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close this bookThe Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)
close this folderChapter I. From initial education to working life: making transition work by Marianne Durand-Drouhin and Richard Sweet
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. The purposes and outcomes of the OECD Thematic Review
View the document2. Changes in young people's transition to work during the 1990s
View the document3. The transitions are taking longer
View the document4. Changing patterns of participation in education and training
View the document5. The key features of effective transition systems
View the document6. Well-organized pathways that connect initial education with work, further study or both
View the document7. Workplace experience combined with education
View the document8. Tightly-knit safety nets for those at risk
View the document9. Good information and guidance
View the document10. Effective institutions and processes
View the document11. No single model - what counts is giving priority to youth

5. The key features of effective transition systems

Effective transition systems are characterized by a number of key ingredients. These are:

· a healthy economy;
· well-organized pathways that connect initial education with work and further study;
· effective combinations of education and workplace experience;
· tightly-knit safety nets for those at risk;
· good information and guidance; and
· effective institutions and processes.

A well-functioning economy is perhaps the most fundamental factor to shape young people's transition from initial education to work. Sound transition outcomes are easier to achieve when national wealth is high and rising, and when overall unemployment is low. Where jobs are plentiful, they are more likely to be shared with the young. Economies in which national wealth is high or increasing can afford to invest more in the education of the young. Extended participation in schooling, in training-intensive employment or in tertiary education for entire cohorts of young people largely depends upon economies creating sufficient wealth to invest in longer periods of initial education. Good transition outcomes are also more likely to be achieved when labour markets are youth friendly: providing ample opportunities for young people to be trained within enterprises under wage arrangements and employment contracts that encourage their recruitment and training; providing ample opportunities for them to gain experience of paid work while they are students; and limiting the restrictions that are attached to hiring them.

Compared to the impact of overall economic conditions, the effects of the types of education and employment policies discussed here on young people's transition may appear to be of secondary importance. Nevertheless, education, employment and social policies can make a significant difference in laying effective foundations for lifelong learning, in dealing with the transition problems of those most at risk of being excluded, and in enhancing both economic effectiveness and social equity. This can be illustrated in several ways. In the first place, at any given level of GDP or of overall unemployment there are wide differences between national transition outcomes. Second, a healthy economy and low unemployment will not by themselves ensure that all types of transition outcomes will be effective. In the USA, for example, solid employment growth during the 1990s and high GDP per capita are associated with high employment rates for young adults and a low incidence of long-term youth unemployment. Yet there, young people find it more difficult to compete for work with adults than in many other OECD countries, apparent upper-secondary graduation rates are relatively low, relatively few young people achieve high literacy standards, and those young people with low qualifications struggle harder to find work than in many other countries.

Third, while it is relatively easy to achieve good outcomes for young people when economic and labour market conditions are favourable, the absence of strong institutional arrangements to support the transition makes it more likely that poor outcomes will result when economic conditions worsen. A more difficult test for national transition frameworks is their ability to protect young people from the effects of worsening economic conditions. Despite more difficult economic and labour market conditions for much of the 1990s, compared to the previous decades, youth unemployment to population ratios in Japan remained low in the late 1990s, employment rates for young adults remained high, and school participation and graduation rates have remained high. In Sweden, an inclusive upper-secondary school system and well-organized locally managed safety nets for early leavers together helped to prevent unemployment among teenagers rising during the 1990s in step with overall unemployment, despite a very marked decline in overall employment levels.

Finally, it is important to stress that effective national institutions appear better able to support the transition of teenagers during times of economic difficulty than the transition of young adults, whose chances of being unemployed are more directly a function of overall labour market conditions than are those of teenagers.