Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Setha Low

Committee Members

Cindi Katz

Leigh Graham

Subject Categories

Human Geography | Public Policy | Urban Studies

Keywords

abor market and skill restructuring, employment and training, frontline healthcare, defense manufacturing

Abstract

Since the 1980s, capital mobility and state restructuring have increased precarity in older industrial regions, such as eastern Connecticut (CT). These changes reconfigured labor markets, changing the work available, including the types, conditions, and skills required. Greater responsibility devolved onto poor and working-class people to navigate a labor market with insufficient living-wage work with 42.4% of jobs pay under $15/hour (Tung, Lathrop, & Sonn, 2015). Entry-level healthcare and manufacturing are two avenues for sub-baccalaureate, living-wage employment. Employment and Training (E&T) prepares people for entry-level jobs; it is a politically popular response to restructurings (Lafer, 2002; Laney et al., 2013). How do trainings produce and reproduce relations of capital and the state, race and gender, and skill, beyond preparing people for new jobs? I link these processes through a multiscale theory (critical) and method (extended case study). This is an experiential study from participant observations and semistructured interviews from the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline (Pipeline) training and OIC of New London County (OIC NLC) Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training. I recruited through the snowball method, collected observation and interview data with field notes and transcriptions, and thematically analyzed using bottom-up and top-down coding. Restructuring renders conditions of work and life difficult to reproduce. Training as a fix permits the continuation of restructured relations of mobile capital and a contracted (smaller and devolved) state by subsidizing and shifting responsibility to people and local programs. The trainings’ conditions (location, testing) are heavily segregated by race, gender, and class. The trainings offer two different work trajectories. CNA training is a pathway toward the sustaining promise of good work in healthcare, albeit via jobs that are bad and like previous work. Pipeline training is a foothold to living-wage work, like past work, that is subsidized and protected by the state but limited in scale by state contraction and instability. Focusing on training, skill, and the job market, as E&T programs do, distracts from the restructurings that degrade and segment work and daily life. The trainings can offer possible steps toward increasing wages. However, trainings offer an individualizing answer, asking people to work harder and train more to deserve living wages, regardless of restructurings and persistent inequalities.

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