willis (1977) found that the lads (working class boys) identified manual work as hefty, masculine and desirable, whilst mental work was seen as effeminate and despicable. This may have changed to some extent in the wider society, but in the construction trades it is still the case. Again, there is remarkably little empirical work specifically on masculine identities in the building trades. Masculinity seems often to be somewhat invisible, assumed to be an inevitable product of the overwhelming predominance of men in the trades in a somewhat essentialist way. Most analyses of the work process have used gender as a synonym for women (Baron 1992:70); Collinson and Hearn (1994) make this same point that men and masculinity are simultaneously central and yet ignored in studies of work and organisations. Macho site culture is mentioned in work on women in construction as a factor in womens exclusion; for example Greed (2000) describes the macho site culture encountered by women in construction professions, and the way in which these women may be neutralised as change agents by the process of professional socialisation. Yet the importance of masculinity in construction cultures, discourses and identities is rarely seen as an object worthy of study in its own right. One exception here is Thiel (2005; 2007; 2012), who describes the dominant masculinity on the site on which he worked. Most relevant to discourses of masculine identity in the building trades is a paper on canteens, latrines and masculinity on British building sites from 1918-1970 (Hayes 2002). This looks at the ways in which site workers masculine identities affected working conditions.

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7.2.5 The discourse of practical wisdom The discourse of practical wisdom identified here values learning from immediate experience, and disparages theory and book learning. This is analogous to the competing views of skill based in experiential and classroom-taught modes of learning described by Rooke and Seymour (2002). Rooke and Clark (2005) describe these as alternative bodies of knowledge underpinning competing authority structures, with experiential knowledge valued by site personnel, and theoretical or scientific knowledge more highly valued by construction professionals. These competing bodies of knowledge, and competing views of skill and learning, will be discussed in section 7.6.2 with reference to some ideas in contemporary learning theory including the concept of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991).

7.3 Site discourses and power


The discourses described in the previous chapter can be seen as ideologies, in that each springs from a coherent worldview capable of guiding ideas and actions, but also in that each can act as common sense in the service of power (Fairclough 1989: 154). Site discourses may reflect dominant discourses in the wider society (such as enterprise), may perpetuate divisive class, gender and race structures, or may be made use of in the struggle for dominance - as practical wisdom has been used to justify changes to the vocational education and training system.

However, the discourses may also provide important sources of resistance to dominant discourses, identities, and ways of organising production. Craft ideology forms a counter-discourse to individualism, entrepreneurial identities, and the fragmentation and deskilling of work. It is not the case that some discourses underpin resistance whilst others help to engineer consent. Rather, each discourse acts (in conjunction with others) in complex ways to contribute to sustaining existing power relations or transforming them.

Fairclough (2005) describes how discourses emerge and are disseminated, becoming materialised in the instruments of economic production, enacted in new ways of acting and interacting, and inculcated as new ways of being. They are never mere discourses

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but are acted upon; acted out in the everyday actions of doing the job through which occupational identities are forged. They have material effects, and are affected by the material conditions of production in particular localities, companies etc.

Each of the discourses which were described in Chapter 6 will be examined in turn to identify some ways in which it is useful to those in power, contributing to social continuity and helping to manufacture consent to the existing state of affairs, and also ways in which it can contribute to resistance and social change.

7.3.1 Craft ideology Craft ideology is a set of beliefs and values, usually inculcated during apprenticeship or other forms of socialisation into an occupational identity, which bind people together and can be drawn on to make sense of their experience. Central to this ideology, and to the discourse of craftsmanship, is the concept of pride in ones work. It is only possible to feel pride in ones work if one does work to be proud of. Craft ideology means that the craftsman will do a decent1 job even if no-one will see it, because it is a matter of self-respect, of identity, of honour. Cleaning ones trowel at the end of each day, or keeping ones saws and chisels sharp, is almost a moral obligation, with any failure to do so seen as shameful. Identification as a craftsman is integral and precious to the workers own image of himself. If the craftsman knows that his mentor would not have approved of his work, he feels guilt or shame or at least some discomfort. (This moral sense seems to be the sort of thing Durkheim (1957) was hoping to bring back in his proto-corporatist lectures on Professional Ethics and Civic Morals.) . The easiest way of avoiding this cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957) is to follow the traditional craft precepts one was taught (although there are of course other ways of making sense of, or rationalising, contradictions). Thus discourses of craftsmanship are acted out or acted upon, in the detailed actions of carrying out the job in accordance with craft traditions.

Craft traditions, as described in Chapter 2, long predate the birth of capitalism. In some senses, craftsmanship can be seen to stand in opposition to (and to be threatened by) modernity, industrialisation, and the capitalist organisation of the construction industry.
1

A decent job, a proper job, a good job all terms which have moral implications, in addition to describing the standard of the work.

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Yet the discourses and practices of craftsmanship help sustain the profitability of the industry as currently organised. The internalisation of norms about quality and behaviour means that the craftsman will (by definition) do a good job even if no-one is checking up on him, and even if it does not pay him financially to do so. As discussed previously, not to do a good job is to cut your nose off to spite your face, because it involves pride and identity. Workers do not have to be supervised, they are selfdisciplining (see Stinchcombe 1959; Applebaum 1999). The situation of construction craftsmen seems in some ways to parallel that of the photocopier repair technicians described by Contu and Willmott (2006). The technicians fantasy of the hero plays a symbolic function which serves to manufacture consent2. The technicians allegiance is to their occupational community rather than the firm. Yet their commitment to getting the job done, keeping the customers happy, and keeping the machines running inscribed in their very being is nonetheless consistent with company goals of costeffectiveness, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, corporate profitability. However, a key difference is that unlike the photocopier repairers, the craftsman does not identify as an individual hero. Craft ideology and craft traditions are based upon a more collective identity, and thus form an important source of resistance to the entrepreneurial identity. Its survival can be seen as countering the resourceful survivor discourse which is rooted in an individualist, enterprising self. (See Fournier and Grey (1999) for an account which emphasises counter-discourses in opposition to the discourse of enterprise.) Craft skill and craft ideology are also constraints on management control (Jacques 1996), and a source of resistance to fragmentation and deskilling (Braverman 1974), felt as an assault on craft identity.

7.3.2 The resourceful survivor: Getting away with it In the tough, competitive world described by this discourse, it is every man for himself. The resourceful survivor is very aware that he may be exploited by others who will seek to profit from his labour. If those who engage workers see them as means to an end (trowels etc), the survivor too sees his employment as means to an end, a rational economic bargain in which he is seeking the maximum reward for the minimum

See Burawoy (1979).

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effort. He is in it for the money (and the craic). This purely instrumental view of work could be seen as resistance to the third-order control3 (disciplinary control in Foucauldian terms) of craft ideology, with its obligation to do things right in order not to let down the honour of the craft. Not taken in by this, the worker approaches his employment with calculating self-interest. However, this is a resistance which is entirely based on the individual as a solitary, rational actor. The resourceful survivor identity is rooted in an individualist, enterprising self. His fight against being exploited tacitly accepts the framework within which the battle takes place, and is thus contained within the system. Craft ideology and craft unions have traditionally fought a rearguard action for control of the work process, as well as fighting collectively for a bigger piece of the pie for their members4 as a whole. The resourceful survivor (singly or with his little gang) tends to fight for a bigger piece of the pie in competition with other workers doing the same job on the same site. Thus the discourse functions to sustain rather than challenge the power relations within the industry.

7.3.3 Just passing through The discourse of just passing through shares the instrumental get the money and fuck off approach with the resourceful survivor discourse, but tends to lack the references to enterprise. The just passing through discourse is associated with temporary, agency work, with get the money and piss it up the wall. The worker who draws on this discourse has no ambition related to their occupation, except insofar as the wages they earn will enable them to go climbing, or have fun, or perhaps support their family. It is thus rather pre-modern, in contradiction to the Protestant work ethic and to ideas of enterprise and getting on. If coming in late is resistance, then this is resistance. If not caring is resistance, this is resistance. The resourceful survivor is putting up a resistance which seeks more for doing less, but accepts the existing system of power relations as it is. The craftsman is putting up a resistance which seeks more control over the conditions of work, but is very useful to the system. However, the worker who is just
3

Perrow (1986, reported by Weick 1995: 113-116) suggested that organisations operate with three forms of control: first-order control by direct supervision, second-order control by programmes and routines, and third-order control consisting of assumptions and definitions taken as given. This third-order control, which is implicit, tacit and taken for granted, is similar to concepts of culture and ideology. 4 In competition perhaps with other workers seen as different e.g. labourers.

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passing through to some extent undermines the system with their complete lack of commitment or interest. They are undisciplined, recalcitrant, easy-come, easy-go. They have their own agenda. However, their resistance may simply consist of going on a bender for a week, then coming back chastened and repentant when the money runs out. This discourse of just passing through also prevents a collective identification, because it rests on seeing oneself as different from ones workmates they are building workers, but I am not really a building worker.

7.3.4 Masculinity The idea of masculinity is one of the last refuges of the identity of the dominated classes... characteristic of people who have little to fall back on except their labour-power and sometimes their fighting strength. Bourdieu (1993) The masculine occupational culture is a complex amalgam of resistance and consent, as class and gender intersect. Craft traditions infused with masculinity represent a constraint on management initiative, and male bonding may be an expression of the workers culture of resistance, as described by Cockburn (1983), of printers and by Yarrow (1992), of miners. The solidarity forged between men as a group of males is part of the organised crafts defence against the employer (Cockburn 1983: 134). Masculine toughness may be expressed in standing up to the boss, either collectively or individually. The group norms developed can bond workers together against management.

Yet this masculine culture is also functional for the employers, being expressed in being able to work hard, to endure discomfort and to brave danger. Men in the building trades are beguiled by masculine ideology. Their masculinity ties them to long hours of hard physical labour and forbids them to struggle for better working conditions or safe and healthy sites because theres something sissy about safety (Hayes 2002). Masculine toughness is also traditionally expressed in drinking, fighting, horseplay and shouting at passing women, which are less functional for the construction firm, but male solidarity may be expressed with management, in behaviour which excludes women.

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7.3.5 Practical wisdom The dominant discourse outside the construction industry sometimes also subscribed to by professionals within construction portrays it as backward in many ways. Because the work is embodied, it is seen as requiring no intelligence. Anyone can put one brick on top of another. Middle-class disdain for working with the hands means that building work is not considered as skilled or valuable as intellectual jobs hence the outrage at the prices charged by domestic plumbers. Manual and craft skills are looked down upon by comparison with purely intellectual skills. Building workers resistance to this view of themselves and their work as stupid and unskilled stresses particularly the practical nature of their skills, using the discourse of practical wisdom. However, the emphasis placed on what you can do in practice tends to portray underpinning knowledge and theory as not being of practical relevance. Thus this site discourse of practical wisdom can be made use of in order to promote narrower views of skill as merely competence in carrying out certain operations. This will be discussed further in section 7.6.1.

7.3.6 Reflecting, opposing or subverting dominant discourses In general the changes at the micro level of the site discourses can be seen to reflect and reinforce changes at the macro level. However, some aspects of the site discourses can be read rather as resistance to the changes at the macro level, in both structures and discourses. There is not a discourse of resistance, but rather, all the site discourses, to varying degrees, incorporate elements of resistance to the discourses of the wider society, as well as elements which reflect and reinforce them. This resistance may take the form of straightforward opposition, or of adopting a discourse whilst subverting its meaning. So for example craft ideology has strong elements of resistance to all forms of modernity. Nostalgic discourses of skilled craftsmanship can be drawn on to oppose discourses of the enterprising self. On the other hand, the ideology of getting by draws on discourses of enterprise, but takes it to such an extreme, seeking the maximum reward for the minimum effort, that it can also be seen as making use of enterprise as resistance to discourses which suggest that workers should be compliant and have a good work ethic. A major difference here is that the former is a collective resistance to threats to cherished identities, whereas the latter is an individual resistance.

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7.4 Constructing identities


7.4.1 Identity work: Identities and anti-identities When seeking to form a positive self-identity, all building workers are faced with negative images of manual labour, of construction, and of builders in general. Many are also faced with negative stereotypes of their occupation in particular. Interviewees frequently referred to these negative views, for example Why would you want to become a builder? Its noisy, its grimy... people smoked, drank, took a sub5... (Leroy). Two bricklayers separately referred to the stereotype of the thick brickie, just putting one brick on top of another, while painters and decorators referred to the saying if you can piss you can paint. These views are widely held by those outside the construction industry, by some construction professionals and managers, and even by one trade looking down upon another, or trades looking down on labourers. In order to resist these negative stereotypes and construct a positive sense of self, all building workers need to engage in identity work. They do this by drawing on discourses such as those described in the previous chapter: pride in craftsmanship, pride in masculinity and being rough and tough, or asserting that one is not really a building worker but just passing through. Associated with these discourses are various social-identities (see Watson 2008) or positive stereotypes, such as the craftsman, the practical man, the real man.

Social identity theory (Ashforth and Mael 1989) holds that people tend to classify themselves and others into social categories, and that these identifications have significant effects on human interactions. In particular, it is through the existence of outgroups that an in-group becomes salient to individual identity and attachment. The self is constituted around what it is not. The in-group tends to develop negative stereotypes of the out-group; these are the anti-identities (such as the chancer or the effete office wallah) described in Chapter 6 as part of the site discourses. These social categories provide the duality necessary for differentiation, for the opposition between us and them. For the rough and tough masculine man it is the weedy effeminate office wallah who goes to work dressed up. For the craftsman it is the chancer or jumped-up labourer, as well as the effeminate office worker. The categories are not mutually exclusive but overlapping.

An advance of wages.

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7.4.2 From the dominance of the craftsman discourse to fragmented and multiple discourses Traditionally the construction craftsman knows who, and what, he is. This is something few other modern jobs offer. Working in a call centre or a supermarket does not define identity in the same way (though being a doctor or an architect may). Perhaps this secure sense of identity is something many modern people are seeking, but which many of those who work in construction already have.

The traditional way of learning a trade, by apprenticeship, takes a boy, and forms him into a craftsman the trade becomes part of the developing identity of the adult (Cockburn1983; Reimer 1979; Roberts 1993; Sennett 2008). Several interviewees spoke of the importance of being brought up in the trade from a young age. Part of the reason for the young age of the traditional apprentice is that he will not already have a strong identity and can thus more easily be formed or formatted in the trade. Occupational socialisation means learning to talk, look, think and act like a painter, a joiner or a bricklayer and therefore becoming a painter, a joiner or a bricklayer, as described by many of the interviewees, especially those over 50. (See chapter 5, and also Appendix D where a typical apprenticeship is described.) Yet, though the myth of the boy apprentice remains strong, this form of socialisation into a skilled identity has undergone a rapid decline over the past 30 years. This, along with other changes in the structure of the construction industry and in the discourses of the wider society which will be discussed in this chapter, means that individuals have more choices to make in constructing their identities. Rather than acquiring a readymade, solid and taken-for-granted occupational identity through being brought up in the trade, there is a need to construct an identity by bricolage6, drawing on menus of discourses. The self is no longer single (if, indeed, it ever was) but multiple. People draw on different meanings at different times and in different circumstances in their identity construction. These multiple selves are sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory.

The term was introduced into the social sciences by Lvi-Strauss to connote the process of finding out how to make things work by messing around with whatever materials were to hand. It was taken up by Derrida, who argued that all discourse is bricolage.

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Those from the traditional background of apprenticeship may have the least identity work to do as theirs is still the approved ideal. They may not have multiple conflicting identities to the same degree as those who learned by other means, or those, such as women, who do not fit the norm. Yet the craftsman is increasingly often confronted with structural circumstances - such as off-site manufacture, the spread of more competitive ways of working, self-employment and payment by output - which make it difficult to follow craft ideology and thus present problems in constructing the self by keeping a particular narrative going (Giddens 1991:54).

7.4.3 The importance of context The concept of identity work captures the personal aspects of identity construction. Individuals can be seen as drawing on discourses in unique and creative combinations in order to form, maintain, and strengthen their sense of self. Identities are actively constructed, reproduced and changed in discourse - albeit choosing from a limited palette of discursive possibilities and social-identities determined by the cultural context. However, identities are matters over which struggles take place (Jenkins 1996: 25), and individuals can be regarded both as actors in those struggles and as sites of discursive struggle (Merilainen et al 2008: 540).The discourses described in Chapter 6 can also be seen as working through people; their individual subjectivities constituted through discourse. Discourses are both socially constructed and socially constructive (Fairclough and Wodak 1997). Some discourses have stronger institutional and material support than others. Some become so powerful that they are invisible, taken for granted as common sense. Occupational identities are shaped by wider social, cultural and historical contexts, and it is thus important to set processes of individual identity work within the context in which they occur.

Both the situation in which someone finds themselves working, and the discourses which dominate, there and in the wider society, affect the expression of skilled identity, as was seen in Chapter 5. The situational context includes structural aspects (means of engagement and payment, subcontract or direct, price or daywork, individual or group bonus) and social-cultural factors such as group norms for how hard to work and to what quality standards. However, group norms associated with traditional craft

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identities may be wider than the particular firm or workgroup, as also discussed in Chapter 5. One interviewee explicitly said that whether someone goes along with the attitude of the majority on site depends how strongly you feel your identity in the craft... if youve got a strong identity in the craft you wont be able to do that, it wont be possible, its like lying or cheating.

The main aspect of the situational context discussed in this chapter is employment status. Where workers are self-employed, the wider standards of the craft often become the main form of quality control. Yet it is just this that is undermined by the decline of traditional apprenticeships and traditional craft identities. Factors affecting the motivation of a worker, such as pay and working conditions, precariousness of employment, the quality of management, and the presence or absence of time pressure, may also be seen as affecting their enactment of their identity. This is more subtle than simply having the skill but consciously deciding not to apply it; that is actually quite difficult to do. Motivation is complex and never simply a question of pure economic rationality. (Some building workers themselves suggest that it is, but often contradict this in their next sentence.) The expression of skill through ones labour can be a source of joy in itself, even when the employer is resented; and the atmosphere and norms on site depend on people working for many different firms. As suggested by the informants in Chapter 5, those with a very strong craftsman identity may hold to this almost regardless of the circumstances, but those whose identity is more fluid, more multiple and nuanced, may be more likely to be swayed by the circumstances in which they find themselves.

The other aspect of context is the discursive context. Discourses of enterprise or investing in skills in the wider society may colonise construction, and construction workers identities. These discourses may be seen as percolating through different parts of society, gradually moving from one area of life to another, as people come to own discourses, to act and think and talk and see themselves in terms of new discourses, new ways of being, new identities (Fairclough 2005). These newer discourses may combine with and modify pre-existing discourses. For example, the notion of enterprise from the wider culture seems to have combined with the already existing site discourse of the resourceful survivor, strengthening it and being strengthened by it.
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7.5 Construction as a pre-modern industry


7.5.1 Modernity and an archaic industry The built environment is a key element in the human control over nature which is central to modernity the availability of artificial weatherproof enclosures with piped water and sewage systems, heating and cooling, and artificial light. Yet the process of building is carried out largely outside this controlled environment, as those who work on construction projects are acutely aware. Buildings are literally rooted in the earth. Bricks, mortar, concrete and plaster are advanced forms of mud. Frost, rain, sun and wind affect many construction operations. The weather, working outside, unpredictability, and ground conditions are recurring themes in writing or speaking of construction from mud and lack of toilets making construction unsuitable for women (Greed 2000), to the contracts exceptionally inclement weather, or normal clay (Clegg 1975; 1987). In construction we are a long way from the end of nature.

Construction work, unlike much contemporary employment, is embodied, requiring manual dexterity and heuristic handicraft skills to be applied directly and locally onto the product. You cant hammer a nail over the Internet, and you cant learn from a book how to use a plane as one of the interviewees said. Construction workers do not live in a virtual world, but a physical one. Craft skill is in the hands, not (just) in the head. Many of the interviewees insisted upon this embodied aspect of manual skill as being in the hands. And the workers physical capital is used up in the form of fatigue, and gradual injury (musculoskeletal problems, hearing loss). According to Giddens (1991: 30), expert knowledge in pre-modern cultures tends to depend on procedures and symbolic forms that resist explicit codification whereas modern expertise depends more on lengthy training and specialisation. The construction crafts are still characterised by this tacit knowledge that resists codification - though rules of thumb are everywhere under attack by modernity.

Construction is often referred to as backward (Hayes 2002; Woudhuysen and Abley 2003). Construction crafts can be seen as forming one of the last bastions of premodernism, of not having to dress smartly, to be nice to people, to be computerliterate, or literate at all. Thiel (2005) describes social relations in construction as marked by informal network morality, nepotism, reciprocity, gift relations and the

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threat of violence, and calls the building industry archaic. The almost total absence of women on site and in the trades is itself a powerful indicator of the archaic nature of construction. When men resist womens presence on site because we wont be able to swear, it is not as trivial an issue as it might seem. Women are seen as a threat to a premodern culture which has historically been unconstrained by the necessity for politeness.

There is also in construction a rootedness in place which is the antithesis of (late) modernity with its globalisation and decontextualisation or disembedding. A building has to be made (or at least erected) in situ. Both construction firms and construction workers are dependent on their local networks. Thiel (2005) reports that the builders he studied: did not live in a world of fractured narratives, unbounded mobilities and weak ties, but were embedded in tight family and neighbourhood networks that not only subsume their private lives but spread into their work lives. Far from living in a post-modern world, the builders world was almost pre-modern. Yet these strong local networks are nevertheless set within a wider context of intense modernity, of global and regional economic changes, changes in the national institutional context, changing social structures and discourses. Many of the changes of the past thirty years, such as the migrations of construction workers, and the rise in selfemployment, can be seen as the playing out at a local level of these wider changes.

7.5.2 Stability in a chaotic world Work on construction projects is (arguably) inherently chaotic. Construction projects are multi-party coalitions characterised by complexities, uncertainties and interdependencies. Cicmil and Marshall (2005) describe a chaotic, ambiguous and unpredictable reality. The factors contributing to this chaos, complexity and uncertainty are natural and social, human and technical, internal and external to the project however defined, for example, the unpredictability of weather, the whims of owners and the mistakes of designers (Applebaum, 1982). The properties of natural materials are unpredictable. Interactions between people are complex because construction projects span many organisations with conflicting priorities.

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This chaos is described by Kevin, one of the interviewees: Deliveries dont arrive, wind stops the tower crane, the floor layers dont turn up because theyve gone to another job, or got too pissed last night, or been arrested... Basically, shit happens. Expect the unexpected. (See Ness 2010a for a discussion of the management of construction projects as a process of attempting to bring order to chaos.) Much of constructions old-fashioned, backward nature and resistance to change may in fact be a way of dealing with the chaotic, complex, constantly-negotiated nature of construction projects. Having a grounded identity and stable scripts for ways of doing things both the work itself and social interactions with others makes it possible to operate amidst the constant flux of the construction site environment. Support for this proposition comes from organisation theorists such as March and Simon (1958) and Burns and Stalker (1961). Burns and Stalker contrasted mechanistic and organic systems, and noted that the flexible, organic systems only work when there is a dependably consistent system of shared beliefs about the common interests of the working community and about the standards and criteria used in it to judge achievement, individual contributions, expertise... This is what the norms and rules of thumb of the craft traditionally provide. Craft socialisation inculcates standards, values, criteria for judging skill and behaviour, and scripts for ways of behaving (both socially and technically). This gives stability and predictability across a community wider than the temporary multi-organisation of the project.

7.5.3 Challenges to the discourse of backwardness The dominant discourse outside the construction industry portrays it as backward in many ways (dirty, unskilled, unsafe etc). Within construction, there are competing discourses which challenge this. The analysis of the policy documents shows that the construction industry is presented by industry bodies such as ConstructionSkills as modern, professional and high-tech. According to this view, history only moves forwards. This may be progress in terms of modern methods of construction and upskilling, progress in terms of the acceptance of women construction professionals, progress in terms of efficiency, or progress in terms of better safety and working

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conditions. These modernising discourses are found in websites and other publicity materials from various quangos; in public discourses from HR managers and senior managers in large construction firms; in texts from professional bodies and academic institutions; and in government-sponsored reports on the construction industry over the whole post-war period. Technological advance is assumed to be both inevitable, and inherently positive. In texts such as the Egan report (DETR 1998) and Constructing the Future (DTI 2001), modernising, improving, rethinking, best practice, productivity and culture change are counterposed to the bad old adversarial attitudes, resistance to change, backwardness and barriers to innovation. (See also Chapter 2, especially 2.2.8.)

Building workers are increasingly marginalised in discourses which seek to constitute the construction industry as modern and high-tech. The core workforce consists of professional and managerial staff, whilst manual workers are engaged at arms length, contributing to the invisibility of those who do the physical work of construction (Ness and Green 2012). The solution to the construction industrys image problem (as a dirty, low skilled, accident-prone working environment) is said to lie in explaining that building is not just about bricks (ConstructionSkills Positive Image campaign) or not all about bricks and mortar! (bConstructive website). Construction is presented as consisting of professions offering nice, clean jobs where you wont scratch your nail varnish. The images are of glittering modern buildings, carefully made-up young women in hard hats, and people sitting at computers; mud, bricks, and manual work are conspicuous by their absence. The backwardness of the industry is thus pushed off onto the hairy-arsed steelfixer or bricklayer, seen as everything we (professionals) want to dissociate ourselves from rough, foul-mouthed, coarse and stupid, as well as backward in all senses (Ness 2009).

These modernising discourses are almost completely absent from the construction site, and occurred hardly at all in the interviews with site-based workers and managers. Where some small hints of them did occur, they were full of contradictions (See for example Mikes induction described in section 6.5, footnote 9). Site culture opposes the construction as backward discourses in more subtle ways, subverting the meaning ascribed to backwardness. Site discourses portray construction work as uniquely tough, masculine, and practical, whilst celebrating the freedom it can offer. Hayes (2002)
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describes the construction of a positive masculine site identity, based on skill but also on physical endurance and hardship. This is part of a broader, positive interpretation of the building process as being almost romantically anti-modern, traditionalist and crafts-orientated, and overtly masculine - set within a dominant discourse portraying it as backwards (Hayes 2002: 640). The site discourses described in Chapter 6 are all (apart from the just passing through discourse) called upon in the construction of this positive site identity. There were many examples in the data reported in Chapter 5 which draw on these traditionalist, antimodern sentiments often including this thread of romantic nostalgia which will be described below.

7.5.4 Dirty work Building workers do dirty work both literally and metaphorically. Murray et al (2002) describe the stereotypical view of construction workers as characterised by images of dirt, unsafe working practices, macho and sexist behaviour and unsatisfactory workmanship standards. Construction work can be dangerous, dirty, noisy, rough, dusty, heavy, smelly, cold, wet and uncomfortable. The middle and upper classes have long looked down on dirty building workers (Tressell 1965; Bowley 1966). In the interviews, Dean recounted fellow-passengers not wanting to sit next to him on the bus because of his dirty clothes, and also being refused service in a pub for the same reason.

Yet building workers do not passively accept this view of themselves. There are many responses to the challenge of constructing a positive identity in the face of the prevailing view of construction work, and construction workers, as dirty, stupid, and backward. Some may react as Dean did, drawing on discourses which dissociate their identity from their occupation, seeing themselves as more than their job and refusing to be defined by it. This was seen in two examples in Chapter 5, and is particularly associated with the discourse described in Chapter 6 as just passing through. However, many building workers instead draw on discourses which celebrate their occupation. The discourses of masculinity and of practical wisdom described in Chapter 6 are of particular relevance here, celebrating toughness and practical skills. Elements of the

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discourses of craftsmanship and of resourcefulness are also drawn on in constructing a positive site identity. One way to counter the dominant discourses in the wider society which sees construction work as dirty and unskilled, and construction workers as stupid, is to stress the highly skilled nature of the work that is the discourse of craftsmanship. Ashforth and Kreiner (1999) argue that the social stigma of dirtiness fosters development of a strong occupational culture, and thus dirty workers do not tend to suffer from low self-esteem. They develop occupational ideologies- we perform dirty work because were tough, not because we have limited options. The stigma of dirty work is a threat to self-esteem and the need for a secure, stable and positive selfdefinition. This shared threat helps to foster group cohesion, so that the world is seen in terms of us and them. As discussed in Chapter 3, there has been little research into the construction trades from this perspective, yet it seems clearly applicable to builders identity work as described in Chapter 5.

The physical danger in construction work strengthens the shared sense of threat. The reliance on informal networks for recruiting, and the existence of demographic niches (whereby virtually all building workers are male, and specific trades in particular places are dominated by or exclusive to particular ethnic groups) also add to the sense of separateness from outsiders. This leads to the development of occupational ideologies which help make sense of peoples experience in a positive way. The meaning of the stigmatised work is transformed by reframing. Hard physical labour is reinterpreted as reflecting masculinity. The very aspects of the work which are most stigmatised mud and dirt, heavy labour, physical danger, poor working conditions are glorified, while work, and workers, lacking these characteristics are redefined as inferior. The building workers counter-discourse sees himself as tough, masculine, and full of practical common-sense as opposed to the effete, pale, weedy, book-learned architect or office worker who is clever but lacks nous. The idea of real work or honest work often recurs. LeMasters (1975) observes that manual workers know they have done a days work because their clothes and bodies (dirt and fatigue) testify to the fact. Real work means physical labour and getting your hands dirty. Masculinity is associated with physical endurance and resilience; the ability to resist hardship - dirt, discomfort, and danger. The building worker professes contempt for those effeminate men who go
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to work dressed up in white-collar jobs, considered more suitable for women. This ideal of masculine toughness is demonstrated in the account by Bourdieu (1991: 266) of the bricklayer who, asked to classify a list of occupations, dismissed the higher professions as a bunch of queers. 7 There is, as reported in Chapter 5, even a hierarchy within the building trades, with the more intellectual trades looking down on the rougher trades and labourers, who in turn accuse electricians of not being real men.

7.5.5 Nostalgia and resistance to Modernity There is a longstanding tension between nostalgia and modernisation in many accounts of the transition to modernity, perhaps most notably Durkheims description of anomie being a consequence of the division of labour (Durkheim 1957). This suggests that modernisation involves the loss of community and traditional forms of moral regulation. In recent years a small but growing literature has begun to emerge on the subject of nostalgia in organisations (for example Strangleman and Roberts 1999; Strangleman 2002, 2007 etc). In these writings, nostalgia represents a discursive resource to be mobilised in the context of threats to cherished identities.

Nostalgia was a strong thread which emerged in many of the interviews and discussions. It can be seen as central to discourses of craftsmanship, which tend to refer back to a mythical golden age. This may be the days of the mediaeval craft guilds, the days when the DLOs provided stable employment and the trade unions were strong, the days when small firms cared about the work they did and trained apprentices, or (perhaps most often) the days of the informants own apprenticeship. Concepts of tradition and history underpin the idea of craftsmanship. Masculinity too is often a strongly nostalgic discourse, as the all-male camaraderie of the construction industry becomes more and more of an exception to the wider society. Now and then, interviewees would correct themselves, saying there were no good old days, no loyalty; construction was always associated with insecure employment and poor facilities (having your brew sitting on cement bags). More than one referred to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Tressell 1965) as showing how things really were in the old days. Yet there was an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia about many of the
7

As previously noted, the point is not sexuality, but hegemonic masculinity.

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interviews. This emerged most powerfully in discussions with retired tradesmen and clerks of works. However, it was a factor in the interviews with everyone over the age of about 40, and also with some of the younger informants. There is strong resistance to attempts to modernise construction culture. This powerfully nostalgic strand tends to resist politically-correct attempts to bring women and ethnic minorities into the trades, fearing changes to the traditional site culture8. It also tends to resist or denigrate bureaucracy, NVQs, college-trained site managers, and the QSs who are taking over the building industry. However, nostalgic discourses are drawn on selectively rather than adopted wholesale. By no means all those who oppose one form of modernism oppose all its manifestations. Women, college-trained site managers, and those who learned trades in non-traditional ways all drew on aspects of these traditionalist discourses in constructing their occupational identities. Any contradictions seem to be managed fairly easily. On the cultural level, then, there is strong resistance, and the impact of modernist discourses is relatively weak on site. However, structural changes such as the end of direct employment in the hollowed-out firm would seem to be a much stronger factor, having both direct and indirect effects on the level of discourses and identities.

7.5.6 Informality The informality of recruitment practices in construction is well-documented in the literature (Bresnen et al 1986; Druker and White 1996; Clarke and Hermann 2007). However, this literature has not fully brought out the extent to which co-workers determine who is recognised as skilled.9 Informants in this study with over 50 years experience of the industry suggested that informal practices for assessing skills are longstanding characteristics of some parts of the construction industry. What seems to have changed is that these informal practices have now spread to almost the whole industry. The historical research at the CMDWD looked at a very specific moment in
8

In response to a specific question about suggestions that site culture should be changed to be more welcoming to women: No, I dont think if you dont like it, dont stay! Yeah. Why are we gonna change everything, so that you dont have to hear us swear?... But, what exactly are you looking to change? The fact that people will take the piss out of you and have the craic? Fred, PM 9 They do not, of course, 'decide' in a vacuum; their views on what constitutes skill are shaped by aspects of the context as will be seen.

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history in a large public-sector organisation. Here, recruitment and selection tended to be more formal, and more emphasis was placed on the possession of qualifications (as described in Chapter 5). The decline of the public sector, coupled with the growth of subcontracting and self-employment, means that the structured relationships of direct employment have largely been replaced by more casual relations, where recruiting the right person is not seen as too important, because if they fail to meet requirements, you just get rid of them.

Thus the last 30 years have seen increased informality in ways of learning a trade, in recruitment and in assessing skills. The decline in formal training can be attributed to low demand for skills during recessions leading to declining company commitment to new entrant training; changes in the tax and national insurance system which encouraged self-employment; the disappearance of DLOs which formerly carried out much training; the decline of traditional apprenticeships; and the wider European labour market making it easier for UK contractors to import skills and thus avoid the expense of training local workers.

The consequence of this for construction workers is greater reliance on informal networks in order to acquire skills and in order to find work, and reliance on informal, pre-modern ways of organising the actual production on site. On construction projects, a great deal of organising, much of it informal and invisible, is achieved through networks, markets, gift relationships, affection (camaraderie and having the craic) and other non-managerial ways of organising such as barter, exchanging favours, cooperation, and craft administration in accordance with the empirical lore of craft principles. Indeed, if the main contractor has withdrawn from involvement with production, there is still a need for organisation and co-ordination of the actual physical work of construction on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis, reacting flexibly to unexpected events. This co-ordination is still going on, but it is less recognised, more informal than ever, because it has been pushed down several levels of subcontracting. Building workers themselves continue to have considerable influence over the definition of those who are suitably skilled, but whereas it used to be by means of trade unions and other formal mechanisms, it is now through informal networks.

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Occupational socialisation still happens even in the absence of traditional apprenticeship. The rites of initiation the teasing, ridicule, and need to prove oneself, and the group support and comradeship once accepted are an integral part of construction culture. Learning to talk, look, think and act like a painter, a joiner or a bricklayer is perhaps more important than ever. Roberts (1993) makes the point that conforming to appropriate dress and behaviour is important to apprentices in continuing to access tricks of the trade taught by more experienced workers, and knowledge may be withheld from those who do not fit, for whatever reason. This fitting in becomes even more crucial to those who learn by informal means, as described by John and Dean in Chapter 5, section 5.3.1. A key point in whether people are given the chance to pick up skills appears to be whether they are accepted by their workmates. Being a good lad and the other side of embeddedness Being known to be a good lad came out in the interviews as crucially important in finding work informally. Being sound or a good lad entails having a certain work ethic and physical toughness, but may have little to do with quality or quantity of output. It is a complex mix of fitting in, who and what someone is, and being an honourable man. It involves conformity to social and cultural norms, values, and ways of behaving, but also relies upon essential identity such as gender or membership of an ethnic group. As reported in Chapter 5: Theyre exclusively Irish, and mostly Donegal. It is a father and son, uncle and nephew job. That is almost a closed shop. If youre not married to one of their nieces or their daughter or something, youre not going to get in there. The assessment of new workers is not only carried out by managers and supervisors who are formally responsible for recruitment and selection. It is often other workers who propose suitable recruits, and may also be co-workers who decide to get rid of someone, as with the 6 month bricklayer described in Chapter 5 who was persecuted by his colleagues until he left.

Research has indicated that the more informal the forms of recruitment, the more social networks come into play as a powerful form of exclusion (Clarke and Wall 1998; Dainty et al 2000; Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies 2002; Clarke and Herrmann 2007). Formal training and qualifications may be a way in for those with no connections, as suggested by one informant in Chapter 5. Clarke and Gribling (2008)
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found that, even on Heathrow Terminal 5 where recruitment methods were claimed to be non-discriminatory with clear selection criteria, in practice recruitment was mainly by word-of-mouth for manual jobs. Such informal methods, combined with the preference for practical experience over formal qualifications, tended to entrench the predominance of white males. The interviewees described this same process as leading to and reinforcing the longstanding dominance of the Irish over tunnelling work, or of the Southall Indians/Sikhs over certain carpentry and joinery work.

Weber (1978: 342) described this process by which a status group such as an occupation secures resources and privileges by excluding others. To do this, they single out certain social or physical attributes that they share, and define these as the criteria of eligibility. In modern industrial societies, access is often controlled by tests and examinations which are (ostensibly at least) open to all. However, the building trades are premodern in this respect. In the absence of qualifications and certificates as instruments of social closure, they have returned to traditional criteria of family pedigree as well as networks based on ethnicity and local community. The other side of embeddedness is that the same social relations that enhance the ease and efficiency of economic exchanges among community members also operate to exclude outsiders. There seems to have been a move backwards, away from modern, bureaucratic criteria such as qualifications which were used by the DLOs, and, to some extent, the large contractors who used to directly employ trades. Informal on-the-job training (and informal recruitment and selection) with minimal involvement by government, employers, or trade unions, means that personal characteristics have become more important than ever. This enables skilled workers to erect their own barriers to entry, which may include restricting access to men and boys from their own local community or ethnic group. In the absence of social closure through trade unionism, control over apprenticeships, or educational credentialism; building craft workers defend their skilled status at least partly through networks, membership of which becomes important to the perception of the worker as being suitably skilled. (As described in Chapter 5)

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7.6 Changing views of the nature of skills


7.6.1 From becoming a craftsman to acquiring competencies As described in Chapter 2, vocational education and training (VET) in England over the last 30 years, and particularly since the introduction of NVQs, has come to offer narrowly-defined, task-specific qualifications. Training has moved away from being seen as aiming to develop the trainee in the broadest educational sense (BRS 1967: 2). The tendency more recently is for training and qualifications to meet the short-term needs of (large10) construction firms, which are assumed to be the same as those of the individual, the wider society, and the construction industry as a whole. These assumptions were largely rejected by the interviewees, who clearly saw these changes as working against the interests of the individual and the industry. NVQs were referred to as fragmenting or segmenting trades, as being inferior to the traditional apprenticeship, and as standing for not very qualified. The lack of breadth of NVQs, almost universally condemned by the interviewees whether they were craft workers, managers, or craft instructors, was attributed to changes in the labour market, so that firms simply require a short-term worker with the skill needed for the particular job in hand. Some informants associated this with the rise of self-employment and short-term contracts; for others it was associated with the employer-led development of NVQs being dominated by the big firms, who just want someone to hang a thousand doors. Learning a trade (socialisation into a skilled identity) has been (at least in part) replaced by the idea of competencies. Competence, like skills, qualifications and knowledge, is a contested concept (see Brockmann et al 2007; 2009; 2010; Eraut 2004; Sandberg 2000). In general usage, however, skill has connotations both of the ability to do something well and the notion of expertise or mastery, whereas the notion of competence implies doing something adequately. Competence (and especially competencies) is widely used in management discourses to refer to the narrow ability to carry out a specific task. Competence is shown by behaving in a required fashion, whether or not one has the underpinning knowledge and understanding. Competence in this sense relates only to what is needed to do the current job or task. By contrast,
10

It was suggested by several interviewees that the limited scope of NVQs came about because the government only consulted large firms or only large firms have the resources to send representatives to the bodies which are consulted and it is the large firms which want a joiner to hang a thousand doors rather than one with all-round skills who the small firms want.

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skilled identity as a craftsman is characterised by a broad (and shared) occupational capacity and the bringing to bear of judgment informed by systematic knowledge. This is very different yet the common-sense nature of knowing what skill is (and what a bricklayer is) helps to hide the magnitude of the change. Brockmann et al (2009) discuss how different VET systems in different EU countries determine conceptions of competence in the different EU countries. The argument here is that, in a similar way, changes over time in vocational education and training have affected conceptions of skill. The determined attack11 on traditional apprenticeships described by Roberts (1995) for shipbuilding and engineering trades was also described (and deplored) in the building trades by many of the informants in this study, as reported in Chapter 5. The Modern Apprenticeship (and the NVQ) is competence based; apprenticeship as a process of becoming a skilled craftsman has been largely replaced by the learning of fragmented skills. These changes in the VET system were reflected and reinforced by changes in both site and official discourses. the discourse...sought to devalue the efficacy of the traditional forms of apprenticeship through mobilising technocratic forms of discourse meant to render the image of the traditional apprenticeship old fashioned, espousing the need to move from serving ones time to a more competence based approach (Roberts, 1995: 27) There has, in general, been a weakening of the discourse of craftsmanship which stresses the importance of serving ones time in the process of becoming skilled. There has been a parallel strengthening of a modernising discourse of competence, where what matters is what you can actually do. This is so both in site discourses and in official discourses. The shift in site discourses reflects both changes in official and managerial discourses and also inter-related changes in other social practices (such as employment practices).

The appropriation as management knowledge of what was previously craft knowledge has been described by writers in the tradition of labour process theory (Braverman
11

The attack on traditional apprenticeships was in part discursive. Not all of it was necessarily an attack in the sense of being consciously planned for example, the suggestion of apprenticeship being oldfashioned and 'not what young people want' may be part of wider cultural changes. Other elements do seem to have been quite deliberate, as for example the rules on revenue accounting which prevented DLOs from training apprentices, as described in Appendix D.

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1974; Grugulis 2002; Clarke 2005). The identification in this study of the site discourse of the practical man which tends to disparage theory and book-learning, helps to show how this change has been brought about in the building trades. Construction as an industry particularly values practical wisdom. Official and managerial discourses of competence were therefore able to draw on this site level discourse and reflect it back to the site in changed and magnified form. This site discourse of practical wisdom has thus been made use of in bringing in NVQs and OSAT, reducing underpinning knowledge and theory, and appropriating what was previously craft knowledge. On site, discourses of craftsmanship now co-exist (and compete) with discourses of competence. Many informants described the competence-based view of skill as harmful, equating it with the move from learning a broad range of skills to specialisation and deskilling: they dont want a joiner; they just want someone to hang doors. However, several, especially those who were not time-served themselves, said that what matters is what you can do; some used the term competence. The implications of this for identity are far-reaching. A move from occupational identity representing what you are to merely what you can do means that the person who can no longer do it (because of infirmity, or simply because they are unable to find employment), is nobody their occupational identity annihilated. This also suggests a move from a more solid and taken-for-granted identity to the need to construct an identity by drawing on a menu of discourses, as described in Chapter 6. Yet, although site discourses stress what you can actually do as opposed to formal training and qualifications, in fact the process of informal learning on site may be still more a process of becoming than of learning specific competences. The accounts of the recognition of skills in recruitment and selection clearly show that testing what you can actually do in a trial period is used only when other means of assessment are lacking. Being a good lad who/what you are and who you know is a more important criterion in this situation. Dean (who learned informally) spoke of the importance of knowing the jargon in order to gain credibility as a bricklayer (see Chapter 5). The importance of identity also comes out in Johns disapproving account (in Chapter 5) of the labourer becoming a shuttering carpenter he does it by picking up the skills but also by adopting the tools and dress of a carpenter i.e. a hammer round his flaming middle.

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7.6.2 Competing bodies of knowledge In the wider society, manual and craft skills are devalued by comparison with purely intellectual, cognitive skills. This is longstanding (it was criticised both by Ruskin and by Tressel, amongst others), but the division seems to have been exacerbated by structural and cultural changes in the 1980s and 1990s - the dramatic move from the old-fashioned making of things to the modern making of money, the attack on the construction of skilled identity through apprenticeships, and the weakening of traditional working class identities. This is part of the industrys image problem; respect is not accorded to learning a trade. This lack of respect and status was referred to by many interviewees, particularly though not exclusively by the older ones.

Construction workers with practical skills resist this devaluing of their knowledge, leading to competing bodies of knowledge based in experiential and classroom-taught modes of learning (Rooke and Seymour, 2002). Rooke and Clark (2005) describe the alternative bodies of knowledge underpinning competing authority structures, with experiential knowledge valued by site personnel, and more theoretical or scientific knowledge valued by professional engineers. These may be seen as parallel to the modernist versus traditionalist discourses described above in section 7.5. The value of practical, site-based learning, as opposed to classroom learning is a key element of site discourses, as seen in Chapters 5 and 6. The discourse of practical wisdom described in Chapter 6 was exemplified by many interviewees saying such things as you learn more in a week being out on site than you would in a couple of months at college. In the popular discourse of the construction site, knowledge and practice cannot meaningfully be separated. Practical knowledge acquired through experience is considered far superior to formal knowledge.

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7.6.3 Official discourses of skill and learning Changes in policy on vocational education and training were discussed in Chapter 2 see 2.2.These changes in policy - the move from central manpower planning to a demand-led market in skills and an employer-led training policy with the introduction of NVQs - are paralleled by changing discourses. The analysis of the corpus of policy documents shows how changing discourses of skill and learning were interwoven with changing policies. To some extent these changing discourses were the means of bringing about the changes in policy. In particular, the policy focus on individuals was tied up with investment and return rhetoric, human capital theory, and the view of skills as luggage. All these themes emerge in a speech on the role of work given by the then prime minister in 2007. Blair asserts that the character of this new age is one of individual empowerment (Blair, 2007: 6). Also In the new knowledge economy, human capital, the skills people possess, is critical (Blair 2007: 3).

The focus on individuals Since the 1980s, individual employees have been increasingly expected to be personally responsible for their own training and career development. Conservative governments free-market ideology, associated with a culture of competitive individualism, was consistent with a growing emphasis upon the need for individuals to take charge of their own career development and see that they acquire the right balance of skills (D.Emp 1988: 13). As Payne (1999: 9) describes it Skills , formerly understood by many as complex social processes, were now decontextualised and de-constructed into finite, isolable competencies to be located as the property of the individual, who then carried them, luggage-like, from job to job The focus on individuals continued in the 1990s and 2000s, with responsibility for education and training increasingly transferred to individuals. There were calls for individuals to invest in their own skill development (DTI 1994: 76). Similarly in the speech by the then prime minister mentioned earlier (Blair 2007: 2) the possession of skills is seen as an individual solution to counterbalance the power of employers: the employees position has strengthened. They can change employers. The challenge today is to make the employee powerful, not in conflict with the employer but in terms of their marketability in the modern workforce.

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Fairclough (1992: 209)argues that learners are contradictorily constructed, on the one hand as active customers for educational commodities, and on the other as passive instruments of production to be trained. The concept of skill is an important factor in allowing these two contradictory constructions of the learner to coexist, because: it seems to fit into either an individualistic and subjectivist view of learning, or an objectivist view of training. This ambivalence is reflected in the history of the concept within liberal humanist and conservative educational discourse, and in the semantic history of the word skill. On the one hand the concept of skill has active and individualistic implications: skills are prized attributes of individuals, individuals differ in types and degrees of skill, and it is open to each individual to refine skills or add new ones. ... On the other hand, the concept of skill has normative, passive and objectifying implications: all individuals acquire elements from a common social repertoire of skills, via normalized training procedures, and skills are assumed to be transferable across contexts, occasions, and users, in a way which leaves little space for individuality. In the construction sector, responsibility for training and career development is increasingly delegated to individuals. The market relationship replaces the employment relationship. Many construction firms have no training policy for manual employees, because, on paper, they have no manual employees. Training and development are largely confined to core professional/managerial staff (Green et al 2004). The plethora of different contractual arrangements ... mean that the responsibility for skills development is devolved, often repeatedly, until they rest with the individual unskilled worker who is least likely to have information, resources or inclination to embark on a lengthy training programme. (Dainty et al 2007: 506). Main contractors delegate responsibilities for employment issues down multi-layered chains of sub-contracting that culminate in a workforce that is notionally self-employed. Even payment of the training levy may be passed down the chain to labour-only subcontractors and deducted from the pay-packet of self-employed operatives. Human capital theory The skills as luggage discourse described above (Payne 1999) is associated with the human capital approach used by economists, which sees skill as an attribute of the person, traded in a series of individual employee/employer bargains. Thus bargaining power rests with each individual worker, and the role for collective action by trade unions etc is limited. Human capital theory, reflected in investment and return rhetoric has become the most all-pervasive framework for national and European policy on

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education and training and for bodies such as the International Labour Organisation. Nor is this view limited to official discourses. Steiger notes that in the construction industry, skill is often seen as a property of the individual in spite of the importance of the work gang (Steiger 1993: 555). This was also seen Chapter 5 (section 5.6.2) where craftsmen in the interviews used investment and return rhetoric to justify wage differentials with labourers, speaking of long years on apprentices low wages while young labourers were earning more. The idea of investing in skills occurs constantly in recent policy documents on vocational education and training. The website of the (now defunct) Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in our hands campaign (LSC 2007) used investing in skills rhetoric to appeal to individual self-interest. It asked, on behalf of the ideal reader, whats in it for me?, and answered there has never been a better time to invest your money in a training course and watch it grow. Train to Gain was one of its slogans. There was even a page giving figures for the value of learning. Supposedly the rate of pay with a level 1 qualification was 19,100, while with level 2 it was 21,500, an increase of 12.6% - though the governments own figures elsewhere show that level 2 vocational qualifications bring no significant financial benefit (DfES et al 2005, Part 3: 13-14).12

The pervasive emphasis on individuals of this dominant discourse about gaining a competitive edge through individuals investing in their own skills has a number of serious drawbacks, in particular that the sum of individuals rational choices may not be rational for the industry or the nation as a whole. There is no such thing as society, merely enterprising individuals who invest in their skills and sell them on the market. The skills as luggage approach is underpinned by an individualistic, cognitive theory of learning (which locates learning in the heads of individuals rather than in social processes). It does resonate with certain aspects of site discourses of skilled identity. As already mentioned, tradesmen use investment and return rhetoric to justify wage differentials with unskilled labourers. The discourse of resourcefulness also tends to take an individualist frontiersman view, or at least to look at skills as the luggage of a small gang who move together from job to job, rather than a collective signifier based on group norms wider than the particular workgroup.
12

Several previous studies (for example, Dickerson and Vignoles 2007) have found zero or even negative returns to low level vocational qualifications.

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However, the more dominant discourse on site would still seem to conceive of skill as a more social, collective process. This was shown in Chapter 5 by the comment from an interviewee that if another bricklayer is not doing good quality work theyre not gonna want to work with him because hes reflecting on your work, which suggests a feeling of collective responsibility for the honour of the craft; hence the necessity to protect its status by excluding those who do not live up to the standard. It was also seen in Chapter 5 how site understandings of skilled identity emerge through a process of collective sense-making by all those involved. In addition, all official discourses seem to confound skill and qualifications (as discussed in chapter 2) whereas site discourses disparage qualifications and regard them as irrelevant to real skill.

7.6.4 Knowing as social process Some ideas in contemporary learning theory are aligned with the construction tribe practitioners view, especially the discourse of practical wisdom described in Chapter 6, rather than the official discourses of skill discussed above. The Dreyfus model of learning (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1988, reported by Flyvbjerg 2001: 10-20) seems to resonate with aspects of the construction practitioners understanding. The novice learns explicit facts and rules, but these quickly become a barrier to further learning. Personal experience via trial-and-error is then needed to progress through advanced beginner level. The competent performer can prioritise, making choices and judgements. The proficient performer develops spontaneous interpretation and intuitive judgment based on experience, combining this with analytical evaluation. The expert operates without conscious deliberation, from a mature, holistic, intuitive understanding, which comes primarily from embodied experience. The properties characteristic of the higher levels in the learning process are context, judgment, practice, trial and error, experience, common sense, intuition, and bodily sensation (Flyvbjerg 2001: 23). Intuition and judgment are developed by thinking on ones feet; ...bodily involvement, speed, and an intimate knowledge of concrete cases in the form of good examples is a prerequisite for true expertise (Flyvbjerg 2001:15). However, these theories still have a tendency to locate skills in the individual rather the social process. The site discourses are contradictory on this point. Skills are seen both as a basis for personal, individual identity construction, and as the basis of group

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identification at the level of trades. Skills are also often seen as a resource for the work group, as small teams of (often self-employed) workers move from site to site together.

The concept of communities of practice - sharing stories as a means of transferring tacit knowledge and making sense of situations - draws attention to the situated and social nature of knowledge and learning. Lave and Wenger (1991) argue that knowledge and practice cannot be separated. Knowing is understood as an active social process embedded in context and inextricably situated in the social settings it inhabits, rejecting the conception of knowledge as objective, eternal and universal. Learning is described as the development of an identity. Learning is seen as the historic production, transformation and change of people: learning is no longer equated with the appropriation or acquisition of bits of work-related knowledge, but is understood as the development of a new identity based on participation in the system of situated practices (Lave and Wenger 2005:193-194). This fits with the accounts of apprenticeship as occupational socialisation (see sections 7.4.2 and 7.5.5, Chapter 5, and Appendix D.) Critical writers in the field of education have also insisted upon knowing as activity by specific people in specific circumstances (Lave and Wenger 2005: 152) and questioned the concept of generic skills that are simply transferable between different contexts. ...skills are by definition inseparable from the contexts in which they are developed and displayed, and they only make sense (or, rather, the same sense) to those who have the same recognition and understanding of those contexts (Wolf 1991: 194). This clearly resonates with the traditional practices and discourses of the construction site. In the site discourse of practical wisdom, knowledge cannot meaningfully be separated from its context, and the concept of transferable skills is a nonsense. The reason you learn more on site by miles is the experience of problem-solving in the ever-changing site context. The discourse of craftsmanship also insists upon the interweaving of theory and practice rooted in context, and the importance of learning embodied skills from mentors. There are, however, competing ways of managing construction projects the traditional methods of the craft-trained foreman versus modern project management as a technology of control that can be applied anywhere, to anything (Applebaum 1999; Ness 2010a).

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7.7 Employment status and its effects on identity


The changes in vocational education and training (VET), and in views of skill, discussed in the previous section, are part of a web of inter-related structural and discursive changes affecting the construction of site identities. Institutional changes such as tax incentives for self-employment, compulsory competitive tendering which undermined DLOs, and legal attacks on trade unions and employment rights, were reflected and reinforced by changes in discourses and identities. The focus in this section is on employment status and self-employment, but this is closely related to other issues such as divisions of labour (fragmentation and deskilling), the rise of extended sub-contract chains, short-term, insecure casual and agency work, and payment based on output rather than on hours. The UK construction industry is now characterised by the hollowed-out firm relying on nominally self-employed labour, most of which is supplied through labour agencies or labour subcontractors. This was reflected in the two contemporary sites where interviews were carried out; in both cases only managers were directly employed by the main contractor.

7.7.1 Self-employment and skill Since the older informants started work in the construction industry, there has been a massive growth of self-employment and subcontracting, with a corresponding decline in direct employment, and a shift in the remaining direct employment from large and medium sized firms to small and micro sized firms. As described in Chapter 2, this began in the 1970s and gathered speed in the 1980s and early 1990s. Three major effects on skills were identified by the interviewees: the decline in apprenticeship and training, fragmentation and deskilling, and a declining quality of work. These changes have themselves then impacted on workers identities (and the discursive resources available to construct them) in ways which are discussed in other sections.

The decline in apprenticeship and training

It was universally asserted by the informants that self-employment and LOSC are among the major factors which have led to a collapse in apprenticeship and training. This is also the conclusion of much of the literature. For example, the CITB was described by Winch (1998: 539) as not unlike King Canute in the face of the tides of

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the self-employed; while Harvey (2001: 43) concludes Mass self-employment has effectively put an end to craft training in workplaces. Fragmentation and deskilling

The demise of direct employment has not only led to a massive fall in the quantity of training, but to a change in emphasis - from serving ones time as an apprentice and learning a broad range of skills, to competence and specialisation. Several interviewees made the point that it is only when trades are employed directly that the contractor has an interest in the workers breadth of skills. When production is subcontracted or employment is casualised, all that is required is someone to do one specific job efficiently and cheaply. The superficial, circumscribed nature of NVQs was also attributed to the end of direct employment, meaning contractors do not want fullyskilled workers, but cheaper semi-skilled ones, leading to deskilling. Where firms engage casual, self-employed or agency staff, it is in their interests for them to have narrow skills. This is firstly so that the workers hang doors or glaze windows as efficiently as possible by only doing one operation. It is also so that the worker is as cheap as possible. Thus if the job is rough blockwork, there is no need to pay for an allround bricklayer capable of doing fair face brickwork. 13 Thus employment patterns affect not only the amount of training, but the breadth, depth and types of skill. Declining quality of work

It was also a recurring idea in the interviews that self-employment and subcontracting, particularly multi-layer subcontracting with lowest-cost tendering, leads to poor-quality work. Pride in what you built and loyalty on both sides (you belonged to the firm) were mentioned as the distinguishing factors about the direct employment relationship which lent themselves to to the production of quality work. Several respondents asserted that with self-employment theres no loyalty on either side. Thus perhaps what is important is not skill in the man or skill in the job, but the skill in the situation. There is a lack of skill expressed and used in the work, even if not a lack of (potential) skill in those doing it. Skills depend in great part on the situation in which they are exercised; so how skilful someone appears may depend on the situation

13

These points made by the interviewees are also, of course, to be found in the literature, most notably Adam Smith and his pins, and Braverman.

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in which they work. Both the firm and the workers exercise their skills in a particular contractual, financial, and social context and employment status is a major factor in this. The employment relationship affects the time the worker expects to spend on a job and the standard expected, ways of working, and the workers attitude to the job and the craft. These factors also affect how they see themselves and are seen by others.It seems that it is not merely a matter of declining levels of skill or training. The whole way in which people understand skills depends upon the broader dynamics of the employment context. The extent of subcontracting, self-employment, casual work, and agency labour; the length of subcontracting chains and extent of specialisation of the firm at the bottom of the chain engaging the workers, all come into play. The meaning of skill emerges from a process of sensemaking which depends on the context and is grounded in identity construction. It is well known by informants and well documented in the literature that there are strong links between the decline in direct employment and the decline in training. It is also fairly straightforward to argue that self-employment and other forms of casual, short-term engagement lead to fragmentation and deskilling, whereas direct employment (or otherwise having a continuing relationship) is more likely to lead to demands for multiskilling. Where firms engage casual, self-employed or agency staff, it is in their interests for the workers to have limited skills, for reasons of both efficiency and cheapness (Smith 1961 [1776]; Ruskin 1900; Braverman 1974). However, what has emerged from this research is the idea that meanings of skill depend on the nature and anticipated longevity of the employment relationship. The enactment of skilled identity by the worker, as well as the understanding of skill by the construction firm, are in part determined by the employment context.

7.7.2 The ambiguities of employment status It is sometimes suggested that most self-employment in construction is in fact simply wage labour, taking the form of self-employment. This may be a strategy for workers to pay less tax and national insurance, and for firms to evade labour regulations and other statutory obligations. Many have used the term false or bogus self-employment to describe employment practices in the construction industry (Harvey 2001; OECD

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200014). Yet it is not so simple. Naming something helps to shape it. As Keenoy (1999) puts it nothing has changed but everything will be perceived differently - which means, in fact that everything has changed not least the linguistic construction of the employment relationship. Whether people see themselves as employees or as independent contractors affects and form part of their identities.

As shown in the interview with the electricians in Chapter 5, employment status is often ambiguous. There is a continuum from the independent self-employed artisan to the nominally self-employed wage labourer. There is some overlap, and some confusion, between self-employment and casualised employment. (See Winch 1998; Harvey 2001; Clarke et al 2008.) Both are common in construction, and it has been argued that much supposed self-employment is in reality simply casual employment. However, direct employment may also frequently be on a project-by-project basis. The older interviewees pointed out that even when employed for many years, hourly-paid workers were traditionally subject to being disposed of at an hours notice. Conversely, selfemployment does not preclude longer-term relationships developing over time, and there were some examples of this on the sites studied. In construction, it seems, employment is like self-employment (because it is unstable, and because workers control the details of how the work is done - see Applebaum 1999) but self-employment is often like employment (because workers may only work for one employer, and the contractor controls the overall organisation of the site see Harvey 2001).

However, there were also seen in the empirical investigation to be real ambiguities in the categories of worker, employee, independent subcontractor, working proprietor etc., which complicate the construction of occupational identities in the building trades. In some cases it is not entirely clear whether an independent self-employed artisan is doing favours by passing on surplus work, sub-subcontracting a job, employing someone on a casual basis, employed by them, or working with them on equal terms. Who works for whom is a shifting, ill-defined and rather slippery concept. Widespread selfemployment also contributes to making the boundary between workers and supervisors blurred and shifting. Being in charge becomes fluid and emergent.
14

The OECD (2000: 156) describes the false self-employed as people whose conditions of employment are similar to those of employees, who have no employees themselves, and who declare themselves (or are declared) as self-employed simply to reduce tax liabilities, or employers responsibilities.

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7.7.3 The enterprise culture Enterprise discourse has two strands, the structural, economic, or material dimension, and the cultural, moral, or more narrowly discursive. As du Gay and Salaman put it (1992: 630) enterprise should not be viewed as a pure discourse as that term is often (mis)understood - i.e. as a combination of speech and writing but always and only as a dimension of material practices, with material conditions of emergence and effectiveness. Thus, it is crucial to keep in mind the wider political and social conditions of possibility for enterprise. The duality is artificial; the two strands are not simply interwoven but mutually constitutive. Self-employment and discourses of enterprise The replacement of direct employment by notional self-employment has clear economic causes, but can also be seen as part of the decline of collectivism and rise of individualism. Thus its conditions of possibility are discursive as well as economic. The discourse of the enterprise culture had a fundamental impact on the UK construction industry. From the mid 1970s through to the current era the sector has experienced significant structural change. The discourse of the enterprise culture has further acted to transform the self-identities of the workforce. The most obvious manifestation of the enterprise culture was the active encouragement of self-employment. (Green 2007) A recurring theme of the enterprise discourse is defining internal organisational (employment) relations as if they were market relations and thus requiring enterprise from employees. In construction, the fiction is perhaps taken a step further than in other industries; in both cases the effects are real. Du Gay and Salaman (1992: 630) point out that it is important to recognize that if an activity or institution is redefined, reimagined or reconceptualized it does not maintain some real, essential or originary identity outside of its dominant discursive articulation, but assumes a new identity. Self-employment may be false or bogus, merely disguised wage labour. But the discourse becomes reality; rewriting the language changes the world. The effects on identity are demonstrated by the electrician saying you get rid of them rather than they get rid of you (see Chapter 5).

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The enterprise discourse has been described by du Gay and Salaman (1992: 628) as the way in which certain enterprising qualities such as self-reliance, personal responsibility, boldness and a willingness to take risks in the pursuit of goals are regarded as human virtues and promoted as such. These are very much the qualities valued by the enterprising survivor in the discourse of resourcefulness identified in the interviews and described in Chapter 6. This is an individualist discourse of every man for himself, where strength, initiative, independence, risk-taking and boldly seizing opportunities are sources of pride. Putting one over on others and getting away with short cuts is celebrated. This seems a reflection of the greed is good philosophy of Gordon Gekko (in the 1987 film Wall Street) and also of Harry Enfields Loadsamoney character (an obnoxious plasterer who constantly boasted about how much money he earned15). These are particularly associated with cultural changes of the 1980s, and the structural changes of this era can certainly be seen to have been mutually constitutive with these discourses.

Yet construction has a long history both of insecure, casual employment, and of the autonomy and independence of construction workers. (Indeed, the direct employment of construction tradesmen by general contractors was a relatively late innovation in the19th Century, as described in Chapter 2.) As independence is so valued, even those who are directly employed share some of these enterprising characteristics with the labouronly subcontractor. Applebaum (1999: 63) says when Tom talks about his work he sounds more like a contractor than an employee. Several writers have suggested that building workers may be a self-selected group who value autonomy, independence, and risk-taking, and are thus more likely to prefer self-employment (Austrin 1980; Moore 1981; Scase and Goffee 1982). (See the Life histories in Appendix D where one of the interviewees in this study talks about having three or four jobs a day working on the Lump in a building boom.)

On the other hand, Harvey (2001: 35) reports that tribunal appellants had simply been given the form and told to sign it otherwise there would be no work16, and that many of the notionally self-employed themselves considered it to be a legal fiction. This also
15

Loadsamoney was killed off after Enfield became disturbed that he was being seen in a positive light, rather than as a satirical figure. 16 But of course tribunal appellants cannot necessarily be taken as typical.

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resonates with the experience of many interviewees in this research, whose employment status was often imposed rather than chosen. According to John S [self-employment] was the only option, if you wanted to work, whilst Will said youve got to be CIS to get work. Even where chosen, it was to some extent considered as a fiction, as with the electrician who said Youre not supposed to work for the same company. But there are ways round it (see Chapter 5). Much of the point of self-employment for the contractors is, arguably, its effects on workers identity. It has an individualising, atomising effect which reduces trade union influence. Men can work alongside one another doing the same job but being paid different rates which may depend as much on their national origin as on their employment status (Austrin 1980; Green 2006). Wages become a private affair, to be regulated directly by market forces rather than by collective negotiation or trade union intervention. This individualising effect on identity will be discussed in the next section.

Resistance to the enterprise culture: counter-discourses Fournier and Grey (1999) point out that enterprise does not have the monopoly of representations they cite as examples the alternative discourses of family business, and of the professions. Alternative self-identities for the (notionally) self-employed building worker may be rooted in craft skill and pride in doing the job well, in the trade union and/or in family, community and social networks. These identities may be compatible with an enterprising self-identity, may modify it, or may stand in opposition to it. The craftsmans strong collective identity may be a source of resistance to the individualising ethos of enterprise. Yet his human capital view of his own craft skills, and his position as labour aristocrat, lording it over the unskilled, may nonetheless lead in this direction. The labourer is perhaps more likely to see work as determined by forces beyond his control (which tends to exclude an enterprising identity) and to focus on camaraderie and having the craic. Yet here too a traditional discourse of independent masculinity is consonant with the discourses of enterprise which have permeated society over the past 30 years.

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7.8 Competition and individualisation


7.8.1 Working-class identity and culture As far back as the 1950s, some have suggested a decline in the collective identity of the working class per se, due to affluence and consumerism (Lash and Urry 1987; Phelps Brown 1990). Since the collapse of the 30-year long boom and the advent of Thatcherism the focus of debate on the nature of the working class has shifted from the effects of material prosperity to the growth of individualism and even the demise of the (respectable) working class as a cultural group (Blackwell and Seabrooke 1985; Jones 2011). Almost all traditional (male) manual working-class occupations have simply disappeared in the UK. This has led to the loss of a world in which the (male) working class were defined by work, and peoples lives (sometimes) made meaningful by manual labour geared to tangible, material outputs. Construction is the last of these traditional working-class occupations to survive on a large scale. Not surprisingly, therefore, construction workers seem less affected than others by the loss of vitality in social classes and craft communities which leads to feelings of rootlessness and uncertainty about social identity, values and purpose.

7.8.2 Construction as an exception The particular mix of the physical and mental involved in craft skill engages the whole person. The (relative) lack of separation between conception and execution means that the building trades are closer to fully-human, unalienated work, than many jobs. Seeing your work at the end of the day or pride in your work was (along with freedom) one of the main positive aspects of building work appreciated by the interviewees in this study. The tangible output of manual construction work is uniquely satisfying, and a source of pride (Applebaum 1999; Riemer 1979). Many modern jobs and organisations do not seem to confirm and strengthen the occupational identity of the employees; the linkage between worker and work is often weak and lasts only as long as the job. Construction is an exception to this, where many still draw meaning and motivation from their involvement and identification with their

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work. An unemployed carpenter is still a carpenter17; whereas a shop assistant who is no longer employed by Superdrug is no longer a shop assistant, even if they have done an apprenticeship in vocational retail beauty skills (DIUS website 2009). The building trades are similar to professions in the strength of their occupational identification. Traditionally, building workers, and skilled craftsmen in particular, form part of a cultural community with a strong sense of history, identity, solidarity and camaraderie. The occupational community is defined by a shared culture (ideas, beliefs, behaviour), and group identity (Applebaum 1999). Occupational identity is crucial to individual and collective identity formation. The discourse of craftsmanship identified in this research stresses the importance and the value of being something, not simply doing a job. As seen in Chapters 5 and 6, those drawing more strongly on discourses of craftsmanship said I am (a bricklayer, a joiner). This social identification expresses the perception of oneness with or belongingness to some human aggregate (Ashforth and Mael 1989: 21). However, those drawing on the discourses of the resourceful survivor or of just passing through tended to say I work as. They may see themselves as more than their occupation, and resist identification with it.

7.8.3 Individualism and increasing competition In spite of the strength of collective occupational identity in the trades, there has long been a strong thread of individualism in construction. Freedom and autonomy are highly valued in all the site discourses; the freedom offered by construction work was cited by almost all the interviewees in this study as one of its best aspects. The discourse of the resourceful survivor which emerged in the analysis of the interviews is very much in line with Sykes description of civil engineering navvies who took pride in the fact that they would jack on the merest whim if they did not take to a foremans tone. Sykes (1969a; 1969b) argues that the navvies individualism was a result of the unstable, insecure employment in civil engineering; hence they made a virtue of necessity and stressed independence. Yet Thiel (2007: 233) argues that it is, on the contrary, the

17

This is similar in engineering crafts. In Boys from the Blackstuff (Bleasdale 1982), Jimmy, working as a casual labourer whilst signing on unemployed, is asked What did you used to be, Jimmy? , and replies I used to be a machine fitter. And I still am.

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insecure nature of construction employment that helps forge strong craft communities, where building workers co-operate both at work, and in order to find work. It is thus important not to over-simplify the effects of structural and discursive change, as contradictory discourses co-exist. However, as described earlier in this chapter, there does seem to have been a movement from the dominance of the craftsman discourse to fragmented and multiple discourses, as the socialisation into an occupational identity of traditional apprenticeship has undergone a rapid decline over the past 30 years. Beck (1992), Sennett (1998), Bauman (2000) and others have noted the increased individualisation of western societies. Community is dissolved in the acid bath of competition according to Beck (2000). Construction is clearly not immune to the increasing competition within the marketplace which undermines collective identities. One of the consequences of the incentivisation of self-employment in the construction industry over the past 35 years is that it leads to more individualised, competitive ways of working, and thus, perhaps, a loss of solidarity amongst building workers. People working side by side may be engaged and paid in differing ways and on different conditions. Payment is a matter for individual or small group negotiation. Instrumental rationality means a calculating self-interest; the solitary, rational actor is only interested in others as means to his own ends. This interacts with declining trade union membership to undermine the defence of collective self-interest expressed through the traditional craft unions, and thus undermine collective identities. The sense of belonging to a community has been particularly undermined by the spread of the discourse of enterprise discussed above. It is only in relation to the modernist idea of the autonomous, individual person that the enterprise discourse makes sense.

7.8.4 Given v chosen identities The undermining of traditional communities results in a world where people are increasingly individualised and free (that is, obliged) to pick and chose from the myriad potential identities to which they are exposed. The forms of freedom we inhabit today are intrinsically bound to a regime of subjectification in which subjects are not merely free to choose, but obliged to be free, to understand and enact their lives in terms of choice under conditions that systematically limit the capacities of so many to shape their own destiny. Human beings must interpret their past, and dream their future, as outcomes of

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personal choices... whose restrictions are hard to discern because they form the horizon of what is thinkable. Their choices are, in their turn, seen as realization of the attributes of the choosing self expressions of personality and reflect back upon the individual who has made them. The practice of freedom appears only as the possibility of the maximum self-fulfilment of the active and autonomous individual. (Rose 1998:17). Theorists such as Beck have argued that, where a traditional social identity is still upheld, it is less likely to have been given, and more likely to been chosen. The very concept of choosing makes sense only in terms of the individual who chooses. This is a particular ethic of personhood a view of what persons are and what they should be allowed to be (du Gay 2000b:165-166). Giddens (1991) describes the reflexive project of the self in the modern world, where the self has to be reflexively constructed through the capacity to keep a particular narrative going (ibid: 54). There still seems to be a difference, though, between the ready-made, traditional, collective identity of the construction craftsman18, and the more individual negotiations of identities of those who creatively call upon and combine different discourses. Traditional identities, while certainly still constructed, seem more secure. Sartre describes the waiter acting the part of a waiter (Sartre, 1943, p101-103), but the bricklayer is not acting the part when laying bricks. There is no performance, only flow (Cskszentmihlyi 1997); the body knows how to lay bricks without conscious thought.

In the interviews, some told of choosing construction, and their particular trade, because they always knew it was for them. Many others told of simply ending up in construction by chance. Yet very often, there seemed to be a sense that this pure chance was fortuitous, that all had worked out for the best. One way or another, ending up in a building trade often seemed to be perceived as fated. (See Appendix D.) This finding can be explained by social identity theory, which sees newcomers as building both a situational definition, a sense of where one is and what is expected; and a selfdefinition, a sense of who one is. An example is the study by Becker and Carper (1956) who describe how, although many graduate students of physiology initially turned to it
18

It may seem that the traditionally-trained craftsmen simply take on an identity, whereas others have to actively construct identities from (often conflicting) parts. Yet the traditional craftsmen can also be seen actually doing the identity construction in the interviews when they talk about their apprenticeship indentures, the length of time on low pay, how they learned from a mentor and gained experience, which jobs they worked on and what the firm was like...

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as a stopgap after being rejected for medical school, interactions with professors and more advanced students shaped their interests, skills, self-conceptions, norms and values, so that students came to identify as physiologists. Through immersion in the social milieu of the laboratory, original strong preferences for other fields were transformed into a well-developed identification with physiology. There is a clear parallel here with the finding of this research, that even those who started out without a huge commitment to their particular trade developed it through the process of socialisation, thus feeling it was what they were fated to do.

7.8.5 Forms of collectivism Stephenson and Stewart (2001) argue that collectivism takes a number of forms (in the workplace and outside) which may or may not challenge managerial control. Trade union collectivism has often been seen as the definitive form of workers collectivism. Work place collectivism is expressed in the practical and emotional support that people show for each other within the working environment. It may lead to disruption and resistance at work, such as standing up for colleagues, but can also support production, when co-operation between workers helps to get the job done. The social collectivism of everyday life refers to the networks of support outside the workplace which have implications for both home and work life.

This can be applied to the current study. It may seem that the increase in selfemployment and more individualised, competitive ways of working has dramatically reduced community and collectivism amongst building workers. However, using the different categories of collectivism enables one to suggest it has, rather, led to a change in emphasis, from (formal) trade union collectivism to (informal) work place and social collectivism. Whilst trade unionism has declined dramatically, this should not lead to the dismissal of all collective orientations as important influences on social identity formation. There is, as emerged in the interviews, clearly still a strong collective identification with particular construction occupations, and with construction more widely as a tribal identity, reflected in specific discourses which are often quite at odds with those of the wider society.

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7.9 Concluding discussion


7.9.1 Continuity and change: a cyclical view The views expressed by several of the interviewees suggest that they subscribe to a view of history which is cyclical rather than linear, and hence they tend not to believe in the inevitability of progress. For example, in Appendix E John is quoted as saying one day, someonell reinvent the wheel, and well be back with a Building Department for some local council. This idea came up more than once; Peter said something similar about the PSA, and also used the phrase the circles turning. Those who work in construction are well used to seasonal cycles in their work, and economic cycles of boom and bust.19 There is nothing new under the sun. Construction culture is old, even if the individual is not, and thus there is a sceptical attitude of having seen it all before.

This concept of history as cyclical may be set against the view that history only moves forwards, progressing in terms of efficiency, modern methods of construction, upskilling, better safety and working conditions. These modernising discourses are found in government-sponsored reports on the construction industry over the whole post-war period, from Phillips to Egan, as well as in public discourses from HR managers and senior managers in large construction firms, in texts from professional bodies and academic institutions, and in publicity materials from various quangos.

Yet these modernist discourses of linear progress have little purchase on site. As suggested in section 7.5.2, the unchanging (or constantly renewed) stability of the industry may be a reaction to continuous change and chaos; a way of dealing with the complex, constantly-negotiated nature of construction projects. Having a grounded identity and stable scripts for ways of doing things both the work itself and social interactions with others makes it possible to operate amidst the constant flux of the construction site environment. The oft-quoted couplet How very little since things were made/ Things have altered in the building trade comes from Kipling's Truthful Song. A bricklayer tells the tale of

19

When this research was begun, the generally accepted view was that there would be no more boom and bust, but my own scepticism about this was reflected by those interviewed, who clearly always expected the next recession to come along one day.

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how Pharoah turns up on a modern building site and finds the tools, materials and methods completely familiar, saying Your glazing is new and your plumbing's strange,/ But other-wise I perceive no change.... This concept of an immutable set of skills continues to be common both inside and outside the construction industry, in spite of considerable change. It is indeed true that, where traditional brickwork is used at all, there has been very little change in the tools, materials and methods. Lego-style bricks have been just around the corner for as long as anyone can remember, and still are just around the corner. Thus tradesmen become sceptical about the feasibility of real change and tend to dismiss it. Yet un train peut en cacher un autre20. If tools and materials in some trades are enduring, yet changes in the organisation of the industry can have massive effects on skill. The rise of self-employment, the disappearance of the DLOs, the huge decline in formal training, the introduction of NVQs and the large-scale import of skilled labour from Eastern Europe have all come about over the past 40 years or less. However, deskilling, extended sub-contract chains, and short-term, insecure casual work are nothing new; indeed perhaps their return (after a 30-year period of relative security since the war) can be seen as part of the cyclical nature of the industry

Changes in construction training and in views of skill are part of a web of inter-related structural and discursive changes affecting site identities. Institutional changes such as tax incentives for self-employment, compulsory competitive tendering (which undermined DLOs), and legislative attacks on trade unions and employment rights, were reflected and reinforced by changes in discourses and identities. To some extent changing discourses were the result of structural change, but changing discourses were also a means of bringing about change. For example the policy focus on individuals in a notionally self-employed workforce was tied up with discourses of enterprise, investment and return rhetoric, human capital theory, and the view of skills as luggage. These are particularly reflected in what has been referred to as the discourse of the resourceful survivor, but also in elements of the other site discourses.

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Used figuratively to mean that a situation may be more complex than it seems. So, here, an apparent lack of change may hide deeper change, or vice versa.

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7.9.2 Power and resistance Discourse has two strands, the cultural, moral, or more narrowly discursive, and the structural, economic, or material dimension. The two are not simply interwoven but mutually constitutive. Discourses are never mere discourses but have material effects, and material conditions of emergence. It is crucial to keep in mind the wider political and social conditions of possibility for particular discourses.

Naming something helps to shape it. New discourses are enacted in new ways of acting and interacting, new ways of being. For example, self-employment may be defined as false or bogus when workers are dependent upon a single firm. Yet if those workers see themselves as independent contractors rather than employees, this affects and forms part of their identities, and thus influences their actions. In particular, they may see themselves, and act, as enterprising individuals in competition with others doing the same job. This also works in the other direction, as discourses and identities are forged by the material conditions of production in particular localities, companies etc.. Where people working side by side are engaged and paid in differing ways and on different conditions, payment is a matter for individual or small group negotiation. This leads to more individualised, competitive ways of working, and thus undermines collective identities and feelings of solidarity amongst building workers. Community is dissolved in the acid bath of competition (Beck 2000).

Yet there are always counter-discourses. In particular, the discourse of craftsmanship is remarkably resilient, and the construction tribal identity very powerful. Building workers co-operate both at work, and in order to find work, and there is clearly still a strong collective occupational identification in spite of a dramatic decline in trade union collectivism. The focus on camaraderie and having the craic, as well as the concept of craftsmanship, provide resistance to the individualising ethos of enterprise. Nostalgia is an important discursive resource which can be mobilised in the context of threats to cherished identities. However, it seems that, even in the building trades, individuals can no longer simply adopt an uncomplicated ready-made identity. Discourses are drawn on selectively. This leads to the contradiction whereby people may in some sense choose (as individuals) a collective identification.

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7.9.3 Fragmented versus coherent identity As traditional apprenticeship has undergone a rapid decline over the past 30 years, the concept of learning a trade as socialisation into a skilled identity has been at least in part replaced by the idea of competencies. Apprenticeship as a process of becoming a skilled craftsman has tended to be replaced by the learning of fragmented skills. Thus, rather than acquiring a ready-made and taken-for-granted occupational identity through being brought up in the trade, there is a need to make choices in constructing an identity. These changes in the construction industry are reinforced by the increasing individualisation of the wider world; indeed the concept of choosing makes sense only in terms of the individual who chooses. In the modern world, the self has to be reflexively constructed through the capacity to keep a particular narrative going (Giddens 1991: 54). People have to pick and chose from the myriad potential identities to which they are exposed. Even where a traditional social identity is still upheld, it is increasingly likely to have been chosen rather than given. However, people are not merely free to choose, but obliged to understand and enact their lives in terms of choice under conditions that systematically limit the capacities of many to shape their own destiny (Rose 1998:17). Individuals can be seen drawing on discourses in unique and creative combinations in order to form, maintain, and strengthen their sense of self, yet there are limited cultural, discursive or institutional notions of who or what any individual might be. In some cases, however, people were seen in this study to be able to overcome these limitations. This is perhaps clearest in the case of the tradeswomen, who generally adopted traditional craft identities whilst simply ignoring the supposed incompatibility of this with being female.

This is possible because the self is no longer single (if, indeed, it ever was) but multiple. The individual can be seen as a collection of more or less disparate and loosely coupled identities. People are of course not unaffected by dominant discourses and structural circumstances, but they can exploit the variety of sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting, discourses and subjectivities in order to craft a self which is, to an extent, their own (Watson 2008:130). Individuals draw on different meanings at different times and in different circumstances in their identity construction. Most people quite easily put on different hats in different settings (a bricklayer, a mother, a Christian...).

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These multiple selves are sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory. The contradictions may be dealt with by forging new meanings or may simply be ignored and pushed to the back of the mind.

There has clearly been movement in the direction of fragmented, multiple and actively constructed identities, as a result of changes both within construction and in the wider society. Yet some building workers retain a powerful, stable and coherent occupational identity. The discourse of craftsmanship identified in this research stresses the importance and the value of being something, not simply doing a job, and this discourse is drawn on to varying degrees by almost all of those who work in the construction trades. Construction is an exception, where many still draw meaning from their identification with their work. Some of those interviewed still seemed to have a solid, socially embedded and taken-for-granted identity which has become rare in the rest of society. Yet even here it was possible to see examples of how actors actively construct their identities through discourse. Identity work is likely to be more continuous and more overt in fragmented, complex or problematic social situations. Thus those who, for whatever reason, face difficulties in fitting in are forced to be more creative in drawing on the available discourses in order to craft an identity.

7.9.4 Official versus informal accounts of skill Site discourses stress the embodiment of skill; the intuitive understanding of the interaction of hands, tools and materials. In the same way that real work means manual labour, real skill is embodied and cannot be learned from a book. Knowledge and practice cannot meaningfully be separated in this holistic understanding. Practical, site-based experience is essential to being skilled. Formal training and qualifications are frequently seen as irrelevant both in producing skill and in measuring or demonstrating it. Qualifications are disparaged as reflecting mere classroom-taught learning as opposed to practical skill (a wedding album of certificates but little or no real on the tools experience). Skill is seen as primarily manual, composed of intuitive judgment based on embodied experience so that it becomes second nature.

Official discourses, on the other hand, consistently confuse skill and qualifications. Qualifications are regarded as a measure of skill, and are often simply conflated with it

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as being synonymous. Thus those without formal qualifications are assumed to be unskilled. This confusion between skills and qualifications allows a sleight of hand by which OSAT (which is either on-site assessment and testing or on-site assessment and training) by simply validating existing skills can be presented as increasing the skills of the workforce. Similarly, though less consistently, learning sometimes tends to be equated in official discourses with formal training, rather than the experiential learning which is valued on site as developing skill. However, since the introduction of NVQs, there has been a shift in official accounts of skill so that informal learning is sometimes recognised but only insofar as it is tested and validated by formal qualifications.

Site understandings of skill stress its hands-on nature as well as its embeddedness in context; this is skill as social process. The reason you learn more on site by miles is the experience of problem-solving and making sense of situations in the ever-changing site context. The concept of transferable skills makes no sense; skills are by definition inseparable from their contexts. Tacit knowledge is transferred from mentors in the learning of embodied skills, and acquired by trial and error. Knowledge and practice cannot be separated; there has to be an interweaving of theory and practice rooted in the situation. The relative importance placed on more systematic formal or theoretical underpinning knowledge varies in site discourses, often depending upon the way in which the individual learned. Some stress the importance of knowing why, and of being able to turn to ones college books to solve a real-life problem. Others insist that what matters is what you can do and dismiss all abstraction.

This site discourse of practical wisdom has been reflected and reinforced in official discourses of competence used to justify the introduction of NVQs and OSAT. Competence in this sense is shown by the ability to carry out a specific task, whether or not one has the underpinning knowledge and understanding. Competence relates only to what is needed to do the current job or task, and skill is seen simply as the accumulation of these competences. By contrast, skilled identity as a craftsman is characterised by a broad capability in a traditionally-defined occupation, and the bringing to bear of judgment informed by systematic knowledge. Although site discourses often stress what you can actually do, in fact the process of informal learning on site seems still to be more a process of becoming than of learning
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specific competences. The development of a new identity takes place even in the absence of traditional apprenticeship. Attitude was identified as the most important factor in the development of skill. Being accepted by ones workmates and embedded in networks based on ethnicity and local community are vitally important, not only in being given the opportunity to acquire skills informally, but in being perceived as skilled. It is necessary to fit in. Learning to talk, look, think and act like a painter, a joiner or a bricklayer is perhaps more important than ever.

Official discourses do not see skill as the development of occupational identity based on participation in a system of situated social practices, but as the piling up of competencies as the property of the individual. This has become increasingly the case as discourses of competitive individualism have colonised the public sphere. Skills are no longer seen chiefly as a resource for the industry or the country, but as an attribute of the individual which can be traded in a series of individual employee/employer bargains. These changing discourses reflect changing policy, but were also part of the means of bringing about the changes in policy. The idea of the individual worker investing in skills (rather than firms, the industry, or the country investing) occurs constantly in recent policy documents.

This view in the official discourses does resonate with certain aspects of informal, site conceptions of skill. Tradesmen use investment and return rhetoric to justify wage differentials with unskilled labourers. However, site discourses are contradictory on this point. Skills are seen as a basis for personal, individual identity construction, and as a resource for the work group, as small gangs of (often self-employed) workers move from site to site together, competing with other gangs. However, skills are also the basis of group identification at the level of trades. Here, skill is conceived as a more social, collective process whereby there is a feeling of collective responsibility for the skills of a particular craft and hence a necessity to protect its status by excluding those who do not live up to the standard. Site understandings of skilled identity emerge through a process of collective sense-making by all those involved.

Official accounts of skill perhaps have less purchase than ever on site, due to the decline in formal training, and the retreat of the big construction firms from the process of construction. The actual production on site is organised largely in informal ways
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through networks, markets, gift relationships, threats, affection, barter, exchanging favours, co-operation, power struggles, and craft administration. This co-ordination is more informal than ever, because it has been pushed down several levels of subcontracting. Building workers themselves continue to have considerable influence over the definition of those who are suitably skilled, largely through informal networks.

However, whilst official accounts of skill may appear almost an irrelevance, this is not the case. Although official discourses seem to have little direct connection to site discourses, they are part of the web of factors influencing them. Structural changes such as the decline of the public sector and the growth of subcontracting and selfemployment have had a more evident influence on site understandings of skill. These structural changes themselves have conditions of possibility which include the wider discourse of enterprise reflected in official views of skill as personal investment. Likewise the introduction of NVQs to replace traditional apprenticeships, which has clearly impacted upon the ways in which skill can be understood on site, was facilitated by official discourses of competence.

7.9.5 The relationship between discourses and identities The relationship between discourses and identities is dialectical; discourse both shapes and is shaped by social structures (Fairclough 2005). Discourses construct and reconstruct the world, yet the material reality of the world sets limits on the extent to which this can be achieved. Individuals are confronted with the concrete practices, relations and identities previously constituted in discourse and reified into institutions and practices. Changes in employment and training practices affect the discourses upon which people are able to draw to construct their identities. Thus for example, if apprenticeships are no longer available, then the discourse of craftsmanship is gradually modified so that attitude, rather than having served an apprenticeship, becomes the defining factor.

One can also see, by comparing the data from the interviews with that in the official reports, the processes whereby grand discourses infiltrate local discourse (Hardy 2004). Examples include construction workers thinking of themselves as human capital, or the gradual inculcation of enterprise. Fairclough (2005) describes this as the
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operationalisation of discourses, as they become materialised in new management systems and new ways of acting and interacting, and inculcated as new ways of being, new identities. Inculcation is a matter of people coming to own discourses, to act and think and talk and see themselves in terms of new discourses.

Discourse can be used by individuals in attempts to produce outcomes that are beneficial to them (Hardy et al. 1998). Identities are actively constructed, reproduced and changed through discourse, as individuals draw on discourses in unique and creative combinations. There are many examples of this identity work in Chapter 5, such as Darrens redefinition of serving time, or the interaction between the bricklayers and the labourer where individuals are clearly seen to draw on discourses of craftsmanship, masculinity etc as tools in their struggle to construct a satisfying sense of self. At the same time, identities are shaped by wider social, cultural and historical contexts, as people draw on available discourses about who one can be and how one should act, some of which have stronger institutional and material support than others (Thomas and Davies 2005; Alvesson et al. 2008). Even the most creative new combinations of discourses must be grounded in the prevailing discursive context (Hardy and Palmer 1999).

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Chapter 8: Conclusion
8.1 A review of the thesis
This thesis has provided an account of building workers understandings of skill and their experiences of becoming skilled. One element of this has been the collection of partial life histories from those who work, or have worked, in the construction crafts in England. (See Appendix D.) All the individual stories are unique, but also have many common elements, especially in terms of how people learned a trade, and how their identities were formed in this process. In some cases, as with the older interviewees who were in their eighties, this forms a record of a craft culture which is fast disappearing. Although skill is a topic which has been extensively studied in construction management research, the emphasis throughout this research has been on the identities and the lived experience of the interviewees, previously somewhat neglected in studies of construction craft skills. In addition, the notion of skill itself has been problematised, and shown to be more complex and more context-dependent than is sometimes assumed. Whilst this is not the first study to take a critical view on construction skill (see for example Clarke and Wall 1998; Clarke and Winch 2006; Chan and Dainty 2007), the critical approach taken in this thesis contributes to this emerging body of work. Sharing the interviewees experience of having worked on the tools in a building trade gives me an insiders knowledge which cannot be claimed by many researchers. Much existing research in construction management is from the (often invisible, taken for granted) viewpoint of the typical (male) academic who has often been employed in the construction industry in a professional or managerial position. This view is now being broadened and enriched by other perspectives, such as that of researchers from other disciplines who bring a fresh view without many of the preconceptions and prejudices of those associated with the construction industry. However, these researchers still tend to share a range of ontological and epistemological assumptions with their construction management colleagues (cf Bourdieu). One view which is still largely absent from research into construction is that of those who have worked as construction operatives. The notable exceptions to this (Thiel, Murray, Harvey) have not studied skill and
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identity specifically. Thus, while every researchers own background and experience is unique, this work has taken a view from a not-so-common place, and may therefore have been able to see different things. This is not, of course, to argue that this view is better or more true, only that it has value because it has been missing.

The analysis of the empirical data focused on discourse, and discourses, as constituting skilled identities and as expressing them. The interview texts, described in Chapter 5, were analysed in Chapter 6 into five discourses used to construct particular versions of self, skill, and work. In addition to Critical Discourse Analysis, the analysis in Chapter 7 also drew on other approaches and theories which, whilst well-developed in other fields, are under-used in construction management research and can therefore offer a new perspective. The explanation drew upon concepts from social identity theory and discourse theory in particular the concept of identity work to show how building workers draw on the discourses available to them in unique and creative combinations in order to form, maintain, and strengthen their sense of self, actively constructing their identities. However, the explanation also tried to take into account the ways in which occupational identities are shaped by wider social, cultural and historical contexts. In this sense, discourses can be seen as working through people to constitute their identities. The explanation also sought to take account of change over time, discussing a web of interrelated structural and discursive changes affecting the construction of site identities. There are complex inter-relationships between the structural and the discursive aspects of the context, and between the wider context and the specific local context of the site.

Site discourses relating to skill and occupational identity were compared with discourses in the wider society and with official discourses expressed in reports on the UK construction industry and on training. The discourses were also compared over time. It was found that notions such as enterprise or investing in skills from the wider culture seem to have colonised construction, combining with pre-existing site discourses and modifying them, strengthening certain discourses and weakening others. This was described as a movement from the dominance of the craftsman discourse to a fragmented situation with multiple discourses. All the site discourses, to varying

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degrees, incorporate elements of resistance to the discourses of the wider society, as well as elements which reflect and reinforce them.

As building workers come to act and think and talk and see themselves in terms of these modified discourses, the discourses have material effects. Discourses (and identities) are also affected by the material conditions of work in particular localities. Therefore the research also examined the effects of structural changes on the use of the site discourses, and the material effects of changes in dominant discourses.

The organisation of construction work (such as means of engagement and payment) was seen in the empirical research to affect the discourses site workers used in constructing their identities. I argued that definitions of skill itself depend partly on the nature of the employment relationship. There were also real ambiguities found in the categories of worker, employee or subcontractor, complicating the construction of occupational identities in the building trades. It is not only employment status which is often unclear; the boundary between workers and supervisors is often blurred and shifting. The same person, working for the same firm (whether employed or notionally self-employed) may be in charge of one job, but merely one of the workers on another job. In the case of the independent self-employed artisan, who works for whom is also shifting and ill defined, as the boundaries are unclear between doing a favour by passing on surplus work, subsubcontracting a job, employing someone on a casual basis, or working with them on equal terms.

The availability of training and the organisation of ways of learning a trade also interact with discourses in constituting identities. This was described as a movement from becoming a craftsman to acquiring competencies: a change in emphasis from serving ones time as an apprentice and learning a broad range of skills, to competence and specialisation implying a weaker identification with the occupation. The discourse of craftsmanship is remarkably resilient, being drawn on even by those who did not learn in the traditional way. It is simply modified, so that, if apprenticeships are no longer available, then they are no longer essential to the craftsman identity. The discourse survives by evolving but could be seen as a hollow shell.

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8.2 Possible directions for future research


As stated in Chapter 1, discourse has been at the heart of this thesis. This immediately suggests two possible directions for future research. The first develops further the possibilities of the approach taken here, whilst the second springs from its intrinsic limitations. The methods and theories used in this research (CDA and other discoursebased approaches) could be applied to other topics, or, the topic of skilled identity in the building trades could be studied using different methods.

The first possible direction for future research would be to apply the notion of discourse as socially constructive to other questions of interest in the field of construction research. The importance of discourse in construction remains largely unexplored, and thus there are wide-ranging possibilities for further research using critical discourse analysis. A research perspective which examines the relationships between discourse and other elements of social practices could provide a different and potentially illuminating viewpoint on many issues. The more evident topics would be those related to people and culture in construction such as human resource management, gender and masculinity, or the professionalisation of site management. Some of these questions have begun to be looked at through the discursive lens, as for example project management, or the diffusion of innovation. There is such a wide field of possibilities here that it is beyond the scope of this short discussion.

The second possible direction for future research would be further study of the topic of skilled identity in the building trades, but in ways which recognise that the focus of discourse analysis on talk and text tends to marginalise the consideration of materiality (Ball and Hodgson 2001:2). To construct buildings is to modify the material world, so that those who do the physical work of construction see the tangible results of their labour every day. Skills in the building trades are embodied. Several interviewees spoke of people who dont know what its like to work with these, showing me their hands. Many academics have no personal experience of embodied skills and physical work; their experience is of a world which works with words. This may, arguably, lead to too much stress on language and the social construction of reality, and too little attention to materiality.

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Discourses such as craftsmanship or masculinity are expressed not merely in words but in ways of being in the world and ways of acting in the world. Identities are constructed and expressed through the semiotics of tools, clothing, and body language. For example, discourses of masculinity are expressed in the tone of voice as well as the words used, in ways of sitting/standing/moving and also in behaviour from whistling at girls and looking at pornography, to risk-taking and ways of working. Identity is expressed through tools, as touched on briefly in Chapter 5. There is a changing symbolism also to site clothing, from donkey jackets to hi-vis waistcoats and the colour of ones helmet.

Whilst the material effects of discourses (and the effects on discourses of the material conditions of work) have been discussed in this report, these aspects are inevitably left in the background by research which has relied quite heavily on interviews. There is a bias towards the verbal component of how the discourses and identities are expressed which leads to a focus on discourse in a narrower sense, yet the importance of materiality and embodiment is a constant counterpoint to the emphasis on language. The wider aspects of discourse could perhaps be captured by semiotic studies of communication and symbolism more widely. This would need to form part of a more ethnographic approach, and the semiotic analysis would not be straightforward. Methods would need to include observation and photographs/video.

One could draw here on the work of Bechky (2008), on material methods for understanding identity by analysing artefacts. Artefacts can help us understand how people establish and maintain their identities, and how groups enact membership and status. Riggins (1984) and Appadurai (1986) point to the ways in which things encode social meanings. The essays in Rafaeli and Pratt (2006) apply this to the workplace, describing how people draw on objects such as clothing or personal possessions to symbolise and legitimise both professional and personal identities, and also the role of physical objects in peoples perceptions of the identities of others. A specific example of this is Fine (1996) identifying how kitchen artefacts contribute to the aesthetic work of cooks. See also the special issue of Construction Management and Economics (June 2010) examining some of the wide range of perspectives on the role of objects and technologies in construction projects.

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In addition to semiotics and the analysis of objects, there are wider issues about the material, embodied practices which build both things (buildings) and identities. There has been increased interest in the materiality, spatiality, and corporeality of work organisations in the last decade or so, and a resurgence of interest in the study of practice. The practice approach studies what people actually do, how practitioners really act and interact. The social is seen as a field of embodied, materially interwoven practices organised around shared practical understandings. Examples here include Gherardi (2000), Orlikowski (2000), Whittington (2003), Contu and Willmott (2006), and a special issue of Organization on practice.

Construction skills depend upon tacit knowledge through the senses. The bricklayer makes decisions about how thick a mortar bed to spread, and how hard to push down the brick, according to the consistency and constituents of the mortar and the weight, absorptivity and moisture content of the brick. The different consistencies of mortar do not have names (apart from maybe piss or pea soup) for different degrees of being a liquid, paste or solid, and these decisions are too complex and embodied to be codified in rules. This expert knowledge is not at all dependent on naming, but on sensing. The term tacit knowledge was first introduced by Polanyi with the assertion that we can know more than we can tell (Polanyi1966:4). There is now a vast body of literature on tacit, embodied knowledge, as experienced by the senses; the holistic, intuitive understanding which comes from embodied experience. (See for example Gherardi, Nicolini and Strati 2007, and other work by these authors.) Flyvbjerg (2001: 23) identifies the characteristics of expertise as context, judgment, practice, trial and error, experience, common sense, intuition, and bodily sensation. Strati (2003; 2007) describes the corporeality of sensible knowledge acquired in a sawmill, and points out the close connection between these tacit, local skills acquired through the senses, and the way in which learning is situated in social processes. This refers back to the work of Lave and Wenger (1991) on situated learning and communities of practice, suggesting more avenues for exploration. However, this discussion can only point very briefly at a few of the myriad interesting possibilities which might help to redress any over-emphasis on talk and text in the discursive approach taken in this thesis.

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8.3 The end of the story


Construction metaphors about laying foundations and building structural frameworks are sometimes used to describe the process of research. Yet what resonated more with me were metaphors about spinning straw into gold, weaving strands together, and making patchworks. There was also a heroic tale to be told about wrestling with a many-headed hydra. Above all though, cest en forgeant que lon devient forgeron1 applies to the process of becoming a researcher as much as to craft apprenticeships.

I have been privileged to have this opportunity for research and reflection, and in particular I have been privileged to share the stories of the working lives of the interviewees. I hope that this study may give some insight into that world. For myself, it has helped me to understand some of my own past experiences and how they relate to wider history. As Marx put it (Tucker 1978: 5-6), We abandoned the manuscript to the gnawing criticism of the mice all the more willingly as we had achieved our main purpose self-clarification. Yet if this thesis could also contribute to a debate about how identities are shaped in the building trades, then that is all I could wish for.

FIN

Mastery is acquired through practice with reference to the craft of blacksmithing.

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Appendix A The firms and the sites where interviews were carried out

Keybuild
Keybuild and the Key Group The company was founded by a Danish engineer in 1928. During the first 35 years of its existence, the firm became identified with certain building and civil engineering specialisms, particularly early concrete-framed apartment buildings, and the construction of reinforced concrete silos using continuously sliding formwork. It became a public company in 1963, and in 1986 it was taken over by a large contracting firm. When this firm was itself taken over by a building materials conglomerate five years later, a decision was taken to dispose of the contracting arm, and a management buyout re-created Key Group in its present form. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1996.

Key Group now employs 11,400 people worldwide and has annual revenue of 2.1 billion. It has 4 main divisions: Construction; Building Maintenance and Facilities management; Housebuilding; and Development. Key Property, part of the development arm, was the client for this project, a major commercial development. (The development arm had a turnover of 65 million in 2009, and made a 2 million loss.)

70% of Key group revenue comes from the construction division. Construction turnover for 2009 was 1 500 million (1.5bn), and profit was 39 million, giving a margin of 2.6%. The focus on long-term framework agreements, both public and private sector, and the award of several large contracts has allowed both turnover and profit to hold up in spite of the current recession. Competitive tendering is avoided whenever possible. The construction division comprises: Regional Contracting; Major Building Projects (Keybuild); and the Groups Infrastructure and Overseas business. Regional Contracting is composed of a network of a dozen regional businesses, some of which still bear the names of the well-regarded medium-sized regional firms taken over by the Key group. Keybuild, the contractor for this project under a framework agreement with the development arm, works nationally on major projects. It is a top-ten contractor and Major Contractors Group member, considered to have a good reputation.

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SouthernTown Central Offices The project, contract value around 50 million, was a large steel-framed city-centre office building in a large town in southern England half an hour by rail from central London. A new 10-storey development with a central atrium and core, it provided gross internal floor area of approximately 21 600 m2, (making it the largest office development in the town at the time) plus 2 floors of underground car parking. 7 floors had been pre-let to a major company. The building sits on 400 CFA piles 17m deep and steel box bearings 24m deep on chalk strata beneath the site. The 12-storey concrete core was constructed by slipforming in a continuous operation involving 24-hour working for 13 days. The offices are fitted out to category A standard throughout, and achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of Excellent.

The contract period was from October 2007 to April 2010. Start on site was December 2007, and practical completion (handover to the fit-out contractors) was announced in mid-February 2010. On the first visit in May 2008 (Thursday 15th May 2008) the job was still in the early stages. Site set up was complete, and piling was in progress. The site had turnstile-controlled access with hand-swipe providing a record of everyone on site. Signs saying no smoking no mobile phones and PPE must be worn were prominent. All those out on site were wearing hi-vis clothing, helmets, and safety shoes. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic were carefully segregated, and the office area segregated from the working area where PPE was required. There were two tower cranes on site; booking the cranes was said to be more or less a full-time job for one person. On returning for further visits six months later (Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th November 2008), initial groundworks were coming to an end, the concrete core was complete, and the construction of the steel frame was well advanced. At the time of these visits there were about 20 full-time Keybuild staff on site half of them construction managers, the other half quantity surveyors, buyers, or administrative staff. There were about 30 subcontract workers on site at this stage. The final site visit was on 7th January 2009, when the frame was complete and cladding was in progress.

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In describing the work, the project manager stressed the high-tech aspects of the construction such as the plans for slipforming of the core and top-down construction of a sprinkler tank. Managers seemed keen to present themselves as technologically advanced this can be seen to be related to the companys history of using innovative, state-of-the-art construction techniques. The large size of the project and high quality of the fit-out were also stressed by the manager who carried out the site induction for operatives which the researcher attended.

Keybuild employed no operatives on the site, either directly or through agencies. All work was subcontracted. Keybuild are thus a pure management contractor or hollowed-out firm. It seemed that supply chains were long and multi-layered, but it proved impossible to trace them fully. Co-ordination of the work with following trades and adjacent trades was included in subcontract packages, and subcontractors encouraged to talk directly to each other. The overall control by Keybuild seemed focussed primarily on cost, rather than practical co-ordination issues. They did, however, take overall responsibility for site safety, running site inductions, insisting that site rules are followed, and encouraging the subcontractors to hold toolbox talks.

Those seen working on the site were exclusively white and male. There were women working in the site offices as administrators, but none working actually out on site as operatives or managers. Neither were any women seen visiting the site as architects, engineers, QSs or clients representatives, or mentioned by any of the interviewees or other informants. There were no visibly ethnic minority workers, although Indian carpenters were mentioned by others on the site. They are a well-established group from Southall, not recent migrants. Eastern European workers were mentioned several times on the Keybuild site, but not actually encountered. It seems that perhaps at the time the empirical research was carried out, as the industry was going into recession, Keybuilds subcontractors were cutting back their use of migrant labour.

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Abbeybuild
Abbeybuild is a private company; the majority shareholder is the Chairman and Managing Director, David, and the remaining shares are owned by his wife. The company was formed in 1998, operating as a small building company in the south east of England. It was purchased by the Rush group in 1999 and David was appointed MD. In 2001 David bought the company from Rush, changing its name to Abbeybuild. Turnover has since grown from 900,000 to 4m/annum.

The firm undertakes new build, refurbishment and fitting out contracts, generally between 300,000 and 4million in value, in Greater London and the South East. The focus on public sector work such as schools seemed (at the point where the case study was carried out) to have protected this firm from the worst effects of recession. In informal conversations, managers spoke of good order books and falling subcontract prices.

David has 20 years management experience in the construction industry but is not from a trade background. The most senior general manager, Paul, has responsibility for estimating and surveying. His background is quantity surveying and procurement. The firm also employs 3 surveyors, an office manager, an accounts manager and a marketing manager. This makes a total of 9 staff based in head office. There are four site-based staff, all site managers/project managers. Two are from trade backgrounds, a bricklayer, and a carpenter and joiner.

Blue Shield Operations Centre The project was a new regional operations centre for a national charitable organisation. A 2-storey building with a steel frame, brick-clad, and designed to blend into its setting in a suburban street in a large town in southern England. The value was just over 1 million, contract period 34 weeks from October 2008 until May 2009. It was a tidy site with clean hoardings displaying Considerate Constructors banners, but it was possible to walk onto the job unchallenged in order to speak with the site manager and negotiate access. The researcher was never asked for a CSCS card, or any evidence of identity.

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The steel frame was erected using a mobile crane; there was otherwise no crane on site. In spite of the steel frame this was a traditional building on an almost domestic scale. On the first and second visits (Monday 1st and Monday 8th December 2008) the brickwork was the main operation in progress. A forklift was in use to load bricks onto the scaffold, from where they were transported in hods by the bricklayers themselves. They were also mixing their own mortar. Two carpenters were working on the roof; there were less than a dozen people on site. On the third and fourth visits (11th and 18th March 2009), fitting out was in full swing with plumbers and electricians on site, ceilings going up, and painters, tilers and groundworkers; probably a total of twenty to thirty men on site.

During the time spent on site during visits, no women at all were seen on this project. Neither were any women mentioned by any of the informants on the project. There was one Sikh carpenter. Eastern European migrants are of course less visible, but no foreign languages were heard on the site, and according to the informants, it seems that the subcontractors did not make much use of migrant labour. Abbeybuilds only direct employee on site was the site manager; the visiting contracts manager was present during the first two visits. (By the third and fourth visits, three months later, the site manager had left and the contracts manager was on site full time, replacing him.) There was also one agency labourer on site each time, but not the same person on different visits. All other work was carried out by subcontractors. Perhaps because of the small size of the job, supply chains seemed relatively short no more than 3 tiers in all. As far as it was possible to ascertain, subcontracts were let on a lowest-price basis, but many of the subcontractors did have a continuing relationship with Abbeybuild.

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Appendix B Interview guide, Feb 2009 (Updated after pilot studies)


How did you get into construction/your particular job? How did you learn? (If vague push for detail.) Formal indentures? Sitting by Nellie? Just picked it up? Any formal qualifications? Did they go to college? Day release? Block release? Do they think a particular way to learn (apprenticeship, informal) is best?

What do you think you need to be a good xyz? (bricklayer, steelfixer...) What would you look for if you were taking on an xyz? If they say skill, what do they mean by skill If experience, what is it they value about experience If qualifications, which? etc

What has changed over the years and why do they think this is? (Or, if this is too vague to get much response) Do you think as an XYZ now you need different skills than 10/20/30 years ago? Are the skills you need to do the job now different from when you started? What (else) has changed? Do you think modern construction work takes more or less skill than in the past? In what ways? What has changed? What do you think of the skills of younger/older people? Of the skills of the Poles etc?

Employed or self-employed? (but ask near end, so they dont think Im snooping for the Revenue) (and if one, have they worked as the other? and what are the differences? (advantages and disadvantages?) Exactly who do they work for try to place them in the web of contractual relationships

As the final Q, What has changed over the years in the industry, and why do they think this is?

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Appendix C Table of interviewees


Name Trade or profession (current occupation in bold) Carpenter and joiner, self-employed artisan, site manager Quantity surveyor, contracts manager, site manager Tiler Case study or means of contact Abbeybuild Employment status Directly employed by Abbeybuild Directly employed by Abbeybuild Self-employed artisan Employed by labour-only brickwork subcontractor Employed by labour-only brickwork subcontractor Employed by labour-only brickwork subcontractor Casually employed by Agency Way of learning, qualifications Apprenticeship in early 1990s; day release, NVQ Background in Quantity Surveying; ONC, HNC, 1970s Informally trained in 1990s, no trade qualifications Informally trained in 2000s (also NVQ2 by OSAT) Apprenticeship in 2000s; day release, NVQ2 Date of interview 01/12/08, 8/12/08 11/3/09, 18/3/09 18/3/09 Time served Y/N Y Sex M/F M

Mark

Matt

Abbeybuild

Trevor

Abbeybuild

Bricklayer 1

Bricklayer

Abbeybuild

8/12/08

Bricklayer 2

Bricklayer

Abbeybuild

8/12/08

Bricklayer 3

Bricklayer

Abbeybuild

Informally trained in 2000s (also NVQ2 by OSAT) No trade qualifications or training

8/12/08

Paul

General labourer

Abbeybuild

8/12/08

281

Name

Andy

Trade or profession Case study or (current occupation in means of contact bold) Abbeybuild Electrician (chargehand)

Employment status Self-employed by supply-andfix electrical subcontractor Self-employed by supply-andfix electrical subcontractor Directly employed by Keybuild Directly employed by Keybuild

Way of learning, qualifications Apprenticeship in early1990s; day release, city and guilds

Date of interview 18/3/09

Time served Y/N Y

Sex M/F M

Bert

Electrician

Abbeybuild

Mike

Site manager (groundworker) Construction manager

Keybuild

James

Keybuild

Dean

Bricklayer

Keybuild

Leroy

Carpenter and joiner, senior manager

Keybuild

Buggins

Bricklayer

Keybuild Focus group

Part-time study (selffunded) for NVQ in 2000s, before obtaining electrical work No trade qualifications Started as a groundworker in the 1970s Degree in construction management, 1990s; graduate training programme Self-employed Informally trained in by labour-only 1980s, no trade brickwork qualifications. subcontractor Directly 3-year apprenticeship, employed by 1970s, block release; City Keybuild and Guilds. (Later, parttime study to Full Tech Cert, HNC and beyond.) Self-employed Apprenticeship in 1990s working for trade contractor

18/3/09

18/11/08, 19/11/08 18/11/08

19/11/08

07/01/09

07/01/09

282

Name

Molly

Trade or profession (current occupation in bold) Carpenter and joiner, Project Manager

Case study or means of contact Keybuild Focus group

Employment status Employed by trade contractor

Way of learning, qualifications

Date of interview 07/01/09

Kevin

Bricklayer, site supervisor

Keybuild Focus group

Vinny

Trainee site manager

Keybuild Focus group

Bill

Carpenter and joiner

Keybuild Focus group Keybuild Focus group Keybuild Focus group Keybuild Focus group

Mike N

Site manager

Will

Bricklayer

Len

Carpenter and joiner, site manager

Apprenticeship,1960s; City and Guilds. (Later, part-time study to Full Tech Cert) Employed by 6-month TOPS trade contractor course,1970s; self-funded part-time study for City and Guilds. (Later part time study to HNC) Employed by Degree in construction Keybuild management, 2000s; graduate training programme Self-employed YTS, 1980s. No trade working for qualifications. trade contractor Employed by Started as trainee trade contractor draftsman, ONC, HNC, 1970s Self-employed Apprenticeship in 2000s, working for Construction Award, NVQ trade contractor 3 Employed by Apprenticeship in 1970s major contractor

Time served Y/N Y

Sex M/F M

07/01/09

07/01/09

07/01/09

07/01/09

07/01/09

07/01/09

283

Name

John T

John B

Trade or profession (current occupation in bold) Bricklayer at CMDWD. UCATT shop steward and convenor Bricklayer and craft instructor at CMDWD Bricklayer, site manager, clerk of works Bricklayer,foreman, building supervisor and clerk of works.

Case study or means of contact Manchester case study (CMDWD) Manchester case study (CMDWD) ICW

Employment status Employed by Manchester Working Retired

Way of learning, qualifications 5-year indentured apprenticeship, 1960s

Date of interview 17/11/09

Time served Y/N Y

Sex M/F M

5-year indentured apprenticeship, 1960s 4-year apprenticeship (1970s) but no indentures or qualifications. 4-year indentured apprenticeship,1960s, day release, City and Guilds.(Later part time study to Full Tech Certificate and HNC) 4-year apprenticeship, block release; City and Guilds. (Later part time study to Full Tech Certificate and HNC) Apprenticeship,1960s; City and Guilds.

17/11/09

Bernie

Self-employed

12/3/09

Dave S

ICW

Self-employed

28/04/09

Alex

carpenter and joiner, site manager and clerk of works

ICW

Employed by local authority

26/04/09

John S

Carpenter and joiner, part-time craft instructor and clerk of works

ICW

Self-employed

20/3/09

284

Name

Frank M

Trade or profession Case study or (current occupation in means of contact bold) Carpenter and joiner, ICW clerk of works

Employment status Employed by local authority but also selfemployed Retired

Way of learning, qualifications Indentured apprenticeship, 1970s, day release, city and guilds

Date of interview 03/05/09

Time served Y/N Y

Sex M/F M

John L

Painter and decorator, craft instructor.

ICW

Tom

Carpenter and joiner, self-employed artisan, clerk of works Bricklayer, foreman, QS, contracts manager Plumber, gas-fitter and glazier; general foreman; site manager; Clerk of Works. Bricklayer

ICW

Harold

ICW

Peter

ICW

Alan

Personal contact

Chris

Painter and decorator

Personal contact

5 year indentured apprenticeship, 1950s, day release, city and guilds 5 year indentured Retired apprenticeship, 1940s. Self-funded part-time study for City and Guilds. Trade school from age 13, Retired then 5 year indentured apprenticeship, 1940s Self-employed 5 year indentured apprenticeship, 1950s; part-time study for City and Guilds. No longer 1-year full-time at working in college,1980s, NVQ 2, construction then informal learning as a self-employed worker for a LOSC Self-employed Informally trained in working for 1990s, no trade trade contractor qualifications.

08/05/09

11/05/09

01/06/09

25/02/09

5/05/09

2/03/10

285

Name

Darren Fred

Trade or profession Case study or (current occupation in means of contact bold) Personal contact Senior manager Site manager Personal contact

Employment status Employed by small contractor Employed by major contractor

Way of learning, qualifications Degree in construction management, 1990s. Degree in construction management, 1990s; graduate training programme Part-time study to HNC then degree, 2000s YTS then 3-year apprenticeship, 1980s; NVQ level 3. Apprenticeship, 1980s, City and Guilds

Date of interview 30/04/08 20/11/09

Time served Y/N N N

Sex M/F M M

Fliss Paul

Neil

Brian

Janie

Secretary, document Personal contact controller site manager Painter and decorator, SouthernTown Technical craft instructor College Bricklayer, craft SouthernTown Technical instructor College Bricklayer, craft SouthernTown Technical instructor College Painter and decorator WAMT

Employed by major contractor Employed by College Employed by College Employed by College

20/11/09 29/10/08

N Y

F M

29/10/08

Helen

Apprentice electrician

WAMT

H2

Electrician

WAMT

Informally trained; later part-time study to NVQ 3, 2000s Self-employed Informally-trained in artisan 2000s, then self-funded part-time NVQ 2 and 3 Employed by 2 yrs full-time college, ABC homes (ex- Construction Award, then DLO) apprenticeship with dayrelease (NVQ 2, 3) Employed by Apprenticeship, 2000s, at DLO DLO, City and Guilds

6/5/08

10/12/08

10/2/09

17/2/09

286

Name

Sally

Trade or profession Case study or (current occupation in means of contact bold) WAMT Plumber

Employment status Unpaid work placement

Way of learning, qualifications 2 yrs full-time college, Construction Award (2000s), then unpaid work placement 2 yrs full-time college, Construction Award (2000s), then unpaid work placement Apprenticeship, 1980s, at DLO; day release, NVQ 3 Currently at college studying full-time for the Construction Award 3 years part-time at college, self-funded, NVQ 2 Apprenticeship, 1980s, at DLO; day release, NVQ 3

Date of interview 2/3/09

Time served Y/N N

Sex M/F F

Sylvia

Joiner and cabinetmaker

WAMT

Self-employed artisan

2/3/09

Lily Rose

Carpenter and joiner Plasterer

WAMT WAMT

Employed by DLO Not employed

2/3/09 2/3/09

Y N

F F

Nadine

Plumber

WAMT

Self-employed artisan Employed by DLO

2/3/09

Billie

Painter and decorator

WAMT

2/3/09

NVQ National Vocational Qualification OSAT On Site Assessment and Training WAMT: Women And Manual Trades CMDWC: City of Manchester Direct Works Department ICW: Institute of Clerks of Works DLO: Direct Labour Organisation

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Appendix D: Life histories


This section will put together the accounts and experiences of different people in order to tell a typical story of various categories of informant, describing how they came to enter the construction industry, how they went about learning their work, and what happened afterwards. The trajectory of men who served a traditional apprenticeship is described first and at most length, as this is still regarded as the norm. This is followed by a description of the experiences of those who did not fit this pattern first men who learned informally (or by other non-traditional means), and then women entering the building trades. Finally, the life histories of site managers are presented both those who started in a trade, and those who entered the construction industry via the graduate route. This is followed by a section which considers the changes that can be seen to have taken place in these life histories and in particular the process of learning a trade.

Life histories: the traditional trajectory to becoming skilled


This section describes a typical, traditional trajectory of men working in the building trades. All of the men described here as having a traditional trajectory were apprenticetrained, usually having served a formal indentured apprenticeship. Most were apprenticed either at small local firms or medium-sized regional firms, described as traditional builders. Most served their apprenticeships between the 1940s and the end of the 1970s, when there were high levels of training, and before the 1980s when NVQs were introduced. There were also some younger tradesmen who served modern apprenticeships in the 1980s and 1990s. About half of all the men interviewed (21 out of 39) served the kind of traditional apprenticeships described here. (The remainder were either informally trained, or took university degrees before going into construction management.) Choosing or ending up in a construction trade There were 3 types of answers as to why the interviewees went into construction, and into their specific trade: 1) It was pure chance 2) Someone in my family worked in a trade 3) I always knew I wanted to do it.

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Some chose construction, but many others tell of simply ending up in construction by chance. I was always interested in building, as far back as I remember. I always loved building sites. Frank M I left school at 15 with nothing...I think they were rather glad to see the back of me...I wanted to be a farmer really... mum said Mr Bale from up the road wants an apprentice... John L I knew nothing about the building industry, absolutely nothing....So I just seen an ad Id left school and you werent directed into a route of anything, were you, career-wise, you just... I mean, no-one said, you could do this, that, or the other...At school, I wasnt the brightest bulb in the lamp because I didnt take school seriously, like a lot of others, so when I left, I seen an advert in the Liverpool Echo.... John T Many of those who work in construction did not do well at school and left as soon as legally possible, (at 14, 15, or 16 depending on how long ago it was). Whereas John T suggests that school did not seem very relevant (hence he didnt take school seriously), Frank suggests that those who go into the building trades have a different sort of intelligence from that needed to do well in school. I think probably more people went into apprenticeship because they werent very good at school... I think I was 23 out of 24 in my class... its probably why people do apprenticeships or do a craft because its repetitive94. When youre dyslexic, everything has to be repetitive...I think that is related to why people want to be apprentices... its a set road. A lot of tradesmen are people that are dyslexic their intelligence is expressed through doing things with their hands. Frank M Some people were drawn to a particular occupation and a particular building material, and always knew what they wanted to do. I had a great love of woodwork to start with, and I think thats stood me in good stead for whatever I wanted to do since then... Its a feeling - I know it sounds odd - its a feeling for wood. Youve got to have a bent its got to be your thing really. Tom I think I always had a natural attraction to bricks and mortar, funnily enough. Right from being a small child, even though no-one in my family worked in building. I mean, I used to play with mud and stuff, and there was this incident when I was 5 or 6, I found a bag of cement in the shed and tried to mix some mortar, and made a horrible mess trying to lay bricks on the middle of the front lawn. Kevin
94

Whilst construction craft work is not routine, it is repetitive in that an operation such as sawing or planing is constantly practiced and repeated.

289

However, many interviewees told tales of ending up in their particular trade by sheer chance. I only got taken on as bricklayer as the other lads all wanted to be joiners and I was useless at woodwork at school. Dave S I didnt care what I did, but, as long as I got a trade... I seen an advert in the Liverpool Echo, Bricklayers Wanted and I just wrote to this company. You know, I didnt know what a bricklayer did... John T I started as an apprentice joiner with a small firm, but after a few weeks the apprentice bricklayer was injured, so they asked me to become a bricklayer Bernie Yet very often there seemed to be a sense that this pure chance was fortuitous, that all had worked out for the best. One way or another, ending up in a building trade often seemed to be perceived as fated. Only one man told a story of consciously weighing the advantages of different possible trades: Initially I thought about being a brickie because then, that was quite a sexy thing to be, because of the fact they were relatively well paid, and I think even then better paid that a lot of office type work.... so, to be a brickie, and earn what was seen as good money, and it was especially as a young bloke a blokey thing to do.... I preferred carpentry and joinery ... I wasnt very good at woodwork (at school) ... I didnt like the plumbing job... very smelly...it was all about using metal and burning things.... brickie, that hurts your hands... the chippying though, I thought, thats got a little bit of the finesse about it.... I was not a natural carpenter.... Leroy This is a more rationalist account which puts more stress on choice. Leroy was not a natural carpenter, but nevertheless decided to become one. The great majority, though, did not see themselves as exercising choice. Things simply happened, whether because of pure chance or because it was naturally your thing.

Getting taken on as an apprentice Many interviewees recounted moderately formal recruitment and selection procedures for their apprenticeships, such as seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper and being interviewed. It was a simple interview with the company, no qualifications needed, just a good school report. Dave S I seen an advert in the Liverpool Echo....I went for an interview, and they said, Why do you want to be a bricklayer? I said, Well peoplell always want houses... and I got the job. John T
290

I went to the job centre and I took the card ... for this little one man band who wanted an apprentice, I nicked the card, and nobody else applied for it, so I got it... Andy at Abbeybuild In other cases it was more informal, Mr Bale from up the road wants an apprentice (John L). At Vickers, it was necessary to have someone to speak for you in general a father working there (Alex). This also acted as social control, as misbehaviour reflected on the person who had recommended the newcomer. These family connections are a common way into the industry, and men often mentioned a father, uncle, or grandfather in a trade. Family connections were often identified as the source of an interest in construction, even if they were not directly used as a way in to a job. I got into my trade cause my grandad was an electrician. I went to work with him when I was 15, for a couple of days, and, um, that was it really I just wanted to be an electrician. Andy, Abbeybuild My father was a cabinetmaker and pattern maker. He taught me to sharpen a saw when I was about 11. Tom However, many others had no-one in the family working in construction. My father was a general labourer he worked on Liverpool docks, he worked in the cold stores, he humped meat about... John T My father was a toolmaker; he wanted me to be an engineer, but I resisted; I wanted to do something different. Frank M Roughly half of those who went into the building trades seemed to have a close relative who worked in construction; the other half did not. Both groups were divided between those who always knew they had a vocation for construction, and those who described it as being pure chance, again roughly in equal numbers.

The symbolic importance of the indentures Asked when they served their apprenticeship, many replied not simply with the approximate year, but with the exact date of signing the indentures. November 18th 1974 was when my apprenticeship started (Leroy) My indentures were signed on the 6th of July, 1952 (Peter) I started a 5-year apprenticeship on 14th August 1947 (Harold) The indentures are papers which seem to have great symbolic importance.

291

I was an indentured apprentice. So, my mother and father had to sign deeds, which said, like, you had to be in before nine oclock at night and all that stuff...it was the master and servant situation Ive still got my deeds. John T your father had to put a pound note up and they tore it in half and they stuck one half on the apprenticeship papers, and the owner of the company kept the other one on his copy. When you finished your apprenticeship, the two were joined together, and your father got them back.... Frank M Several men said Ive got them still about their indentures, and some were keen to show them to the researcher; those examined were from the 1950s. The indentures were signed by the Master, the apprentice, and the father. The apprenticeship was under the auspices of the NJC, the national joint council for the building industry a social partnership organisation. (This was before the CITB was established.)

The process of becoming skilled Many informants explicitly said I was lucky or I was fortunate in reference to their apprenticeship training. This was usually followed by a reference to breadth of experience, and sometimes to quality; it was also often contrasted to the narrow, specialised nature of more recent training, particularly NVQs. I was fortunate enough to experience, a whole... a broad range of decorating type work. From, you know, standard application of paints, through to paperhanging, to decorative painted finishes, to spray painting... Paul I got to know the whole of building, although I was a carpenter and joiner in the joinery shop.... Frank M A good apprenticeship is seen as one in which the apprentice has the opportunity to learn all aspects of the trade, or sometimes more widely all about building. Some listed the types of work they experienced as apprentices; others the prestigious or well-known buildings on which they worked. Peter started a five year indentured apprenticeship in 1952. I was a plumber, gas-fitter and glazier... In the North of England, plumbers always did the glazing, that goes back to the days of leaded lights... and I did gas-fitting as well ... wiped joints ... copper soil pipes ...brazing ... copper welding... lead slates for the roof... I served my apprenticeship in York, places like York Minster, it was all cast...

292

Tom served a 5-year apprenticeship starting in May 1943. He learnt shop joinery first. This was during the war, so they were making sledges for Russia, and sectional buildings - mobile canteens and hospitals. As soon as the war finished, we went on to bomb damage repairs, that might be making sliding sash windows, doors ... to go up to London for repairing the houses. Once normal building work resumed (although timber was on the ration) he went out on site where he learned to set out a cut roof with a steel square, and also was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn to set out buildings.

Leroy started a three-year indentured apprenticeship in1974 We were told, Youre here to learn, not to earn. You would be working with a carpenter, and it was expected that you would do a great deal of watching, and looking, and trying it out, and ballsing it up and that was allowed. Because thats why you was an apprentice.... You were there to learn the craft. Most regarded themselves as fortunate and their apprenticeships as exemplary, but a few were less satisfied. Bernie served a 4-year apprenticeship (starting 1972) as a bricklayer with a small jobbing builder in the Liverpool area. He said his wasnt a very good apprenticeship because he was not indentured, was not given day release until 2 years into his apprenticeship, and did not experience much new work so he couldnt keep up on the line. He felt he was just used as cheap labour. However, he also felt he learned to do good quality work and gained a diversity of skills. In addition to brickwork he also learned to do flagging, pipelaying (salt-glazed pipework), plastering, roofing work (pointing up ridge tiles etc), and unblocking drains.

John T, indentured as an apprentice bricklayer, started his five-year apprenticeship in 1963, and reported Predominantly, the first 18 months, 2 years was, in them days, can lad, brewing up... can lad-cum general labourer, you know barrowing bricks onto a hoist, unloading brick wagons... Asked whether he felt he learned from that or was just used as cheap labour, he replied Both, really. You were getting exploited, obviously, but you learned, because you learned how to, you know, mix mortar... It was a learning process... Once you got the call, theyd call you up, and theyd let you have a go but the first task was spreading mortar across a mortar board, learning how to spread, so I did virtually a week on that, maybe more and then theyd break you in on the line and give you a little bit of that...

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Frank M describes the tradition of apprentices making tea and going to the shop for the cigarettes as basic training of life. It is not seen as inappropriate or exploitative, but as a necessary stage of learning. John S reported that Baroness Somebody said apprentices spend all this time making tea and sweeping up, so if we cut that out they can learn in a fraction of the time. But she had failed to understand that making tea was part of the process of socialisation. Apprenticeship was not just about learning to do a certain operation, but the process of becoming a craftsman. And You couldnt speed that up, it takes time. It is common to refer to apprenticeship as a process of becoming (a bricklayer), rather than learning (to lay bricks, for example). John S, Alan, and Leroy all made this point explicitly, speaking of the importance of becoming a craftsman, of being brought up in the trade from a young age. The mentor became a surrogate father figure. You were somebodys lad (Leroy) is a common phrase, and there were frequent references to being clipped round the ear95. I can remember getting a lump of wood round the back of my head, you know... we made the joints, I remember cramping it all up, thinking, this is great he came along and said I can get a bit of paper in there Wham! it was rather a father role... the chap I worked with, he never had children, and he treated me almost like a son and he gave me lots of good opportunities...I remember I used to ask, Bert, is it alright if I go to the toilet? and hed say, Yes, fine or, No, hang on until weve put all that timber through the planer... Frank M Many also stressed the importance of repetitive practice, of learning in the hands rather than in the head. its repetitive...its a set road Frank M You practice what youre told; you do not go off the script Leroy Long practice over and over again is needed to get the skill in your hands. It is not enough to understand intellectually, the skill has to be embodied; it has to become second nature. This is why short, concentrated ways of learning do not work so well, because it needs to be practiced and repeated thousands of times. ....Its difficult to go and read in a book how you get hold of a plane... you have to actually have a feel, the intuition... that was the most important part of the craft... You practice what youre told; you do not go off the script. From generation to generation to generation; thats what its all about.... thats how
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The author recalls being clipped round the ear and told Get up off your knees, youre not in church. This should be understood as a caring form of chastisement intended to prevent the formation of bad habits which will lead to musculo-skeletal problems later in life.

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you do it. Thats how a carpenter has the hammer, the nails... Whatre you gonna be do you want to learn how to do this properly? Youre gonna learn how to sharpen your saw, youre gonna do this properly...it was a craft and there was a price to pay... Leroy Most apprentices went to college on day-release (or, in some cases, block release). Those who were not given time off went in their own time. Tom did 3 evenings per week at college in his own time; day release came in only after the war, towards the end of his apprenticeship. Alex served a four year apprenticeship at Vickers on Tyneside, starting in 1968. This was a structured training which began with a year at technical college, including academic subjects such as technical English; there was also an introduction to other trades, and three months in the drawing office in year four. Leroy started a fast-track 3-year apprenticeship in1974. Mondays to Wednesdays was working in the joinery shop... 2 days of technical work and bookwork calculations...even one session a week on social studies... Most said that what they learned at college was useful, often giving specific examples the journeymen that they had werent able to do the stuff that we had learned at Tech college on brazing Peter I often actually refer back to things now... working out the roof pitch... Frank When I was a foreman I needed to set out radius work. Id never done it, but I knew how to set it out from what I was shown at college. Dave S You were sent to college to understand why, and during your normal daily work you were there to learn how you did it. Leroy Almost everyone in this traditional group stressed the importance of both practical, on-site experience, and underpinning knowledge learned at college on day-release.

Life after the apprenticeship It was common to leave immediately the apprenticeship ended, whether by choice or not It was almost a given at the majority of companies when you ended your apprenticeship you were released. Leroy I was made redundant the day I came out of my time in 1976. Bernie Some suggested that this was because then they had to pay you a mans wage. Others stressed the fact that once theyd come out of their time they were classified as journeymen and would be expected to gain experience by working for different firms
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and on different types of work. In many cases this meant being self-employed again, either by choice, in the hopes of earning more money, or because it was the only way to get work. John S was apprenticed to a smallish firm in Leyland, Lancs. As soon as he came out of his time in 1968 he moved to London and became self-employed. It was the only option, if you wanted to work. Paul too was self-employed from the day he finished his apprenticeship in 1989; there was less loyalty; the firm wanted to get you off the books. He did not feel he had much choice it was just what you did, though the extra money was also a factor. Not everyone had to be pushed into self-employment. The other side of this is Dave Ss account. When I came out of my time in 1972 there was a building boom on. It was amazing. I had three or four jobs a day. You could go round the different sites (...) you could get any amount of jobs for different prices. Youd start work for four hours and youd say, Hang on, theres another site across the road there. Youd just wander across there Whats your prices? and then Oh, OK, do you need bricklayers? Yes So youd pack in and then you would go... My mother would go mad. Cause I would come home at night with my level. Ahh shed say, No. When I came home with my tools, she knew that Id packed in the job and I was bringing my tools home to start another job on the morrow morning. But if I didnt come home with my tools she knew I had a job and Id left them on site, you know what Im saying? But it was that good. So really, I should have carried on with my education (...) but because the boom was there, and I was coming out of my time, and all I could see was the pound signs, I just went for the money. I actually did the infamous lump. We got caught. We actually got caught... We were doing a job down in Jesmond Deane in Newcastle, and this guy came down with a camera and just started taking photographs. And that morning they had a big purge throughout Newcastle on sites where they were doing the lump. Now, fortunately for me, I had the 714 certificate but my mate didnt and the hod carrier certainly didnt, so they tried to run away... but we got hauled in to the office... the office in Newcastle, and the guy said Right, I want you to produce your 714s and what youve signed for, so I did. And I thought, this is getting a bit warm, this, and so I just went cards in after that. The young, strong, fast men in their late twenties and early thirties are best placed to benefit from pure market competition and payment by results. Not everyone was so self-confident, however. If you couldnt do it they got rid of you. And when I finished my apprenticeship, I thought Do I know enough to survive? Ill be honest with you, yes, did I know enough to survive? Tom Insecure employment was something which continued throughout many mens working lives.

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Some of them worked for that firm their whole lives but every one was considered a casual worker, hourly paid. I mean, my father would tell you, he would go to work and a lot of blokes would fear going to work on a Monday, because outside the jobs would be 3 or 4 men with their bikes and their bags of tools, to see if anybody got the sack. They could sack you with an hours notice, and that was you gone. Tom Toms father would (like the authors grandfather) remember the 1920s and 1930s.96 But little seems to have changed for todays workers. Several interviewees made similar remarks. Dean, a much younger man, says something very similar to Tom about the insecure, casual nature of the work. ... if they cant walk the walk, well off you go, and its not a problem to just sack someone...its completely accepted, so if someone says youre down the road, you go... In some cases marriage and having a family prompted men to look for more steady employment After getting married in 1976 I was working for a house builder who regularly paid off the bricklayers as soon as winter arrived and I wanted more stability so I went back to night classes Dave S. For those who moved into management, their twenties and early thirties would be a time of years of part-time study whilst moving through jobs as trade foreman to GF/site manager. In other cases it was not until they were in their forties that the constant moving from job to job would begin to pall. Around this age, men traditionally moved to the DLOs, or went into other jobs which offered regular, reliable year-round employment such as jobs which used to exist in foundries and factories (for example in the case of bricklayers, doing firebrick work, re-lining furnaces, as well as general maintenance). John T moved to CMDWD because of blacklisting I was forced to go to Direct Works. I worked in the industry until I was 39, and because of trade union activity I couldnt get work anywhere, cause Id been a shop steward so I was out of work for two years; Id two young kids... and the Direct Works were advertising in the Evening News, and I walked round and got an application form I was forced to, cause they didnt have a blacklist so, I started for them.... I hated maintenance, you know, as a bricklayer, having worked on new build work. When I come here, fixing a flag, or putting a brick in here or there, an isolated brick, I thought, I cant stick this... but you know, I
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The jokes about this time were still current in the 1960s. Translated from dialect to standard English, one goes like this Enoch saw a man in the canal shouting Help, Im drowning so he asked Where do you work? The man in the canal told him, and continued to shout Help, Im drowning. Instead of pulling him out, Enoch went to the mans workplace and said Ive heard youve got a job going. And the foreman said, No we havent, what do you think happened to the man who pushed him in?

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had a wife and two kids and I thought, I cant subject her to any more of, you know, unemployment and that, me being out of work and so I stuck it. Its the longest period of employment Ive had! Others might become jobbing builders. At this age, speed begins gradually to decline, as does strength and stamina. It is not very obvious in the forties, but many men begin to look at those who are still working outside in all weathers in their fifties and sixties, and wonder what the future holds. The late forties and fifties is a good age to make the move into teaching others, whether formally by becoming a craft instructor, or informally by becoming a mentor to apprentices or trainees. The man of this age should have a wealth of experience and know all the tricks of the trade. Others used to become Clerks of Works at this age, but often it was necessary to have prior experience in site management. By his late fifties and early sixties, the man who is still on the tools may be finding it hard physically. Musculo-skeletal injuries from forty to fifty years of physical work begin to take their toll. Im stiff as a poker when I get up, down the left side... Its when you stop. If youre doing it every day, youre using everything. But when you stop, everything tries to go back to where it should be... John T Yet it is rare to be able to move into an alternative career at this age, so the older man has to soldier on without complaining, unless his health forces him to retire early. You just carry on, dont you? Its something that you get used its like anything else, you need to do it to survive. Or change your occupation, but if youre a building worker, unless youve got some qualifications ... The ease of the bones or the ease of the pressure comes later on in life by that time, youre more or less physically knackered once your kids have left and the financial pressures eased. But up to that period, up to youre say 50, 55, youve still got to plough away, havent you? So, you havent got an opportunity to unless youre a single individual you havent got that opportunity to say, well, Ill divert to something else. Youve got a family to feed, and so you carry on doing it. You can t say, well, I tell you what, well stop...Them people just carry on, dont they? John does suggest that the older man is able to ease up the pace of work a little once his children are independent, but by that time youre more or less physically knackered, and it is too late to move to another career. This is why most of them wanted to get out and go when older employees at CMDWD were offered redundancy or early retirement on enhanced pensions in successive rounds of downsizing.

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Unless he has earlier made the move to working for a DLO, a maintenance organisation, or something similar, the older craftsman has to chase an increasingly narrow range of work in which he can keep up, and compete with younger men in the dog eat dog LOSC market. Each trade has certain types of work where experience and patience will tell more, and other types of less intricate work, where perhaps only a more basic level of skill is needed, but more strength. (This is one reason why it is important to learn all aspects of a trade on a wide range of types of work. Someone who is only a shuttering carpenter is more likely to have problems when they get to sixty if they cannot move to final fix work.) Speed is demanded by the employer when payment is by the day. When payment is by results, whether a group bonus scheme for directly-employed operatives (now rare), or a price for the job for a LOSC gang, then it is the other workers who demand a certain level of speed, and there is a feeling of shame in not being able to keep up.

Many older tradesmen would like to use their experience to teach others. Unfortunately it is not so easy; according to Neil (brickwork instructor) it takes a full year to understand the administrative requirements of NVQs and OSAT. When Frank was made redundant, he thought of teaching, but with no formal qualifications beyond his City and Guilds, he was not accepted. Frank was also intimidated by the idea of writing on a blackboard, and the kids thinking he cant even spell .

It is surprisingly common to still be working well past the (current) retirement age of 65 for men. Several interviewees were doing so or had done so, although most were no longer on the tools. I didnt intend to stay on the tools all my working life. I could see people struggling as they got older and developed arthritis or whatever. Nobody in their right mind was going to rely on it as a career until 75. Harold For the man still doing physical work past the age of 70, the usual options are to become a can lad (returning to the apprentices position of making tea and running errands), a key man (arriving at the site early to unlock gates and cabins, perhaps also acting as storekeeper), or even a sweeper-upper. Many may not have saved or paid in to pension schemes, and therefore need the money. But Mike says Ive got an old boy out there, but he dont do it because he hasnt got a pension, he just wants to be out. Hes 71. Cant sit at home. He lives down the road from me, and my wife said to me For Gods sake, take him out with you. Hes up
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and down the road, wandering around.... I said, yes, Ill get him a job... He could get the seven oclock train in a morning, but no, he has to get the half six, make sure hes here on time.....Just the way he is.... Those whose whole life has been spent working on building sites (Ive lived and breathed in this industry) sometimes dont know what to do with themselves if they retire, as they miss the comradeship, the craic, or the work itself, the satisfaction of making something. Frank, who is still working although retired says I love building. Love it... Ive enjoyed my life in the building industry. If I was struck down tomorrow ... I never regret the day I went into the building industry. Tom, now 80, also comes across as a satisfied man. I had a great love of woodwork to start with, and I think thats stood me in good stead for whatever I wanted to do since then... and I was always very happy really just being a carpenter but the money wasnt that great. He ends the interview by showing off many items he has made since he retired at age 71, and giving a tour of his workshop in the garage, where, as well as a lathe and bandsaw, he still has his fathers tools.

Life histories: the non-traditionally trained


About half (21) of the men interviewed served a traditional apprenticeship, but many of these were no longer working on the tools, having either retired or moved into management jobs. Of those (22) currently working on the tools, 10 or fewer were time-served; the rest had learned with varying degrees of informality. Some had literally just picked it up, with no formal training at all. Some had later had this learning accredited by the award of an NVQ. Others had received training through Government schemes such as YTS, generally regarded as much inferior to an apprenticeship. Choosing or ending up in a construction trade As with the time-served men, many of those who were informally-trained had family in the building trades. Dean worked with his father. In addition my brothers, ones a painter and ones a carpenter... My middle brother, Im pretty sure he doesnt have any formal qualifications as a carpenter... he was a chef and then he learnt as he went along, more or less. Chanced it. Trevor had an uncle in his trade.

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Got into my trade by accident ... I was at Uni ... my Uncle had a tiling company .... finished my degree and realised I could actually make more money doing this.... Trevor (informally trained in 1990s). Also as with those who served formal apprenticeships, many describe ending up in construction, and in a particular trade, by chance or by accident. Amongst those who described their career in construction as pure chance, there often seemed to be a sense that all had worked out for the best, and even that it was somehow meant to be; this was particularly the case for those who served apprenticeships. However, those who were informally trained did not necessarily take this view that all had worked out for the best. Some used expressions such as I didnt really have a lot of choice or there werent a lot of other options for why they ended up in their trade. It wasnt really a choice... it was just a case of survival. I was sort of trapped in it, couldnt get out. Dean This lack of choice is also a feature of labourers descriptions of how they came to be doing their job, and seems to be associated with the lower-status occupations in construction. It was much less common in the accounts of the apprentice-trained. None of the managers (and none of the women) spoke of having no choice about working in construction.

The process of learning This is Deans account of learning a trade. I was working as a labourer, and I thought, hang on a minute, if I can get a job as a brickie, itll be easier, physically easier, and Ill get paid more money. So he went to an agency and told a load of lies, saying he had been a brickie for years. He had in fact done little bits with my dad from when I was about 17, then later with my friends dad. The agency did not demand qualifications or references, merely asked how much experience he had, and he assured them Oh yes, got a few years experience. So I went on a job, and got the sack straight away, because I was useless. But the agency didnt sack me, they just took me off that job and sent me to another one. So eventually I ended up on a job where the quality wasnt very important because it was going to be plastered or something... Then he was able to start acquiring skills. He gradually learned as he went to different jobs I got the sack off a few jobs but picked up some skills, both directly from

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experience, and from tips passed on by more experienced workmates. Thus he could do the basics of bricklaying, and felt that he was quite good at it.

Those who learned a trade informally usually started as labourers (either general labourers, like Dean, or assisting a particular trade) and gained experience of construction before making the move into a recognised trade. This broad experience of construction was felt to be a useful foundation. I started off as a hodcarrier and then went on to the trowel... I thought it was the best way to learn it. Bricklayer 1 Thats the best way. Just watching, as a labourer, you learn. Bricklayer 3 It is very common for hodcarriers to become bricklayers, as they are already associated with bricks and mortar, and knowledgeable about their properties. Often the bricklayers for whom they work will invite them to point up at the end of the day, then eventually to do uncomplicated brickwork which will not be seen, and finally to do the more straightforward facework, running in to the line. (Putting up the corners which will define the line and level of the work is reserved for the fully-skilled bricklayer.) In order to be accepted as a bricklayer though, the man who started as a hodcarrier will usually need to move from working with the gang who trained him; at this time he may move to working for different companies this allows the obfuscation of his background if he wishes. However, the bricklayers interviewed on the Abbeybuild site had remained with the same employer after they made the move from being hod carriers, and had been assisted to become formally qualified (NVQ 2) by on-site assessment and testing (OSAT).

Neither Dean, nor the Abbeybuild bricklayers, nor Chris (a self-taught painter and decorator) expressed any qualms about the informal way they learned. Of the three Abbeybuild bricklayers interviewed, one had served an apprenticeship and two had learned informally, but all agreed that you learnt more on site than you did at college, and the apprentice-trained bricklayer even agreed with his colleagues that the way they learned was better. 1 I started off as a hod carrier and then went on to the trowel about 7 years ago Did you have any problems learning that way? 1 I thought it was the best way to learn it... 2 I learned the other way, apprenticeship...day release... 3 I started off on the hod...
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(...picked it up by doing it?) 1 Yes, thats the best way. 3 Thats the best way. 2 A better way of doing it than what I done it. (you think the way he did it was better?) 1 Oh, it is, yes. 2 I didnt have a clue what a shovel was. 3 You learn more out here than you do in the ...... By miles. 2 Just watching, as a labourer, you learn... 1 You learnt more being on site than you did at college... 2 what you do at college you dont relate to on site... The self-taught professed that this was the best way, and admitted no inferiority to those who had done apprenticeships. By associating formal apprenticeships with college learning, which is denigrated, the value of their experiential learning is emphasised. Those who did seem to feel that their training, and their status, were inferior to the traditional time-served apprenticeship were those who had learned their trade via the various government schemes for the unemployed, such as YTS (the Youth Training Scheme of the 1980s) and TOPS (Training Opportunities Scheme). Im an ex YTS Carpenter and joiner. Feeling slightly inadequate at the lack of label time served I went for the City and Guilds but had a fall out with the teacher Bill I did a TOPs course and I thought they were pretty good really, but I never used to admit to being a 6-month bricklayer. If anyone asked, I would say, oh yes Ive got the City and GuildsWhich was true, but I said it so people would think time-served. Even now I dont like to admit it. Kevin Both of these men saw the City and Guilds qualification as giving them the status which the government schemes lacked whereas those who learned by completely informal means seemed to feel that it was having served their time in this sense which enabled them to lay claim to skilled status.

What happens after learning I worried that I was gonna do it for ever... I got a sense of satisfaction you do something and its plumb and level and that. But the actual doing it, I found it I just found it boring, I used to go out of my nut. I mean, actually, I used to smoke dope all day; I used to think it was the only way I could deal with it. Maybe that made it worse, but Id just think, god, I cant, you know I mean, Id just despair, that it was the same thing all the time... I can just remember despairing sometimes, thinking, is this it? For the rest of my life? Dean

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This is not necessarily typical of those who learn informally, but it is not so unusual. Many do not see themselves staying in their trade for the rest of their lives; they are just passing through, doing their job for purely instrumental and possibly temporary reasons, rather than identifying with their trade. In describing their reasons for choosing their occupation, or the positive aspects of being in their occupation, the informallytrained were more likely than the apprentice-trained to cite factors other than the intrinsic satisfaction of the work. Money was sometimes mentioned. I was working as a labourer and I thought if I can get a job as a brickie, Ill get paid more money. Dean, bricklayer finished my degree and realised I could actually make more money doing this Trevor, tiler For some, the benefits of their job may simply involve providing for their family or earning money to go on a bender. Quite a lot of agency people ... theyre well aware that theyre not the best, but they will do a weeks work for you and youll give them a weeks wages, and then they can go and piss it up the wall. Which is fine. Fred For others, the attraction is being able to take time off, regularly or irregularly, without having to account for it. The casual nature of the work becomes an advantage. For some there are positive aspects to the constant moving on. As Fred says of agency work
I liked

it. I could be somewhere else next week and it could be completely different and if I wanted a week off, I had a week off. And you dont have anyone to answer to. The freedom and the flexible nature of the work were often mentioned. In the midst of talking about despairing of the boring nature of his job, Dean also spoke of the way in which its flexibility allowed it to fit around his other interests. Whereas Dean felt trapped, Chris had positively chosen his work for the flexibility it offered. Basically I paint houses all summer so I can go climbing all winter. I quite like it as a job. Nobody bothers you. You dont have to be nice to anybody or talk to anybody. I listen to my i-pod and I do my work and then I go home. If anybody gives me any shit I tell them to fuck off. For those who may have another string to their bow, and do not fully identify with their job in a construction trade but with other aspects of their life, this flexibility may be the most attractive characteristic of their work in construction.

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Life histories: the womens trajectory to becoming skilled


10 of the 49 people interviewed were women. However, this is by no means typical there would, as explained in the methodology chapter, have been no women at all had a decision not been taken to deliberately seek them out. There are, and have been, relatively few women in construction, and very few in the manual trades (under 1%, see Clarke et al., 2004). It is thus more difficult to describe a typical trajectory for the women, as womens experience of learning a craft is always atypical and exceptional. It is also impossible to describe what typically happens to older tradeswomen, as none of the informants were older than their mid-50s. (The range was from mid-20s to mid 50s.) Yet to describe only the mens experience as though it applied to everyone would have been misleading. There were clear differences between the mens and the womens experience, and an attempt has been made to describe these.

Choosing construction Women in general do not just end up in construction as roughly half of the men did. Women need to overcome the assumption that working on a construction site, particularly in a manual trade, is a mans job. Thus, they usually need to have a particular interest and make a positive choice in order to overcome opposition. There was only one woman, a construction manager, who recounted having got into construction by pure chance. When I was 18 I left school and my mother said Youd better get a job ... so I answered an ad for a temp secretary ... and they just happened to send me to a construction site, by chance... Fliss Fliss is the exception here, as a traditionally female job as a secretary led to a career in construction when she discovered that it suited her. Many women said I always wanted to work out of doors I couldnt be stuck in an office or I always liked working with my hands to explain their choice of building as a career. Several women had always been tomboys and felt that this made them particularly suited to construction. Do you have to become one of the boys? Well, Ive owned about four dresses in my life, Ive always climbed trees, Ive rewired cars what do you mean, become one of the boys? No, I havent become one of the boys, I always was one of the boys. Fliss

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Thus, for the women, a career in construction was both something for which they had a natural interest or aptitude, and a positive choice.

Family connections are a common way into the industry for women as well as men. Janie learned by working with her brother who was a painter and decorator. Other women mentioned their father, brothers or other male family members (boyfriends cousin...) in the trades as helping them and sparking their interest, even if they did not actually work together. Helens father, a gas fitter, showed her how to do practical jobs around the house which she described as inspiring her to work as an electrician. Helen also said Theres a female electrician in Caerphilly, not far from here; I did a little bit of work with her before I got the RCT homes job..... I met her at a WAMT networking event. Women are consciously building their own networks, so that women who run their own businesses will provide work or training for other women, but this is inevitably rudimentary because of the small number of women involved.

Getting a training: the process of becoming skilled Another way in which the craftswomen had different trajectories from the men is often being slightly older at the point of going into a trade, because of needing to overcome the assumption that it is not womens work. Most of the tradeswomen had not gone into construction straight from school, but many had previously tried other jobs and been dissatisfied. Nor did they necessarily do badly at school as most of the men did one had a PhD (unrelated to construction) and several had degrees or had previously done professional jobs.

Few of the women served apprenticeships, and this seemed to be related to their being slightly older when seeking training. (Even being aged 18 rather than 16 made a difference when apprentices pay was fixed by age.) Those who had served apprenticeships had done so at the Direct Labour Organisations (mainly in London) and were often still working there many years later. It seems that apprenticeships at private-sector organisations are rarely open to women. Some recounted having encountered overt discrimination even when applying to public-sector organisations

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When I first applied to do carpentry, it was before the sex discrimination act, so they just said we dont take girls. Then two years or so later it was after the sex discrimination act, and they had to accept me. Others had taken part in specific women-only programmes organized by WAMT in collaboration with a London boroughs Direct Labour Organisation, where there was positive support and encouragement for women to learn a trade.

Some (younger) women had started at college by studying for the Construction Award. One had then found employment as an apprentice with a former DLO. A common problem was being unable to gain the practical on-site experience needed to obtain the NVQ, but the Women And Manual Trades organisation had managed to arrange unpaid work experience for some of them. Sally, a plumber, said Within the first week I felt like Id learned more on site than in a whole year at college. They had gained confidence during their unpaid 13-week placement, and some had gone on to find employment via contacts they made during the placement.

Informal ways of learning were perhaps less common amongst the women. One woman described working with a male colleague who blagged his way into an electricians job although he had no qualifications he can talk the talk, and tell outright lies he said even he was surprised when they offered him the job I just couldnt do that, just completely lie in a job interview... (Helen) However, Janie started learning informally when she used to help her brother, a selfemployed painter and decorator. She then felt the need for formal qualifications, and attended college part-time to do NVQ 2 and 3, before setting up on her own as a selfemployed painter and decorator.

Life after the training It was noticeable that few women were working for private-sector firms (either directly employed or notionally self-employed). Those who had completed their training were either employed by DLOs carrying out maintenance work, or were independent selfemployed artisans working directly for small (mainly domestic) clients. Various reasons were given for this. Some cited the satisfaction and flexibility of working

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independently. Some had found that it was simply impossible to obtain work from the (mainly small, specialist) private-sector firms which engage trades, or had been reluctant to apply to them for work because of a perceived likelihood of not being taken seriously.

The difficulties of construction work mentioned by women were different to those highlighted by men. Men often spoke of the hard physical nature of the work and the uncomfortable working conditions (only a cement shed to sit and have your dinner). A few spoke of the insecure, casual nature of the work, of the low status of construction work as dirty work, or of poor pay. Women mentioned none of these as problematic. The difficulties mentioned by women were specific to their position as women in a mans job. They had to do with sex discrimination, bullying or harassment; being coddled by well-meaning supervisors or trainers and thus denied access to the full range of work; or simply always being visible and having to prove oneself, not being able to blend in.

Women who had experienced bullying or harassment were somewhat reluctant to give a detailed account of it to the researcher. And not all of the women had met with problems which they ascribed to their gender; some insisted that having to prove yourself applies to everyone in construction. it depends how confident you are in yourself as well, its certainly not an industry for anyone thats got self-confidence issues, is it? I think you still have to prove yourself because everyone has to prove themselves, and you will still get the piss taken out of you because everybody gets the piss taken out of you, and the thing you cant do is take it personallyBut people, if people talk to you like that, it means they like you. They just ignore you if they dont. They wont bother. They want a bit of banter Fliss All the women were agreed that, in spite of the difficulties, work in the construction trades was intrinsically satisfying. What I love about plumbing is problem-solving. I love going in there and fixing problems. Nadine, self-employed domestic plumber The freedom. Not going to the same place every day. You never get bored people will take the piss out of you and have the craic thats what makes it entertaining. Thats what makes it a good job. Everyones there to have a laugh. (And get the work done and make the money.) Fliss

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Not being stuck indoors. Being in control. Not having someone looking over your shoulder. Its very satisfying; to make something, and to be able to say at the end of the day I did that. Sylvia, Joiner and Cabinet Maker Whilst the difficulties described by women were different from those described by men, the reasons women gave for enjoying their work were identical to the reasons given by men freedom, working outside, the satisfaction of making something or fixing something.

Life histories: the site managers


Project Manager, Site Manager, Site Agent, General Foreman, theyre all different names for the same animal... Peter 22 interviewees were currently working or had previously worked as site manager - or other title denoting site-based management or supervisory work, such as construction manager, general foreman, finishing foreman, or site agent. 15 were from a trade background (13 of these were time-served, one had done a TOPS course, and one was a groundworker, which is not a recognised trade). 6 were from a degree background, by which is meant that they took a degree before starting work in construction, rather than later by a part-time route. One, the only female site manager interviewed, was something of an anomaly, having started as a secretary (which she described as girl tools) before studying part-time for an HNC and a construction degree whilst working as a document controller and project planner.

The time served managers The biggest group of site managers was those who started in a building trade. In response to an open-ended question as to how they got into construction (and/or into their current job), most began by stating their trade. Im a carpenter by trade... Mark, site manager I am a time served bricklayer. Dave S, Clerk of Works I served my time as a chippie... Len, site manager

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This was often stated in terms of I am (a bricklayer, a carpenter) rather than I was..., I started as..., etc. This was so even when the person had not worked on the tools for many years.

The site managers who worked their way up, having started in a building trade, usually spent many years of part-time study whilst doing so. After studying to City and Guilds Advanced Craft level in their trade, the Full Technological Certificate was the link to the more academic technician-level qualifications of ONC and HNC97. Many then became professionally qualified by taking the IOB98 exams. In more recent times, some have also taken part-time degrees as the CIOB no longer has its own examinations but relies on the accreditation of degree courses. This route via Advanced Craft / Full Tech / ONC / HNC / to IOB was arduous, but it laid out a clear path from trade to professional status. In some cases it was the individual who took responsibility for his own career development. In other cases it was planned by the firm at which they served their apprenticeship. At Leroys firm They didnt take you on just to be an apprentice; they were seeking out the next line of management. ... It was expected of you that when you used to do your annual trip up to Earlsfield to see Mr Victor, that youd be talking about what youd just done at college and going on to say now youre gonna do your Guilds, and now youre gonna do your Advanced, and now youre gonna do your bridge year and youre going to do your IOB, and then we might see... they brought you through the ranks so you could be steeped in... this is the way we do it... you understand our clients, you understand how this business runs, you understand our standards... It could be expected to take10 to 15 years of part-time study, often at a time when a young man would be married with a young family, and often at the same time as working long hours and travelling long distances in a succession of jobs as foreman. Several interviewees mentioned that this required a commitment to getting on not only by the young man, but also by his wife, who was deprived of his help and company during long periods of time. Many were men who did not find book learning easy, but persevered and obtained good results - one even took the exams twice in order to get first class (Peter).

97 98

Ordinary and Higher National Certificates Now CIOB; Chartered Institute of Building

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The graduate managers The site managers who took degrees full-time at university before starting work in construction tended not to mention that until specifically asked, but simply to say, I started out working for such a firm on such a type of job. Some had been trained as quantity surveyors, buyers or project planners before moving into site management roles; some had been on graduate training programmes. They tended to stress what they had learned from experience rather than the value of their university training. an amazing planner, who taught me so much ... he was fantastic, he absolutely taught me so much about the industry and about everything, and I picked up loads. I was with Ranesh, whos one of our best General Foremen ever Ive learned so much off that guy, unbelievable... and the main foreman off there is a fellah who taught me loads as well about how you do all the shuttering systems, everything like that, he was amazing. Here, for example, Freds claim to competence is based much more on learning from experience and from experienced mentors, than on the formal knowledge acquired from a degree in construction management.

The value of practical experience A background of having learned and practiced a craft is widely regarded as important for site-based managers. I can definitely say that my background helped. I could talk tool talk and it gave me a certain credibility. A trades background is also useful when someone tells you that something cant be done. You can not only disagree from a position of strength but point out how to actually do the impossible task. In my experience a trades background is not an absolute necessity for being a good manager but it does help. Len Experience of having worked on the tools is regarded as valuable not only by those who have this experience but also by those who do not have it. In a focus group discussion, Vinny, a degree-qualified trainee site manager, says I think theres generally a lot more respect for time served tradesmen who later become managers. Im acutely aware of my ignorance of how the tools work and wouldnt mind some time spent on them myself just to understand some of the problems faced. How exactly can one manage if they have not been there themselves? ... Theres always the possibility of having the wool pulled over your eyes by some of the more imaginative workers too.

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In both Lens and Vinnys account, there are seen to be two advantages to the trade background. Firstly the manager who has worked in a construction craft is accorded respect or credibility by the operatives. Secondly the detailed knowledge of how the work is done is of practical value, and enables the manager to avoid getting the wool pulled over their eyes. Several of the Clerks of Works stressed the value of being able to explain exactly how to do something, or even to take the tools and demonstrate how to do it. Peter reports saying I know exactly what youre supposed to be doing, do you want me to show you? This may be to someone who is genuinely unsure how to proceed, but often to a recalcitrant worker who is either doing poor quality work or is claiming that something is impossible.

Dean, a bricklayer who has not worked as a site manager, recounts this from the other side The guys that checked the work, most of them were quantity surveyors, and people used to trick them. Like that thing about ties, if youve forgotten to put any wall ties in, you just cut the ends off with a brick hammer and poke them in afterwards. And if youve done it or youve seen it done, then you give them a little tug just to check, but how would they know? I mean, they didnt, and there would be a lot of wool pulled and they were aware of that, as well not aware of the actual, what the thing was, but they were aware they were being tricked, they just didnt know how. There was one guy, he was quite posh, and his Dad was some director and hed got in that way... and he was seen as being quite useless, and he was a bit lazy and he sat in his office... the workers gave the posh guy a bit of a runaround actually ... pulled the wool over his eyes and I think the subcontractors did the same thing...but one of the other managers, he was a carpenter, and he was very well respected actually... and it was difficult to get things past him. The respect which is accorded to the manager who was previously a carpenter (and withheld from the useless posh manager) goes along with the practical experience which enables him to avoid being tricked. Those who can have the wool pulled over their eyes because of a lack of practical experience are not respected. A military metaphor is often used to refer to managers from a manual background as having come up through the ranks. One interviewee, Brian, made this very explicit by comparing graduate site managers to officers straight from Sandhurst (who you wanted to shoot in the back!) as opposed to NCOs who had come up through the ranks and therefore understood the troops.

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The rise of the graduate manager In spite of this agreement on the value of practical experience for site-based managers, all of those managers who came from a craft background were absolutely certain that degree-qualified managers without hands-on experience were increasing both in numbers and in influence. Several interviewees who had themselves progressed from a trade to management by means of part-time study commented that this has now become much more difficult. You used to be able to go from the bottom to the top of the industry but now theyve pulled up the ladder. John L. According to the traditionalists, the formally-qualified project managers do not have the experiential knowledge to really control the detailed organisation of the work. [managers now] lack practical experience, nine times out of ten. You see theyve all come through degree courses. A lot of them are very very well qualified but qualification tends to lead them away from practical knowledge. ... the companies send them out, but then of course they put them into the office so theyre learning procedures and how to go through specifications... instead of getting out into the middle of all the muck and bullets99, at the sharp end. ... Too many very well qualified people who lack common sense. Common sense comes with experience; you cant have one without the other Peter. you get some guy who hasnt done a trade, maybe hes been to university, or he started as a surveyor, and then hes branched out into site management ... to me it doesnt work. It doesnt work. [tells long tale of disastrous management] ...and then, we had to get a couple of old hands, and they knew what to do, and they came down and they put everything right... Dave It is, the traditionalists insist, the craft workers themselves (and the subcontractors foremen, usually still craftsmen) who actually organise the work on sites run by modern project managers. This suggests that whatever the graduate managers are doing is something other than the day-to-day organisation of the work I think managing construction based queries is more of a mathematical problem nowadays. Molly Mollys hint as to what it is the graduate managers are doing is confirmed more overtly by Leroy when he says the QSs are taking over the construction industry.

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Note the military metaphor again.

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Changes in the life histories and processes of becoming skilled


In the trades there is one set of informants, mostly older, who started with signing apprenticeship indentures and followed a traditional trajectory to become skilled; and another set, mostly younger or learning more recently, who chanced their way in and just picked it up. In general, more of the younger people who were still working on site as operatives at the time of the research, were informally trained (or gained entry through YTS and other schemes). Of those (22) currently working on the tools, 10 or fewer were time-served, whereas of those (20) who had previously worked on the tools but were no longer doing so, 16 were time-served. Although this was not a quantitative study, there does seem to have been a shift over time from formal apprenticeships to other ways of learning a trade, in addition to changes in apprenticeships themselves. (The reduction in length from five years to four and then three; the change from City and Guilds to NVQs.) The informally-trained were in general younger, and more likely to have learned their trade in the southeast rather than another region. Most of the traditional apprentice-trained men were working in the south-east at the time of the interviews, but many were originally trained in other regions. It was also notable that the informally trained often had less commitment to, or identification with, their trade.

In site management, it was notable that almost all managers from a trade background (including the younger ones) had served a traditional apprenticeship rather than being informally trained. However, those who worked their way up from a trade tended to be older, and those who did degrees, somewhat younger. There was also a very strong belief amongst the informants that site management was moving in the direction of graduate entry. So, whilst the trades seem to be moving away from formal training and qualifications, site management jobs have moved very much towards more formal qualifications (at degree and professional level) and excluding those who merely have experience of the trades. This seeming contradiction is discussed in Ness (2009; 2010a).

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Appendix E: The decline and fall of a DLO


The City of Manchester Direct Works Department (CMDWD) was one of 70 new Direct Labour Organisations set up between 1919 and 1920, to build Homes fit for Heroes; 500 houses were built under the 1919 Housing Act. At the beginning of 1979, the Department was completing almost 1,000 new dwellings a year, and had over 5,000 employees (4,315 manual employees). The intake of apprentices for 1979 was 140, which means the total number of apprentices was probably more than 400. By the end of 1982, four years later, completions had fallen to less than 300 dwellings a year, and the total number of employees had fallen to 3352 (a 30% reduction). In 1982 the Department received over 1,000 applications (before closing the lists early) for 39 apprenticeship places, and finally took on 43 apprentices.

By 2006, 550 employees (500 manual workers) remained at the Direct Works Department carrying out housing repairs and maintenance. In 2006 they were transferred to a joint venture company, Manchester Working, owned 80 per cent by Morrison Facilities Services and 20 per cent by the city council (Manchester Evening News, September 8, 2006). At that time, the city council still owned more than 40,000 dwellings, but they are gradually being transferred to new housing associations and arms length management organisations, and it is expected that Manchester Working will deliver services to these newly formed organisations, as well as seeking other work.

In order to try to understand how these changes came about, empirical data from the minute books of meetings of the Direct Works Department Policy Committee of Manchester City Council for 1979-1982 was juxtaposed with recollections collected from current and former employees of CMDWD / Manchester Working. The case study focuses particularly on the period from 1979 to 1982, but also extends to the present through these recollections. To distinguish quotes from the minute books and those from interviews, the former are in roman and the latter in italic script.

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Prelude At the beginning of 1979 there was no hint of the destructive holocaust to come. 981 new dwellings were completed in 1978-79. The use of computers was to be investigated. The were difficulties with the shortage of copper tube and radiators (Vol 14, p27) which posed a problem as so many houses now had central heating, and the fuel crisis which led to discussion of the possible use of LPG or electric vehicles (Vol 14, p405). Labour shortages were a real concern, the basic problem being that the private sector is offering higher wages than the Department can offer (Vol 14, p498). This was affecting new build and modernisation programmes, and there were complaints from client departments about minor works not being carried out, due to a shortage of craftsmen to carry out the work. A decision had been taken to subcontract joinery manufacture, as recruitment is not matching wastage. Semi-skilled labour for training within the workshop for joinery repair has not been accepted by the Trade Unions. (Vol 14, p498) At this era John T was a shop steward for the craft union, UCATT. they had the shop stewards committee at that stage, there was up to a hundred shop stewards. We used to meet we used to meet in the Town Hall! and at that time there was four and a half thousand people. We had near enough a hundred shop stewards and we used to meet once a month in the Town Hall. And they used to come and speak to it, the Director of Works Yet some had noticed storm clouds gathering on the horizon. A report written in June 1979 warned: There has been no variation in the current labour shortage, but from information to hand it would appear that the current situation could change by mid-1980... it is important that any remedial action does not adversely affect the Departments position... In May 1979, the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher had been elected. Construction was a major issue in this election. In 1978 the Labour party had proposed to stabilise construction workload and employment by forming a National Construction Corporation. Wood (1979) relates in his history of UCATT how the major contractors responded by forming CABIN (campaign against building industry nationalisation). Also at this time, there was a major political debate about the Local Authority Direct Labour Organisations (DLOs); Kirkham and Loft (2000) describe how the Conservative Party and the construction industry employers waged a campaign aimed at opening up

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more of the work done by DLOs to the private sector. The opposition to direct labour, characterised by accusations of inefficiency and a lack of accountability, formed part of the New Right attack on the power of the trade unions, and state intervention in markets.

Attack John T takes up the story Direct Works Organisations were about nationalisation of the construction industry you know, it was anti-competitive, to stop them, the private employers, ripping you off. So we had an organisation that was second to none I mean, some of the initiatives Murphy did was, you know, miles forward thinking; they had an asbestos unit, like, what, thirty, forty years ago, removing asbestos, it was unbelievable, you know. And er, and then it just Thatcher got in, Murphy got ousted by Bill Gill, and, er, he faded into oblivion, Dave like, and then, you know, the changeover come. Two changes happened; one was political and one was internal, cause, like, Billy Holroyd left... Frank Forrester, he went, and then, she came in, compulsory competitive tendering The people John mentions were full-time trade union convenors, of whom there used to be four. The exact relationship between the internal and external changes is not clear, but it seems that Dave Murphy, who used to come to conference and expound the philosophy of Direct Works may have been ousted by someone more willing to compromise with what was seen as inevitable. Wally Wainwright, a Communist, also left around this time. She is, of course, Thatcher. By September 1979, it was very clear that the Department was facing a period of change in a more competitive situation (Vol 14, p512). The 34 appendices to the minutes of a meeting on 18th September 1979 include the Councils response to a consultation on draft legislation which would mean that all new building works (including all modernisation work) would have to be tendered for in open competition, and also one third (initially) of maintenance work (Vol 14, p436). The response mentions social costs as a reason for the existence of the DLOs. However, it focuses particularly on the details of the accounting replacement costs for capital assets which would put Local Authorities at a disadvantage compared with private contractors; and on the requirement for each separate operation to make a return on capital employed (ROCE) of 5% in real terms matching the average for the private sector, but

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without the private sector freedom to cross-subsidise, and to seek work wherever they chose. In spite of complaints that the very short period allowed for consultation was unsatisfactory, the Government quickly went ahead and published the Local Government, Planning and Land Bill (Direct Labour Organisations). By January 1980, the Direct Works Committee was bemoaning the Governments disregard of the comments made by the AMA [Association of Metropolitan Authorities] on the Bill, which was badly drafted and difficult to understand. If the technicalities of the accounting systems to be imposed on the DLOs were unclear, the overall intent was all too easy to understand. Progress of the Bill was to be closely monitored. Thus this volume closes with the Department in a very different position from one year before. They had already called in consultants to recommend savings and system improvements which would (supposedly) reduce administrative costs by 15%. The next three years would see massive changes. By 17th February 1982 less than a year after the new Act came into force the Department was heading for a massive deficit, as other council departments cut their spending on maintenance due to cuts in the Rate Support Grant100. We consider that there are 2 options for remedying this situation, namely i. for the Department to be allocated additional work; or ii. redundancies in the Direct Works Department To have the opportunity of achieving the statutory 5% return on capital employed, additional work to the value of 4.5 million would be required or the loss of approximately 410 employees Vol 17, p78 The Direct Works Department Committee recorded its regret that other Committees have approved proposals for savings which would have serious consequences for the workload and workforce of the Direct Works Department and for the City as a whole and took the view that compulsory redundancies should be avoided if at all possible but there was not a great deal which could be done other than negotiating voluntary redundancies. A Committee meeting in June 1982 was taken up by discussion about the way the Department had been affected by Government legislation. It was not
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This was in a context where all departments were being instructed that purchases should be restricted to essential items only and unused allocations for the purchase of goods, materials or services should not be spent (p81, report from the Budget Resources Sub -Committee)

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simply the legislation on Compulsory Competitive Tendering and Revenue Accounting; Manchester Direct Works Department was already applying much of this previously, and prided itself on being efficient and cost-effective, so that it could win work in competition. However, government spending restrictions, restrictions on local authority housebuilding, and penalties for overspending by witholding the rate support grant meant that the new work was simply not there to win. A report on workload/workforce (16th June 1982, Vol 17, pp309-313) stated As the year progresses, the employment of the full labour strength of 635 within the [Contract Painting] Division becomes more critical. With the Citys reduction in spending due to Government policies the maintenance programme in general has been reduced. In addition there have been some losses of painting work to the private sector, which have compounded the problems. ...the group commenced the year with approximately 130 painters over strength although the groups workforce has reduced from 808 to 646 during the course of 1981/1982 year. The Painting Group are therefore consuming work rapidly and it is expected that unless any further work is available serious problems will arise on employment during early September and by the end of December 1982 the work will practically be exhausted. Vol 17, p310 Crisis point was reached in the summer of 1982. (See Vol 17, p455) Proposals were made to increase rents and to halt all painting and repair work. There was no meeting in August. In September, the Policy Committee agreed that no further contractual painting work should be carried out this year. As a result, approximately 150 painters are surplus to requirements immediately (Vol 17, p505) Various plumbers, joiners, labourers etc were also surplus to requirements. At an emergency meeting with the Trade Unions, terms were agreed for voluntary redundancy for 350 operatives. A document headed REDUCED MANNING: CONFIDENTIAL was discussed at a Committee meeting on 4th October 1982 (Vol 17, pp500-509). The scheme was to pay 400 to those with 1 to 2 years service, and 1400 to those with more than 2 years.101 The aim was for 350 to go within 3 months; 231 actually took voluntary redundancy between October and December 1982 (Vol 17, p790).

This was the first of many rounds of redundancies which John T was increasingly involved with, as many convenors and shop stewards also left. John reports that many of the older tradesmen were not sorry to go

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400 represented a months pay with maximum bonus; 1400 around 5 months basic pay.

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They all worked for the Direct Works, but they slagged it off All you ever got out of them was, when is there redundancies, its crap here, blah blah, blah. A lot of them were glad of it really I mean, the council enhanced pensions at that time, which ...Mostly older guysSo, most of them wanted to get out and go. In 2009 the process of attrition was still continuing But the last 4 or 5 months, you know, weve had Ive just completed the redundancies. 25 redundancies in craft. Bricklayers and joiners and what-haveyou. In Nov1982 (Vol 17, p577 and 585-588), the Committee were worried that the Department was headed for a 1million overspend on maintenance, and ANY OVERSPEND BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE EXPENDITURE TARGET SET BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE WILL BRING FINANCIAL PENALTIES... THROUGH WITHOLDING RATE SUPPORT GRANT MONIES (Volume 17, p586, capitals in original). Options presented included raising rents by 62p a week, or deferring work. It was decided to defer 900,000 of work, meaning that approximately 180 Painters will be surplus to requirements immediately (Vol 17, p587). Within three years, labour shortages (when the department employed 5018) had turned into overmanning with 4030. By the end of the year, the total was down to 3352, and reducing headcount was the order of the day. In November 1982, a report was submitted on dwellings completed 232 at end October 1982, and estimated at 289 total for 1982-83 financial year down from 981 in 1978-79. Only 2 new-build sites were still running (Vol 17, pp 578-579 and 612). Also on the modernisation programme (p579 and 613) It was reported that following completion of the two projects detailed in the report there was now no modernisation programme in operation (p579). (In June 1982 it had been reported that the modernisation programme was due to come to an end and 118 operatives would have to be dispersed ie a reduction of approx 25 operatives per month (Vol 17, p309).) Thus the DWD had become purely a maintenance organisation.

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Resistance The Direct Works Committee had very limited options in the face of this determined action by central government. Yet they seem to have tried some imaginative ploys to circumvent the new rules. Building houses for sale was one avenue being explored in 1981-82 (See Vol 16 pp 465ff). As capital expenditure on housing was restricted, the council provided the land for low-cost housing to be built by private developers for sale to priority categories of purchasers with the land conveyed directly to the purchasers. There had also been a pilot scheme of one pair of houses for sale, built by the Direct Works Department, and the Director was strongly arguing that CMDWD, rather than private developers, should build these houses. There were, however, problems regarding the funding for, and risks of development. (There was also, reading between the lines, controversy within the committee on following this path.)

Nevertheless, the Committee felt that The Direct Works Department has the impossible task of competing with the private building industry without being able to put aside the local government framework within which it must operate Vol 17, p808 The DWD was not allowed to tender for work outside the City of Manchester, and there were various anomalies in what work could be tendered for for example, they could tender for maintenance of police stations but not to build a new police station. There was an attempt to get a clause (allowing the DWD to work for the police, the water authority, the health authorities and other public bodies throughout Greater Manchester) included in a Bill then going through Parliament. In spite of opposition by the Government , the NFBTE, and the National Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, the Lords agreed to this only for it to be struck out when the Bill went back to the Commons (Vol 17 pp630-634, November 10th 1982).

There were various other attempts at resistance. The additional costs of supervising private contractors (estimated at around 6-7%, using RICS scales) were to be presented to committees thus justifying the possibility of awarding contracts to the DLO even if it was not the lowest tenderer (Vol 17, p796-801). Also, counsels advice was taken on whether painting work counted as building work (if not, it could be allocated to the DWD without tendering), but the advice was that it was included in the definition of building work.

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Apprentice training In 1979, 140 apprentices had been taken on. Three years later, this had fallen by 70% to 42. In 1982 the Department received over 1,000 applications (before closing the lists) for 39 apprenticeship places (Vol 17, p114). In 1982 members expressed their concern at the continuing reduction in the number of apprentices that the Department were able to employ and reaffirmed their belief that in view of the immense social value of apprentice training, especially at a time of high unemployment, the costs of their employment should be charged directly to the General Rate Fund. But in April 1982 the latest DoE circular on DLOs clarified that apprentice costs had to be included in DLO revenue accounts as a normal part of costs. Committee members met with local MPs to protest about the effects of this on apprentice recruitment, and the Manchester MPs made representations to the Ministers of Environment and Employment (p115). A meeting was later held with a full and frank exchange of views but without success. However, a decision was taken to try for MSC funding for training under the New Training Initiative announced in June 1982 by the Secretary of State for Employment, Norman Tebbit.

A working group was set up including representatives of the trade unions, the college of building, and City of Manchester Personnel Department, as well as the Direct Works Department. A Committee meeting on 17th November 1982 approved their feasibility study, and a detailed proposal was put forward, making use of unused workshop capacity at Bessemer Street and redeployed craftsmen as instructors. Young unemployed people would be given 6 months workshop training, followed by 6 months site-based training working on socially useful construction projects. On completion of the 1-year training, they would be considered for an apprenticeship with CMDWD (Vol 17, pp623-629).

This application was successful; here the training project is described by John B, one of the building craftsmen who was redeployed to work as an instructor on this scheme I became a craft instructor. Teaching kids how to, you know, become bricklayers. We had a hundred kids every trade, every occupation them properties, if they were anywhere else but Moss Side theyd be worth half a million quid, cause they were all individually designed to give the kids different aspects of the trades, so you had arches, you had curved walls, you had different roofs hipped roofs, normal trussed roofs and everything and the kids were

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taught on sitewe had portacabins on top of one another and the ones upstairs were the classrooms, and the lecturers from the college actually come to site to teach them, you know, give them the theory side of it.It was quality houses that they turned out, really absolutely first class... I would imagine the tenants will have bought them. If I was a tenant, Id have bought mine. Cracking, belting houses. Garages, the lot. What a scheme it was, phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal scheme.... Eventually, however, the funding was cut, and this too came to an end.

Cost reduction equals survival (heading in report, Vol 17, p 657) A Report on the Departments Future strategy and staffing, submitted to a Committee meeting on 17th November 1982 (Vol 17, pp653-700) was clear that survival had to be the over-riding objective. The strategy section of this report lists policy objectives, from a) survival through c) 5% ROCE to e) providing a service to client departments and g) providing employment and job satisfaction. 4 pages are spent on objective a), but only one sentence on objective g), to provide the best possible Conditions of Employment commensurate with the prevailing market situations and economic requirements (Vol 17, p662). Training is no longer an explicit objective, now that survival is at stake.

The report explains that, due to government policy, there had been a reduction in work potentially available for the Department to tender for, from 80M to 30M. The DWD was not allowed to tender for work outside the City of Manchester, and was competing for work in the worst financial recession since 1926 (p656). Hence cost reduction equals survival. However, the report also proposed a revised management structure in order to rebalance the Department. Although operative employment had been reduced from 4315 in 1979 to 2922 in November 1982 (a 32% reduction in less than four years), this was to be reduced further, whilst the employment of managers, particularly financial managers, was now to be increased. Some limited reduction of staff on the operational side is necessary to improve the competitive edge, but this will be offset due to the increasing administrative and supervisory work required (p669).

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There was an urgent need to strengthen the management structure of the Finance and Administration Division of the Direct Works Dept (p671) and additional resources must be made available. The report found that the management accounting function has not enough resources... p (671), and that there is a need to reassert the leadership function within the Division. They asserted therefore that the proposed organisation structure is in no way over-resourced... (p673). 4 new senior posts were created, and 5 other posts in finance. There was to be a Financial Controller on 15,000 to 16,000 (p76), and a Management Accountant on 12,000 to 13,000.

The report concluded The Department has survived successfully the most traumatic years in its history but is now in a position to stabilise... (Vol 17, p663). Little did they know what was yet to come.... John T takes up the story of what happened.

Bringing the story up to date we envisaged that, if we come through this and survived, wed have done well, you know, and waited for the return of a Labour government, obviously and we came through it for all its upheaval a lot went ... but at the end of it with a thousand people still intact, and weve had the return of a Labour government and the expectation was, it was gonna get rebuilt but they went better than the Tories, you know, they privatised the housing stock and weve ended up here, so so thats how the demise of it happened, politically it happened. The council followed Blairs initiative on trading off of the housing stock youve got housing trusts in Manchester, youve got housing associations, and youve got this bloody thing, joint venture company, and weve all been thrown to the four corners of the earth, and its gone there isnt anything left of it.... tragic really, but throughout the land, its happened everywhere theyve all gone, the lot of them have gone. Weve all been outsourced. Ironically, 25 years on, the restrictions on local authorities working outside their own area were finally lifted, and the joint venture announced plans to take advantage of this. In a press release dated 1st September 2006, Managing Director of Morrison Facilities Services, Phillip Russell, said: Taking advantage of new freedoms granted to local authorities, this new company will be able to grow its business outside the boundaries of the City. We intend to look for new opportunities for business across the North West, both in

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and beyond the housing sector. This will reduce unit costs and generate savings for the council tax payers and tenants of Manchester. Nevertheless, the joint venture is very dependent on work on the ex-council stock, and in 2009 this was beginning to run down Youre working for a private employer that wants to maximise profits and if he has to make people redundant, he will. Which he has just done Now that the contract side of it - under Decent Homes, which has been forty-odd million - is reducing down to nothing, now theyve started to attack. They had to start saying, Weve got to get rid of people, blah, blah, we havent won any work, blah, blah, blah John T The successor organisation, Manchester Working, is apparently still committed to training apprentices. A press release dated 19th November 2008 about the annual prizegiving ceremony cites Managing Director of Morrison Facilities Services, Phillip Russell, proudly vaunting the joint venture companys commitment to providing practical experience and vocational qualifications, and announced that it has recruited at least 12 [apprentices and trainees] each year since 2006; including a finance apprentice and two trainee quantity surveyors. John T confirms this, but also explains what lies behind it Theyve taken thirty-odd apprentices on, twelve every year, but its part of the contractual conditions that they have to take on you know, they have to take twelve on because its built into the contract. There is of course a huge difference of scale between the DWDs 140 apprentices a year, and the successor organisations 12, as John T points out. No, they dont have a training officer here. They just have a man, a bloke, a manager, who, hes supposed to co-ordinate it. But I mean with Direct Works, they had like three or four training people cause there was that many kids. John B describes the effects this dramatic reduction in the numbers of apprenticeships available has had on the training of young people You can go up the road there and see the kids theres hundreds of em. And youll see them at dinnertime; theyll come out like an army of building workers with all helmets on. But, them kids cant get placements. You teach the kids and, the thing about it is, they cant get a job, and they cant get an NVQ because they havent got Work Based Evidence. This lack of work placements for young people taking construction courses at colleges was, according to ConstructionSkills (2008), a widespread problem even before the advent of the current recession. Employers want workers who are already competent.

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John T describes the wider effects of the dramatic decline in craft training by Manchester and other DLOs: the private employer used the apprentices that the Direct Labour Organisations had trained and created... thats not there any more, so what youve had is, in this 10 year of boom, where, Labour have been in and weve had a boom period theyve infilled all that with migrant labour, you know, theyve used migrants to fill the shortage, the skills gap. Thus the decline of the DLOs is seen as one of the factors leading to the skills shortages of the boom years which followed Labours re-election in 1997. The loss of this regular supply of trained craft workers from the labour market led employers not to carry out their own training but to seek an alternative source of ready-trained labour which they found in migrants from the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

John finally concludes So. Thats how they smashed they broke it all up. Its been broke all up nationally... Its tragic, really, whats gone on one day someonell reinvent the wheel, and well be back with a Building Department for some local council... Someonell say, Ive got a good idea, why dont we have a building department... The DLO has been effectively destroyed. Manchester Working, the successor organisation which carries out work on ex-council dwellings, employs only a tenth of the numbers, and trains less than a tenth of the apprentices. Apprentices do not have access to experience on new-build sites, only to a limited range of repair and maintenance work. The workforce is aging and discouraged there has been virtually no recruitment for 30 years, so the majority of employees are over 50. And it is still shrinking, awaiting the day when someone will perhaps say, Ive got a good idea.

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