Post-Fordism in the Ford Motor Company? Women learning in a "workplace community"

Year: 1999

Author: Clarke, Dr Julia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the texts of labour market sociology, the name of Ford is frequently invoked to represent a particular form of mass-production. The demise of the 'fordist' assembly line and the development of small-scale craft production by a highly skilled and flexible workforce, is claimed to offer 'Possibilities for Prosperity' in a new 'post-fordist' era (Piore & Sabel, 1984). What are these possibilities? Who will prosper in this new era? This paper will combine a critique of the fordist/post-fordist representations of the labour market in relation to the work and educational experiences of a particular group of women. These women are employed in low-paid service jobs, but have embarked on a return to education through EDAP's Internet CafT on the site of the car body plant at Ford Motor Company's Dagenham (UK) factory.

The Employee Development and Assistance Programme (EDAP) is a joint programme run by the Trade Unions and Ford offering non job-related educational opportunities to Ford employees. A government grant has enabled an EDAP learning centre to open its doors to family members of Ford employees, contract workers on the Ford site and employees working in the local retail park. The aim was to reach out to adults who had not continued with education since leaving school. Interviews with some of the women who took up this opportunity provide the data which is used to explore their subject positions as learners in a "workplace community".