VET Quality and Career Success after an Early Cancellation of the Apprenticeship Contract
Research has repeatedly shown that the quality of VET is closely linked to apprentices learning outcomes. High-quality apprenticeships encourage learners to finish their apprenticeship in due time, while low quality enhances their inclination to cancel their contract before graduation. High quality VET is defined by work and education conditions, which foster apprentices’ learning and motivation. High-quality VET can be defined by varied and demanding work activities, adequate opportunities to participate in decision-making, a suitable workload and sufficient support from trainers and teachers (Dehnbostel, 2007; Nägele, 2013; Velten & Schnitzler, 2012). Learners who perceive their training as varied and instructive, who can co-decide about the work content and execution, who are neither over- nor under-challenged and supported by competent trainers are more satisfied with their apprenticeship and less inclined to cancel their contract than other learners (Kälin et al., 2000; Quante-Brandt & Grabow, 2008; Stalder & Carigiet, 2014). Firms with contract cancellations are strongly committed towards the educational curricula and have a high motivation to train apprentices (Schumann, Gurtner, Forsblom & Negrini, 2014).
Learners whose apprenticeship contract has been terminated early often criticize the quality of VET. In their view, especially the quality of training in the company was insufficient, and the poor quality was one of the most prominent reasons for the early cancelation of the contract (Ernst & Spevacek, 2012; Hauschildt et al, 2010;. Masdonati & Lamamra , 2009; Mischler, 2014). According to studies from Germany learners justify their early cancellation significantly more often with the poor quality of training at the work place than with other reasons, such as a wrong occupational choice, the poor quality of teaching at vocational school, or personal reasons (Piening, Hauschildt & Rauner, 2011). In particular, they mention conflicts and communication problems with the trainer and their insufficient pedagogical skills as main reason for the early cancellation (Ernst & Spevacek, 2012; Hauschildt et al, 2010).
While the effect of VET quality on early contract cancelations is well documented, little is known about the relation of VET quality and the later career success of apprentices, which have experienced an early contract cancelation. Previous research shows that the majority of learners continue their education and training after the contract cancellation (Schmid, 2010, 2011; Uhly, 2015). Many re-enter VET without delay, others interrupt their education for some months or even years and take up a new apprenticeship after a later stage (Schmid, 2010).
This paper looks at the effect of VET quality on the later career success of apprentices, who have experienced an early contract cancelation. In particular, this research investigates, first, different types of Vet quality; second, different perceptions of apprentices and trainers about VET quality; and third, apprentices career success after an early contract cancellation.
The underlying assumption is that higher VET quality fosters apprentices’ re-entry into VET and later career success. It is assumed that learners in apprenticeships with high VET quality at the school OR at the work place feel on the one hand motivated to continue their VET and to obtain a VET diploma. On the other hand, as their (first) apprenticeship suited their interests and needs at least at one of the two learning sites, they might find it easier to readjust their career and find a new apprenticeship place than those with poor quality at both learning sites.
To test the assumptions, we rely on data of 1046 apprentices and their workplace trainers, whose apprenticeship contract has been cancelled early. Apprentices’ educational career and career success after the early contract cancellation have been observed during ten years upon the early cancellation.
Career success was measured by objective criteria (obtainment of upper secondary qualification after the early contract cancellation) and subjective criteria (educational satisfaction in new apprenticeship place, in the case of a re-entry) criteria.
VET quality was measured by job variety (3 items), job control (three items), work load (five items), and pedagogical competencies of trainers and teachers (5 items). Both the quality at the work place and at the vocational school was assed. Ratings of apprentices and (Self-)ratings of trainers were in included.
First, hierarchical cluster analyses were run to group different types of VET quality based on apprentices’ ratings. Second, multivariate analyses of variance were used to test, whether apprentices’ ratings differed from the trainers’ ratings. Third, a Cox regression was employed to predict apprentices’ objective career success after the early cancelation, and multivariate analyses of variance with repeated measurement were run to assess subjective career success.
Results of cluster-analyses suggested to group VET quality into four types: 1: high VET quality at the work place and at school; 2: high quality at the work place, but too high demands (work load) at school; 3. Poor quality at the work place, but high quality at school; 4: poor quality both at the work place and at school.
Apprentices in groups 1 and 2 were similar in their ratings as their trainers; in contrast, for groups 3 and 4 (poor VET quality at the work place), the difference between apprentices and trainers was very high.
With respect to later objective career success, especially learners from group 4 proved to be a risk to remain without educational qualification. Most the apprentices in groups 1, 2 and 3 reached a VET diploma within 5 years after the early cancellation. Those of group 4 were not only less likely to obtain a VET qualification, but needed also more time to re-enter VET and to reach their diploma. With respect to subjective success, results show that educational satisfaction increased especially for groups 3 and 4.
Results show that VET quality does not only affect young peoples’ learning outcome in the first apprenticeship, but also later career success after an early contract cancellation. The early contract cancellations can be considered as a means to readjust the education career with respect to own needs and abilities (Bohlinger, 2002; Schmid & Stalder, 2012; Uhly, 2015). In that sense, career success is possible, if young people find a training place, which suits their needs and abilities better than the former one. Re-entry and later success is more likely, if apprentices can draw from positive experiences in their first apprenticeship – either at the work place or in VET school.
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