02 SES 05 A, Drop-Out, Pathways and Later Educational Outcomes
In Switzerland, unlike in most European countries, VET is the upper secondary level path chosen by nearly 2/3 of young people coming out of lower secondary education (OFFT, 2012). Most of them opt for the dual system of VET, which combines periods of learning in vocational schools and periods of work in firms. To a large extent, this alternation between school and work settings is viewed positively when considering how it supports smooth transitions from school to work and gradual integration in the labour market (Cohen-Scali, 2000). Over the past few years, VET system has had to deal with the main challenges of the knowledge society. One of its consequences is that most of the VET options are now demanding a high level of qualification, which tends to prevent one of the advantages of the dual system: a gradual transition from school to work.
These limitations become particularly apparent as we consider the VET students who interrupt their apprenticeship prior to completion of their dual VET programme. In Switzerland the rate of early termination of apprenticeship contracts varies between 10% and 40% according to the area (Bertschy, Böni, & Meyer, 2007) and has remained stable for the past fifteen years (Schmid, 2010). Despite the relatively high prevalence of the dropout phenomenon within Swiss dual VET, very few studies have been conducted in this area and most have used a quantitative methodology (Schmid & Stalder, 2007; Stalder & Schmid, 2006). Recently, a qualitative study was conducted in the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland involving a sample population of 46 young people who interrupted their apprenticeship in the very first training year (Lamamra & Masdonati, 2009). The main findings of the qualitative study match those of quantitative studies and underscore the fact that there are a variety of reasons why young people drop out from VET programmes.
The present paper offers an original longitudinal qualitative perspective. It proposes to analyse young people’s situation four years after the breach of their apprenticeship contract and the pathway they have followed during this period. Its main objective is to see how such analyses can give a deeper understanding of the fundamental issues of transition from school to work. Indeed, many works concerned with transition concentrate on the passage from school to VET or from VET to the first job (Bertschy, et al., 2007; Masdonati, 2007). Thanks to the qualitative approach, we identify a third period, which goes from the dropout to the finding of a new apprenticeship position (Duc & Lamamra, submitted). In observing what these different transition periods are made of, we can question the opportunity for VET to develop innovative skills. Indeed, the first objective of this kind of educational system is to enable young people to gain access to the labour market and to secure occupational integration.
Let us underline that the longitudinal qualitative perspective helps to have a deeper understanding of the whole process leading to a dropout and to find unexpected results on the transition process.
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