02 SES 12 A, Educational Decisions and Pathways
Students have to make career choices to prepare lifelong professional development. In Switzerland, about two-thirds of the students choose an apprenticeship after compulsory school (Babel & Laganà, 2016). Several studies examined the determinants of the choice between high school and Vocational Education and Training (VET) (Neuenschwander & Malti, 2007; Becker & Hecken, 2009) and of a high fit between person characteristics and education (Neuenschwander, 2011). However, we have little knowledge on how adolescents choose the professional environment (content) in their career decision process. Lent, Brown and Hackett (1994) proposed the social-cognitive model of career choice. Career choice is predicted by the adolescents’ professional aspiration, professional interest (short: interest), professions of role models, and professional activities (trial apprenticeship). In this study, we analyze the questions, (1) to what extent the professional environments of the aspired apprenticeship and of the chosen apprenticeship correspond with the interests, the professions of role models and the trial apprenticeship. (2) Do adolescents choose an apprenticeship in the same profession as they have aspired it? To what extent can the fulfillment of the professional aspiration be predicted by interests, professions of role models and trial apprenticeships?
Lent et al. (1994) assumed that career decision results from professional aspiration. Adolescents choose an education on upper secondary level in a professional environment that corresponds with the professional aspiration that they have developed earlier in their career decision process. The professional aspiration is a rough preselection out of the many possible professional environments. It serves as a point of reference to evaluation future professional options. The model of Lent et al. (1994) includes concepts that explain the change of the professional aspiration to the chosen apprenticeship.
(a) Professional aspiration and the chosen apprenticeship result from interests (Bergmann & Eder, 2005; Lüdtke & Trautwein, 2004; Walsh, 1999). (b) The professional aspiration is compared with the professions of the role models (e.g. parents, relatives, neighbors). Professions of role models illustrate professions that adolescents become aware of, start thinking about and imitate (Bandura, 1977). Adolescents’ professional aspirations become more attractive, if they correspond with the professions of their role models. (c) Moreover, Lent et al. (1994) propose that professional aspiration is tested by activities in trial apprenticeships. If adolescents decide to try an apprenticeship in an aspired profession, the chances are high that adolescences choose an apprenticeship in this same profession.
Holland (1997) proposed a person-environment-fit model: Students choose a career in a professional environment that fits with their interests. He distinguished six types of interest that correspond with six professional environments: R (Realistic), I (Investigative), A (Artistic), S (Social), E (Enterprising), C (Conventional). The model assumes that professions are grouped in one of those six professional environments. We categorized the answers for each concept (professional aspiration, the chosen apprenticeship, type of interest, professional role model and trial apprenticeship) in one of those six categories.
First, we hypothesize a high correspondence between the professional environment of the aspired and the chosen apprenticeship. We also hypothesize a high correspondence between the professional environment of the aspired and of the chosen apprenticeship with a) the type of interest, b) the professions of the role models, and c) the profession of the first trial apprenticeship. Second, we hypothesize that type of interest, professions of role models and of trial apprenticeships explain the probability that the professional aspiration correspond with the chosen apprenticeship in upper secondary education.
Sample: The hypotheses were tested using the data from the Swiss longitudinal study Effects of Tracking (WiSel). The students were asked to participate in the study in 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th grade. We tested our hypotheses by the longitudinal subsample of students in 7th and 9th grade. In 7th grade, the sample consisted of 1515 students (female: 48%). From those students, 671 participated in the study in 9th grade again (response rate 44.3%). In total, 348 students participated in 7th grade and 9th grade and were about to start an apprenticeship after compulsory school. Instrument: Students filled out the questionnaires in the classroom (7th grade: paper-pencil, 9th grade: online). (1) In 7th grade, students were asked to write down their aspired profession (open format). (2) At the end of 9th grade, students were asked to write down the chosen apprenticeship after 9th grade. To enhance validity, student’s information were verified by their classroom teachers. (3) In 9th grade, students’ interests were inquired using Holland’s (1973) classification of interest. Each of the six types of interest was measured by six reliable items with a 5-point likert scale. The highest value of the six factor means indicated each student’s type of interest. (4) In 7th grade, students were asked to write down the professions of their two most important role models. (5) In 9th grade, students were asked to name the profession of their first trial apprenticeship in lower secondary school. All professions were coded using the first letter of Holland’s RIASEC coding system. The professions were coded by trained members of the study team. We defined three dummy coded independent variables: (a) The correspondence between the chosen apprenticeship and the professional type of interest, (b) the correspondence between the chosen apprenticeship and the professional environment of at least one of the role models’ professions, (c) and the correspondence between the chosen apprenticeship and the professional environment of the first trial apprenticeship. The missing values were imputed 20 times for the variables relevant for this analysis using SPSS. The proportions of missing values were: correspondence between professional aspiration and chosen apprenticeship: 20.4%; correspondence between chosen apprenticeship and the type of interest: 19.8%; correspondence between chosen apprenticeship and the professions of at least one role model: 35.6%; correspondence between chosen apprenticeship and the profession of the first trial apprenticeship: 9.2%.
In line with the first hypothesis, the results showed that the professional aspiration corresponded with the type of interest in 46% of the cases, with the professions of at least one of the role models in 69%, and with the first trial apprenticeship in 56% of the cases. The chosen apprenticeship corresponded with the type of interest in 53% of the cases, with the professions of at least one of the role models in 76%, and with the professions of the first trial apprenticeship in 53% of the cases. Second, 53% of the professional aspirations in 7th grade corresponded with the chosen apprenticeship after 9th grade. Stepwise logistic regression analyses with Mplus were conducted to predict the probability of correspondence between the professional aspiration and the chosen apprenticeship. All three correspondence variables with the chosen apprenticeship significantly predicted the probability that the professional aspiration correspond with the chosen apprenticeship (explained variance was 23%). The strongest standardized effect (beta=.31, p<.001) was found for the correspondence with the professional role model (type of interest: beta=.16, p<.001, trial apprenticeship: beta=.21, p<.001). In line with the model of Lent et al. (1994), the results show that type of interest, professions of role models and trial apprenticeships predict the probability that the professional aspiration corresponds with the chosen apprenticeship. Future research should examine how professions of role models influence career choice in varying national education systems. It is interesting to know if professions of role models similarly influence career decisions in countries with college based school-to-work transition regimes.
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