Early contract cancelation in VET and positive attitudes towards life: The effect of core self-evaluations
Current international career research understands individual’s career development no longer in a linear and hierarchical, but in a multifaceted, unstable, cyclical, and transitional way over the life course (Bimrose & Hearne, 2012). Linear pathways through vocational education and training (VET), in which adolescents pass through an apprenticeship or vocational school without any change are not always the common way. About one third of the apprentices in Switzerland are confronted with an early cancellation of the apprenticeship contract: They change their occupation or organisation, interrupt their training or completely drop out from VET (Stalder, 2012).
An early cancelation of the apprenticeship contract is a critical life event (CLE) in the educational career of young people (Schmid, 2009) that might affect their lives in different ways. On the one hand, CLE, such as an early contract cancelation, can figure as opportunities for personal and professional development, because they allow young people to revise previous career decisions and to continue their apprenticeship in firms with a higher training quality (Filipp, 1995; Holmes & Rahe, 1967; Schmid & Stalder, 2012; Stalder & Schmid, in press). On the other hand, an early contract cancelation can pose a threat, as young adults risk not to find a re-entry into VET and to remain without educational qualification (Schmid & Stalder, 2012; Uhly, 2015). Contract cancelations might as well affect peoples’ attitudes towards life in different ways (Filipp, 1995). The effect might be positive, if the early cancelation is linked to positive career development, or negative, as it forces young people to readjust their career plans and to give up previous aspirations.
How people perceive and cope with CLEs is closely related to their core self-evaluations (CSE) (Judge et al., 1997). CSE are fundamental premises that individuals hold about themselves and their self-worth (Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997). Positive CSE include four dispositional traits: high self-esteem, high generalized self-efficacy, internal locus of control, and high emotional stability (Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoresen, 2002; Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997; Kammeyer-Mueller, Judge, & Scott, 2009). Research has shown that CSE is a significant predictor for job and life satisfaction, happiness, lower perceived stress levels, and higher levels of life balance. Individuals with positive CSE appraise themselves in a consistently positive manner across situations. They see themselves as capable, worthy, and in control of their lives (Judge & Ilies, 2004). Hence individuals with low CSE might perceive critical life events as stressful and threatening, while those with high CSE don’t (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
The present contribution examines the effects of an early contract cancellation and how young peoples’ core self-evaluations can buffer possibly negative effects on their attitudes towards life one and two years after the contract cancellation.
We assume, first, that the effect of an early contract cancelation on young peoples’ attitudes towards life differs in relation to the type of educational career following the early contract cancelation. The effect is assumed to be positive in the case of positive career development, and negative in the case of precarious/negative career development.
Second, we assume that CSE affects attitudes towards life directly, such that high core self-evaluations are related to high positive attitudes towards life.
Third, we test, whether CSE buffer possibly negative effects of early contract cancellations. The negative relationship between early contract cancelation and attitudes towards life should be weak for individuals with high CSE, but strong for individuals with low CSE.
Finally, we assume that effects of the contract cancelation on positive attitudes towards life are strong directly after the cancelation, but level out two years afterwards.
To test our assumptions we rely on longitudinal data from a sample of 439 apprentices (225 female) by the Swiss longitudinal youth survey Transition from Education to Employment (TREE) (Stalder, 2011), who made the experience of an early contract cancelation in the first, second or third year of the apprenticeship. Careers during and after VET were observed over a period of up to nine years. In our analysis we use three measurement points: directly after the contract cancelation, one and two years later.
Regarding the educational career following the contract cancelation four types are distinguished. Two of them have been shown to be linked to positive career development: (1) organisational change (apprentices who continue their training in the same occupation but with another employer) and (2) occupational change (apprentices who continued their training in another occupation). In contrast the other types have shown to pose a threat to career development: (3) downgrading (apprentices who continue their training in a less demanding apprenticeship), and (4) interruption (apprentices who do not continue their VET or only after a longer period).
CSE was measured before the contract cancelation by a composite variable, including self-efficacy (four items), self-esteem (eight items), and negative affect (10 items). Positive attitudes towards life were measured with five items, directly after the contract cancelation, as well as one and two years later.
Preliminary findings support the majority of our assumptions. In line with previous research (e.g. Stalder & Schmid, in press) results show that many young people have a positive attitude towards life despite of a contract cancelation, but that the type of contract cancelation matters. Similarly, results indicate that high core self-evaluations are linked to high positive attitudes towards life. Results on buffering effect are mixed and do only partly support our assumption.
In general, results indicate that it is important to foster core self-evaluations of young people, as they might help them to evaluate critical events in the educational career more positively and to cope better in the case of an early cancellation of the apprenticeship contract.
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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.