02 SES 05 C, Transitions: Apprenticeships, Learning and Sense of Self
While European comparative VET research has praised the apprenticeship system for providing young people with relatively smooth school-to-work transitions (Raffe, 2008), more recent research has illustrated increasing transition risks for those young people, who seem to lack the skills and resources to successfully finish VET and to find gainful and stable employment afterwards (Beicht & Walden, 2014; CSRE, 2014; Stalder, 2012).
To promote secure labor market transitions of lower-achieving youth, two-year apprenticeship programmes leading to a VET Certificate have been introduced in Switzerland (Swiss Confederation, 2002). Like the traditional three to four-year apprenticeships with VET Diploma, the two-year apprenticeships are standardized at the national level and regulated by ordinances, which determine profiles for qualified professionals in occupation-specific curricula. Profiles of two- and three- or four-year apprenticeship mainly differ in the extent and complexity of and responsibility for tasks’ execution: VET Certificate apprenticeships focus more on specific and less complex practical activities and include support measures if needed (OPET, 2007). The first two-year apprenticeships started in 2005 in the retail sales and hospitality sector, and in 2007, the first cohort obtained their VET Certificate.
Employability and upward mobility are major goals of the two-year apprenticeships. They should ensure that graduates not only have the needed skills to be employed as a qualified worker, but also the ability and willingness to transfer to a three- or four- year apprenticeship with VET Diploma. Thus, dead ends should be avoided and life-long learning promoted.
Up to date, little is known about the career outcomes of graduates from two-year apprenticeships (CSRE, 2014). No research has studied yet, to what extent the new type of apprenticeship fosters employability and upward mobility.
Based on findings in career success research, this paper analysed the short- and mid-term career success of VET Certificate graduates in comparison to VET Diploma graduates. In line with recent definitions, a career is defined as “...sequence of employment related positions, roles, activities and experiences encountered by a person” (Arnold & Randall, 2010, p. 594). Career success is defined as “as the accomplishment of desirable work-related outcomes at any point in a person’s work experiences over time” (Arthur, Khapova, & Wilderom, 2005, p. 179). Such outcomes include objective indicators of success (e.g., salary attainment, promotion, prestige level) and subjective indicators of success (personal evaluation of the career, e.g., job or career satisfaction).
Research has shown that objective career success is strongly related to human capital (e. g., educational level, work experience) and socio-demographic variables (e.g. gender, age, ethnic background). In turn, subjective career success is more related to individual differences (e. g., personality, self-efficacy, career advancement goals), and organisational factors (e. g., training and skill development possibilities, supervisor support) (Arthur et al., 2005, p. 179; Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2005). Studies about predictors of career success are often based on cross-sectional designs. This has been criticized, for instance by Gunz and Mayrhofer (2011), who argued that the major interest should be on the career itself and not only the career success at a certain moment.
Following Gunz and Mayrhofer (2011), this paper, first, investigated the careers of the former apprentices over a period of 5 years. Second, the objective and subjective career success of apprentices with VET Certificate and VET Diploma was analysed.
- that careers after VET are linked to apprentices VET qualification, socio-demographic background, and career prospects before graduation; and
- that objective and subjective career-success is related to the specific career types of the apprentices.
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