Raymond Williams and the new industrial trainers: a critique and a proposal

Blackman, Tim (2022). Raymond Williams and the new industrial trainers: a critique and a proposal. Oxford Review of Education, 48(5) pp. 555–569.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2021.1997732


Raymond Williams was a literary critic, sociologist, novelist, and political activist but above all a teacher, with a theory of education as a societal process running through his work. He styled the UK’s educational establishment of the 1960s ‘Old Humanists’; guardians of a dominant elite culture who were losing their influence to the new ‘Industrial Trainers’, harbingers of an economic order based on mass production and consumption for which new technical skills were needed. The eclipse of the Old Humanists occurred with the transition from elite to mass higher education and an increasing focus in degree curricula on ‘employability’. Yet in England, the degree qualification is now under challenge, with government policy promoting new higher technical qualifications for specific occupations as better options for many learners who would otherwise choose ‘academic’ degrees. However, this new technical turn reflects thinking more akin to Williams’ twentieth century Industrial Trainers than twenty-first century needs. These are more likely to be met by mixed and interweaved ‘academic’ and ‘technical’ learning better provided through portfolios of modules built up over time, including progression between levels of study that are not necessarily linear nor within the same subject or occupational area.

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