Development of Apprentices’ Social Integration during Organizational Entry
On her or his first day in the training-company, an apprentice does not have any organizational, task and domain specific knowledge. Through vocational education and training, apprentices will step-by-step be educated, instructed and trained to become eventually professionals in their domain. After transition from compulsory school (lower secondary level) to a company-based apprenticeship (upper secondary level), it is important that he new apprentices get socially integrated and accepted by the members of the organization. A positive social integration is important for at least two reasons. First, it helps to reduce ambiguities and uncertainties, as newcomers often feel like “strangers in a strange land” (Heckhausen & Tomasik, 2002; Saks & Gruman, 2012). These uncertainties can be overcome by rapidly adapting to the new situation by becoming socially accepted by, and integrated within, the other members of the organization (Kammeyer-Mueller, Wanberg, Rubenstein, & Song, 2013; Louis, 1980; van Vianen & De Pater, 2012).
Second, a positive social integration helps the apprentices also to gain access to the resources needed for successful socialization and learning in the organization. Only if the members of the organization are willing to accept and integrate the newcomer, then they will also start to share knowledge, skills and their work experiences with the newcomer by introducing her or him into the “strange land.” This, social integration becomes a prerequisite for gaining access to organizational resources (Kammeyer-Mueller & Wanberg, 2003) (Bauer & Erdogan, 2012) and eventually become a full member of the community of practice (Wenger, 2008). Apprentices have no domain specific experiences to adjust to the new situation. All they have is their school-based experience and the social support of their new colleagues (Korte, 2010).
In this paper, we are first going to discuss the importance of social processes during organizational entry and the organizational socialization of inexperienced newcomers by investigating how two indicators of social integration, namely the apprentice-trainer relationship and work group integration, develop over time. Second, we will present results on how an individuals’ reliability, the perceived person-occupation fit and organizational resources predict the level and development of the social integration within the first months on the new job. Based on the longitudinal data available for this study, we can model the level and change of the social integration and add to the discussion on the dynamics of the socialization process within the first months in a new job.
Several hypotheses were tested. (1) We hypothesize that the apprentices assess the level of apprentice-trainer relationship and of work group integration to be the highest in the first month after organizational entry. We expect a decrease in the level of the apprentice-trainer relationship and work group integration over time, as the apprentice get to now the organization and their members better. (2) We hypothesize that the students’ reliability will have a positive effect on the level of and development of the apprentice-trainer relationship, and on the level and development of work group integration. And finally, (3) we hypothesize that the students’ perceived pre-entry person-occupation fit will have a positive effect on the level and development of the apprentice-trainer relationship and the level of and development of work group integration.
Our data stems from a longitudinal study on socialization effects in the transition from school to work in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (Neuenschwander & Nägele, 2014). Students were asked to participate in the study in their last year of compulsory school (lower secondary level) if they planned to directly start with their apprenticeship training after school (vocational education and training VET, upper secondary level). The selected sample is N = 199. The selection criteria were: i) organizations and apprentices filled in the questionnaires, the answers could be matched, ii) the apprentice filled in at least the first questionnaire (at school), the last questionnaire in the fifth month of the apprenticeship and one of the three questionnaires in the second, third or fourth month.
Latent growth curve analysis was used to estimate intra-individual development across time in the apprentice-trainer relationship and work group integration. We applied growth curve modeling using Mplus 7.11 (L. K. Muthén & Muthén, 1998). Latent growth curve analysis accounts for individual differences of the responses at the first measurement (intercept), and the growth of the participants’ responses over time (slope).
Apprentice-trainer relationship was measured monthly with three items (e.g., “I am happy to talk about my personal problems with my workplace trainer.”). Work group integration was measured monthly with three items, reflecting a newcomer’s feelings of attachment and inclusion (e.g., “I feel comfortable around my co-workers”). Reliability was measured at the end of compulsory school with three items (e.g., “I am trustworthy”). The person-occupation fit was measured at the end of compulsory school with three items describing how well the occupation fits in terms of the individual, her or his personality, and abilities. The workplace trainers were asked how many apprentices they were tasked with supervising.
There were 128 (64%) female and 71 male (36%) apprentices participating, with an average age of M = 16.1 years, SD = .56; 87 (44%) female and 110 (56%) male workplace trainers participated. From the 199 participating apprentices and their workplace trainers, 117 (59%) worked in small organizations (up to 49 employees), 46 (23%) in medium-sized organizations (up to 249 employees) and 36 (18%) in bigger organizations.
Most hypothesis were confirmed, but not all. (1) The level (intercept) of the apprentice-trainer relationship and the level of social work group integration were highest after organizational entry, and there was a decrease (negative slope) for apprentice-trainer relationship and social work group integration over time. (2) The students’ reliability positively predicted, the level of apprentice-trainer relationship and work group integration, as well as the development of work group integration. But, we found no effect of reliability on the development of the apprentice-trainer relationship. The students’ pre-entry person-occupation fit had a positive effect on the apprentice-trainer relationship and work group integration. But we found and non-expected negative effect of a high person-occupation fit on the development of the work group integration. (3) The number of apprentices to supervise had a negative effect on the apprentice-trainer relationship, but we found no effect on the development of the apprentice-trainer relationship.
These results will be presented and discussed, especially the non-expected findings. With respect to to the theoretical framework, combining literature on organizational socialization implications and the importance of social integration as a precondition and outcome of learning which proofed to be useful for this study. Second, practical implications will be discussed with respect to the importance of social integration in the beginning of an apprenticeship.
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