Relational approaches to employability

Pearson, Sarah and Lindsay, Colin and Batty, Elaine and Cullen, Anne Marie and Eadson, Will (2023) Relational approaches to employability. Journal of Education and Work, 36 (4). pp. 270-283. ISSN 1363-9080 (

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As policymakers consider how best to respond to increased labour market volatility in post-Covid-19 economies, there is concern that vulnerable groups such as lone parents may be left behind, and consensus that we need to develop more responsive and person-centred approaches to employability. Drawing on Cottam’s (2011, 2018) work on ‘relational welfare’, and the principles of the capabilities approach that underly it, this article discusses the experiences of unemployed lone parents and stakeholders involved in an innovative employability initiative operating across five localities in Scotland. We argue that relational approaches are valuable in supporting such vulnerable jobseekers to achieve outcomes that they have reason to value in terms of employability, learning, wellbeing and relationships (with balancing work and family relationships of particular importance for lone parents). We also discuss facilitators of, and challenges for, relational approaches to employability before identifying lessons for future policy.