02 SES 08 A, Transitions: Individual and Systemic Perspectives on VET
Education is considered to be a key to successful labour market integration in modern societies. In the comparatively high-skill, high-wage Nordic countries, employment prospects of young people with no formal education beyond compulsory education are considered to be weak. As a consequence, dropout from upper secondary education is a matter of high political concern. However, dropout is not a well-defined concept, and the definition and measurement of dropout varies considerably between countries. In Norway, the dropout rate is usually measured five years after entering upper secondary education. Applying this measure, the dropout rate has remained remarkably stable at around 30 per cent over the last 25 year period. The dropout rate is particularly high among students in vocational tracks and among immigrants (Raaum, Rogstad, Røed & Westlie 2008; Bratsberg et al 2012). The main focus in political debate and research in vocational education and training has been on completion rates and on measures aimed at reducing the number of dropouts from upper secondary education. However, as research on school to work transitions has shown, transition patterns in most countries are becoming longer and less standardized (Heinz 2009). Young people may move back and forth between school and work. They may also complete upper secondary education by obtaining a trade certificate as young adults.
In this paper we will address questions related to motivating factors and consequences of obtaining formal vocational qualifications as young adults. We will analyse the main motives or driving forces shaping individual vocational learning pathways, as well as consequences experienced by the individual after they obtained their trade certificate as young adults. Research on school to work transitions and the concept of “transition system” provides a relevant analytical framework (Raffe 2008). The average age of upper secondary graduates from vocational programs in Norway is 28 years. A high average graduation age reflects that the national institutional context in Norway makes it relatively easy for students to leave the education system and complete their training at a later on (OECD 2013). The paper is based on a qualitative study of adults who acquire a trade certificate, either as apprentices or through the experience based trade certificate (EBTC). Through the EBTC, it is possible for adults to obtain a trade certificate through work experience, as so-called practice candidates. The practice candidates acquire equivalent formal qualifications and the same documentation as youths or adults who follow the standard VET model, combining two years of school based education with two years of apprenticeship training. The EBTC was first introduced in the 1950s and is an important institutional element in the Norwegian VET system. Around 6-7000 persons obtain their trade certificate as practice candidates every year. This means that approximately one out of three trade certificates are acquired through work-based learning, contributing to a high average age for graduates from vocational programs. In some industries, the EBTC continues to be the most important way of acquiring vocational skills (Skule, Stuart & Nyen 2002).
Bratsberg, B., Raaum, O. and K. Røed (2012), “Educating Children of Immigrants: Closing the Gap in Norwegian Schools,” Nordic Economic Policy Review, 2012/1, 211-252. Heinz, W.R. (2009), Structure and agency in transition research, Journal of Education and Work, 22:5, 391-404 OECD (2013) Education at a Glance 2013. OECD Indicators. Raaum, O. Rogstad, J., Røed, K. and L.Westlie, Young and Out: An Application of a Prospects-Based Concept of Social Exclusion, The Journal of Socio-Economics 38 (2008), 173–187. Raffe, D. (2008) The concept of transition system, Journal of Education and Work, 21 (4): 277-296. Skule, S., M. Stuart & T. Nyen (2002) International briefing 12: Training and development in Norway.
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