|The Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)|
|Chapter I. From initial education to working life: making transition work by Marianne Durand-Drouhin and Richard Sweet|
Patterns of participation in the pathways that young people take between compulsory education and work were changing in many countries during the 1990s. Although there are a number of exceptions, a common trend has been for participation in upper-secondary vocational education pathways to fall, particularly those not linked to tertiary study. At the same time participation has risen in those pathways, whether vocational or general education, that provide access to tertiary study. These shifts are related to a number of factors, amongst which are: the changing labour market rewards that are associated with the different pathways; the changing patterns of demand for skill and qualifications that often underlie these changing rewards; changing attitudes on the part of young people and their parents and, in particular, young people 'working the system' in order to maximize their outcomes. These changes have focused policy attention increasingly upon the importance of creating more flexible and supple pathways that allow young people to gain solid combinations of general and vocational education, and of education and workplace experience, during the transition from initial education to working life. The arguments for such combinations apply as much within tertiary education as within upper-secondary education. These trends also focus attention upon difficult issues related to young people's apparent desire to delay specific preparation for working life in a rapidly changing labour market in which increasing emphasis is being placed upon generic workplace skills.
Compared to the mid-1980s, young people are now more likely to combine their studies with work during the transition phase. This is partly the result of participation in apprenticeship and the like, but it is in particular also the result of students having part-time and summer jobs. Education systems are increasingly encouraging this blurring between the classroom and the workplace through school-organized workplace experience programmes. This means that for many young people the transition from being a student to being a full-time worker is now less sharp and sudden than it once was.
When young people leave initial education for work, a high proportion of their jobs are likely to be part-time and temporary, in many cases poorly paid. In some countries a clear pattern can be detected of young people 'swirling' through a sequence of such jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment, participation in labour market programmes, or inactivity. This type of early career instability needs to be clearly distinguished from the type of 'job shopping' in the early period after leaving initial education that can improve the fit between young people's skills and employer requirements. Many of those who are at risk in the transition are not included within formal definitions of unemployment and, as a result, are often not included in programmes of assistance. Broader definitions of those who are at risk, including those who are inactive or trapped in cycles of low-skilled and insecure work, are needed.