Does work experience compensate for a lack in forms or types of cultural capital? Based on an ethnographic study, this article addresses this question by focusing of women from working class backgrounds who try to achieve some degree of upwards social mobility by qualifying as nursing aides. They do so based on employment within institutions or home care for sick and elderly people, to which they were recruited on the sole basis of their gendered disposition for caring. The analysis of their trajectories underscores that while the dispositive known as Accreditation of Prior and Experiential Learning (APEL) provides an opportunity to circumvent the challenges of the course programme, a great number of applicants fail, or succeed only after several attempts. Indeed, the format and content of the exams require the mobilization of school credentials unavailable to the candidates with the least school education capital. Work experience is less likely to be capitalized without cultural and social resources, be they incorporated or institutionally acquired. These exams also reveal the fragility itself of work experience as a form of capital: labour conditions and power relations at work within subaltern jobs are not always conductive to building this experience as an opportunity to accumulate the expected skills to attain even a marginal degree of upwards social mobility.
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