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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

7. Workplace experience combined with education

Workplace experience combined with education can be important for a number of reasons. It aids matching between employers and young people; it improves the quality of learning by making it more applied and relevant; it develops important work-related knowledge and skills; and it can have a positive impact upon the firm as a learning organization. Workplace experience and education can be combined in a number of ways. Apprenticeship is the best known of these. Other ways that the two can be combined include school-organized workplace experience, of which the best-known model is cooperative education, but also shorter periods within the workplace integrated into school programmes; and students' part-time and holiday jobs. Each of these ways of combining work and education can vary widely both within and between countries in their purposes, nature and organization. The dimensions along which they vary have a strong impact both upon the extent to which they are learning-intensive, and upon the demands that they make upon the enterprise. As a result their benefits to the parties can vary widely.

There are several reasons for growth in the proportion of young people who combine their education with workplace experience. In some cases it is due to rising participation in apprenticeship, although this has not been the most common experience, particularly in countries that have for many years had fairly large apprenticeship systems. Many countries have invested substantial effort during the 1990s in attempting to increase the availability of school-organized workplace experience. And in a number of countries the incidence of part-time work by students has grown strongly.

The impact of workplace experience upon transition outcomes is not always easy to assess, as it is often combined with many other features that are associated with good national transition outcomes, with their effects being difficult to disentangle. It is also not easy to isolate the impact of the selection effects which lead to those of differing abilities taking different transition pathways that involve varying amounts of workplace experience, and that are associated with sectors of the labour market with varying employment opportunities. Nevertheless comparative data show a clear correlation between the opportunities for teenagers to combine their study with work, in whatever way, and employment rates among young adults. Careful studies of the impact of apprenticeship show that it is associated with good outcomes for many young people, even if the particular features of it that cause these outcomes are not always clear. Despite the positive message that emerges from such studies, considerable caution should be attached to too enthusiastic suggestions that apprenticeship is a model that can readily be transplanted. It is particularly difficult to transplant apprenticeship to countries that are unwilling or unable to make some of the necessary and difficult institutional changes that are part of the reason for its apparent success.

There is consistent evidence from several countries that students' part-time and holiday employment is associated with positive transition outcomes. More mixed messages emerge from evaluations of co-operative education and other forms of school-organized workplace experience. If school-organized alternatives to apprenticeship are to be more effective, more careful attention to their quality is needed. The Thematic Review has highlighted some lessons about the conditions under which this quality can be raised. There are parallels between these and some of the features of successful apprenticeship programmes: careful attention to quality control, for example through screening of employers who train young people; shared ownership by the key parties rather than token consultation; and the existence of mutual benefits. Employer participation is a key to the quality of school-organized workplace-experience programmes, and this is easier when it is supported by appropriate institutional arrangements, both from employer organizations and from school systems, rather than left to the individual school or the individual firm. The organization of the school so that these programmes can form a normal part of their operation is important. Effective school organization to support workplace-experience programmes is made easier by well developed national policy frameworks.