02 SES 02 A, Career Choice and Transitions from School to VET
Entering Vocational Education and Training used to be the educational pathway of choice for the majority of German adolescents after finishing compulsory education (cf. Dionisius et al., 2015). However, recently more and more young people turn to other educational alternatives like continuing school in order to achieve a university entrance certificate (ibid.). Against this background, employers offering apprenticeships increasingly face difficulties when recruiting applicants. In this context it is unfortunate if pupils who are initially interested in beginning an apprenticeship right after finishing compulsory education change their mind and are, for the time being, lost for the VET market as prospective apprentices. Hence, it is important for employers to know which factors are responsible for the adolescents’ change of mind to take these into account when recruiting applicants for their apprenticeship places. Therefore this contribution seeks to identify characteristics of adolescents at the end of compulsory education who plan to begin an apprenticeship and additionally to uncover variables that distinguish between those that stick with this educational plan and those that change their mind in the course of their last school year and instead continue with school.
Ample theoretical work and research exist on factors affecting educational and vocational choices. This contribution assumes that these factors also have an influence on whether a pupil modifies his educational plans in the course of his vocational orientation process. One line of research focuses on young people’s interests (e.g. Holland, 1997), values, expectations and self-concepts (cf. Leung, 2008). Sociological research examines social influences like expectations of the social environment towards appropriate behaviours and choices of young people socialised in that environment (cf. Bourdieu 1987). Parents’ ambitions for their children to achieve at least the same social status that they hold also influences young people’s educational decisions (cf. Boudon 1974), for example in the form of striving for a higher school leaving certificate. However, in a market-based VET system like Germany, the choice for an apprenticeship is not independent of (anticipated) institutional restrictions like the lack of supply of available apprenticeship places (cf. Heinz & Krüger, 1985). Despite a less tight apprenticeship market in recent years young people still face difficulties in transitioning into apprenticeships immediately after finishing compulsory education. Employers tend to be picky when selecting their future apprentices in spite of the recruiting problems mentioned above. Pupils who are aware of these difficulties might reconsider their intentions to search for an apprenticeship and instead continue their education at school to improve their chances for an apprenticeship place later on. Career orientation measures might also affect the adolescent’s expectancy for success regarding his educational pathway of choice. According to expectancy-value theory (e.g. Wigfield & Eccles, 2000), both the value of an option and the expectancy for success a person holds regarding this option determine whether it is chosen. Educational choices thus often represent a compromise between aspirations and genuine options, entailing young people to changing their intentions over the course of time. Furthermore, intentions are not always automatically turned into action (Heckhausen & Heckhausen, 2010). This contribution therefore not only focuses on the change of educational plans in the course of the last schoolyear, but takes a longitudinal perspective by relating it to the actual educational choice made after that schoolyear.
It is expected that the plan of beginning an apprenticeship as well as a change of this plan in the course of time are related to 1) sociodemographic variables, 2) personal factors (e.g. school performance, self-concepts), 3) aspects of the social environment, and 4) variables pertaining to the vocational orientation process, including perceptions of chances of success in the apprenticeship market.
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