Author(s):Simone Frey (presenting), Markus P. Neuenschwander, Christof Nägele

Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 06 A, Participation in CVET and Lifelong Learning

Paper Session


Room:Vet-Theatre 116

Chair:Magdolna Benke


Intention to participate in continuing education of young adults planning to have children concurrently: Individual and situational aspects

The complexity and rapid development of today's working environment requires continuing education and training (OECD, 2007). Participation in continuing education is of essential importance in career tracks, specifically for young adults that have graduated from vocational education and training (VET). The participation of VET graduates in continuing education is of interest to politics and economy too, because of shortage of qualified employees (Swiss Federal Council, 2015). The decision to participate depends on individual as well as structural aspects (Cross, 1981; Desjardins & Rubenson, 2013). Educational attainment expectation and values assigned to education represent individual aspects that encourage participation in continuing education (Gorges & Kandler, 2012). Structural aspects that either deter or foster participation are to be found in the individual family and job situation (e.g. child care, support by employer) as well as in institutional situation (e.g. social policy, family policy).
Individuals are constantly evaluating their situation, considering values, expectations, life transitions, barriers and opportunities, which evolves into an interplay of individual and structural aspects as described in the chain of response model (Cross, 1981). In this model, decision-making is seen as "a result of a chain of responses, each based on an evaluation of the position of the individual in his or her environment" (Cross, 1981, p. 125 ). During this evaluation, there are aspects that pull them away from the decision to participate in continuing education and others that draw them closer to participation (compare Cross, 1981, p. 128 ff.). Hence the overall decision-making process is characterized by an accumulation of forces for and against participation.
Besides participation in continuing education, after graduation another question arises in young adult's life regarding their future: The question of starting a family (Nurmi, 1992). Therefore decisions to participate in further education opportunities are often postponed. A Swiss longitudinal study showed that women stay absent from continuing education because of having children, what makes them less successful in their careers compared to men (Häfeli, Hättich, Schellenberg, & Schmaeh, 2015). Apparently and as seen in other studies (Abele & Spurk, 2011; Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2005), transition into parenthood interrupts career track's continuity and participation in continuing education. In line with the chain of response model (Cross, 1981), it is expected that for individuals in transition into parenthood situational aspects like career opportunities provided by the employer are more important than for individuals not yet starting a family. This can be assumed because, as seen above, transition into parenthood deters them from participation. Hence, for a positive decision-making they need other forces that facilitate participation.
A recent study on career decisions highlights that family plays a role in career decisions not only after the birth of own children but also before. Already the anticipated incompatibility of work and family takes effects (Schwiter et al., 2014).
In this presentation, we aim to explain the intention to participate in continuing education against the above explained theoretical background for two groups of people: ones that are planning to have children concurrently and ones that do not plan to have children soon. As explained above, we hypothesize that individual aspects (values assigned to education and educational attainment expectation) as well as situational aspects (career opportunities provided by the employer) have a significant effect on intention to participate in continuing education in both groups. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the effect size of the situational aspect of career opportunities provided by the employer is bigger in the group planning to have children concurrently than in the group not planning to have children.


The present online survey study was administered in 2014 in Switzerland. The sample elected for this analysis consisted of 1’559 adults between 21 and 40 years. They specified employment as their main activity in contrast to studying.
To measure educational attainment expectation, participants were asked "What is the highest level of education which you want to attain in your later life?". They were provided with answers options which represent qualifications achievable in the Swiss education system.
The value assigned to education was measured with three items (Neuenschwander, Schaub, & Angehrn, 2007). All of the items started with the statement: "I consider adult education and continuing education for me as…". The three items differed only in the last word, which were "…useful", "…attractive" and "…important".
The career opportunities offered by the employer were assessed with two items from the Short Questionnaire for Job Analysis (Prümper, Hartmannsgruber, & Frese, 1995). The two items were "Our company offers good training and education opportunities" and "In our company there are good opportunities for advancement".
To assess the intention to participate in continuing education, the participants were asked whether they plan to start a continuing education in their further career.
To find out, whether the participants are at the beginning of the transition into parenthood, they were asked the question: "Do you plan to become a mother/father in the next two years?". According to the answers of this question, 1097 persons of the sample are not planning to have children, while 462 persons are planning to have children in the next two years. To analyze the differences between these two groups, multigroup structural equation modeling was used.

Expected Outcomes

First, measurement models of the latent constructs (values and career opportunities) were analyzed and tested for measurement invariance. Second, we tested for multigroup measurement invariance by following the procedure proposed by Christ and Schlüter (2012). As result, we calculated a model of partial scalar measurement invariance and we used this model for all further analyses.
Third, we ran multigroup structural equation modeling, to compare the two groups (planning to have children vs. not planning to have children). The only significant group difference was the effect from career opportunities to the intention to participate. Hence, we calculated a model with equal path coefficients from the two individual aspects (values and expectation) on intention and with free estimation of the path from the situational aspect (career opportunities) to intention in both groups. The educational attainment expectation and the values assigned to education had a significant effect on intention to participate. Career opportunities provided by the employer had a significant effect on intention to participate in the group planning to have children, but did not reach significance in the group not planning to have children.
These results show, in line with the chain of response model, that opportunities offered by the employer are specifically important when individuals found themselves in transition into parenthood, which does not foster the intention to participate. This key role of the employer when it comes to the decision whether to participate or not, may be especially essential in Switzerland, where family policy still follows the rather traditional role model of men and women. When it comes down to efforts to increase participation rate in continuing education, these results implicate that it would be reasonable to involve the employers. They should be convinced to facilitate ways to participation for their young employees and, as far as possible, remove barriers.


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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Simone Frey (presenting)
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland
Markus P. Neuenschwander
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland
Christof Nägele
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland