Author(s):Åse Streitlien (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 02 A, Career Choice and Transitions from School to VET

Paper Session



Chair:Christof Nägele


Becoming A Health Worker; Girls' Career Choice In Vocational Education and Training

In this paper, we want to reflect on girls’ career choice when they leave Lower Secondary School. In Norway, there is a deep concern about the dropout rate of students in Upper Secondary Education, especially in Vocational Education and Training (VET). There are many reasons for dropping out of school. One reason might be that young people of 15 – 16 years do not know enough about their career choice and the consequences of the choice. Therefore, some of them will see that their Programme Subject choice was wrong and did not respond to their expectation and interest. 

According to Markussen (2016), it is difficult for young people to take the perfect choice when it comes to education after lower secondary school. Many students go through school without knowing what career path they want. Social position theory look at choice of education as rational investment decisions. Boudon (1974) distinguishes between primary and secondary effects of social background. The primary effect is on school accomplishments, and the secondary on education choices of the individual. When students are choosing a career, they may not have enough information about the job they are pursuing. They do not know enough about the profession or the labor market. Parents may also intentionally or unintentionally, push a child toward a particular career path.

Gender and gender perspectives influence the choice of a career. We can see that expansion in apprenticeship in the last decades in many ways has replicated traditional patterns of gender segregation (Corell 2001). In Norway, as in many other countries, the apprentices in Health and Care Programmes, are mostly girls. According to von Simson (2016), about 37% of them drop out of this Programme Subjects. Considering the big need for health workers in the future, it is necessary to get more knowledge about the apprentices’ experiences and motivation for completing their education.

The main model in Norwegian VET is two theoretically based school years followed by two years of apprenticeship in a training establishment. To prevent dropouts in VET, school authorities are trying out different models and strategies. Some of these organization models are described as exchange models. In most cases, this means more exchange between subject instruction at school and apprenticeship training in an establishment. In the years 2011 until 2015 a pilot project, “From talent to skilled worker”, was tried out in the Programme Subjects for Technical and Industrial Production. This project included ten students, all boys. The idea was to let students, who were at risk at dropping out of school, start their apprenticeship directly after lower secondary school. Thus, they would obtain most of their education within the apprenticeship. The school subjects were taught in short concentrated periods in school.

According to the pilot project aims, this training model was a success (Hagen and Streitlien 2015). All apprentices, except one who had to leave the training because of health problems, completed their VET and became skilled workers in Technical and Industrial Production. A short time after their exams, they had positions in the training establishment or in similar establishments; one of them went to college for higher education.

One of the aims in the pilot project was to offer this training model in other Programme Subject in VET. In the autumn 2015, six students, all girls, started their education in the Programme Subjects of Health Work. The experiences of these health work apprentices are addressed in this paper. Our research focuses on why they choose to become health workers, why they applied for participation in this training model and what their experiences with the education and training is.


In this study we investigate what health work apprentices feel and think about their career choice, what they know about future job possibilities, and their experiences with the education and training. We also ask them about the alternative training model and if this model increases or decreases their motivation to complete the education and become health skilled workers.

We use a semi-structured interview with a partial pre-planning of the questions and meet the interviewees face to face. A half-structured interview guide (Kvale and Brinkmann 2009) is used with the intention to ensure that the same general areas of information are collected from each interviewee. This approach provides more focus than the conversational approach, but still allows a degree of freedom and adaptability in getting the information from the interviewee.

The interview data are collected in the middle of the apprentices’ education process, which means in their second year of training. At this point, they have experiences both with the practical work in the apprentice establishment as well as experiences with instruction of school subject. Our intention is to follow up with interviews the next two years, studying how the apprentices continue their training and how many of them complete their exams.

The analysis of the data is inspired by phenomenology. Phenomenological analysis requires us as researchers to state our assumptions regarding the phenomenon under investigation and then bracket or suspend these preconceptions in order to fully understand the experience of the subject and not impose any priory hypothesis on the experience. The focus of phenomenology is on understanding a concept or phenomenon (Moustakas 1994). The phenomenological approach is primarily an attempt to understand empirical matters, a phenomenon, from the perspective of those being studied (here the health workers apprentices). Phenomenology serves as the rationale behind efforts to understand individuals by entering into their field of perception in order to see life as the individuals see it. The aim is not to describe things “as they are”, but to characterise how different phenomena appear to different people.

Expected Outcomes

Starting the apprenticeship in an establishment, e.g. a health institution, just after Lower Secondary School , arises demands and challenges of work that the apprentices might be less prepared for. At the same time, solving problems and performing practical work together with mentors and work place colleagues, seem to appeal to young people. Performing practical work and “real” tasks were success factors in the pilot project “From talent to skilled worker”. If this is the case for the health work apprentices, remains to see.


Boudon, R. (1974). Education, Opportunity, and Social Inequality: Changing Prospects in Western Society. John Wiley &Sons Canada, limited.
Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Det kvalitative forskningsintervju. Second edition. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Hagen, A & Streitlien, Å. (2015). From talent to skilled worker. Telemark University College: Final report.
Markussen, E. (2016). Forskjell på folk. Om å avbryte videregående opplæring før tida – og konsekvenser for overgangen til arbeidslivet. In. Reegård, K. & Rogstad, J. (Ed). De frafalne. Om frafall i videregående opplæring. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage.
Simson, K. von. (2016: Frafall i yrkesfag blant jenter og gutter: Arbeidsmarkedets betydning. In. Reegård, K. & Rogstad, J. (Ed). De frafalne. Om frafall i videregående opplæring. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Gender and the Career Choice Process: The Role of Biased Self‐Assessments Author(s): Shelley J. Correll. Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 106, No. 6 (May 2001), pp. 1691-1730. Published by: The University of Chicago Press.
Thrana, H. M. (2016). Ungdommens forklaringer på hvorfor de ikke fullfører videregående opplæring. In. Reegård, K. & Rogstad, J. (Ed). De frafalne. Om frafall i videregående opplæring. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.

Author Information

Åse Streitlien (presenting)
University College of Southeast-Norway