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Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Youth and Adolescence 10/2017

27-07-2017 | Empirical Research

Persistent Disadvantages or New Opportunities? The Role of Agency and Structural Constraints for Low-Achieving Adolescents’ School-to-Work Transitions

Auteurs: Anne Christine Holtmann, Laura Menze, Heike Solga

Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Youth and Adolescence | Uitgave 10/2017

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Abstract

School leavers with low educational attainment face great difficulties in their school-to-work transitions. They are, however, quite heterogeneous in terms of their personal and social resources. These within-group differences may influence who shows initiative during the school-to-work transition period and thereby helps employers recognize their learning potential at labor market entry. Yet this recognition also depends on the ways employers select applicants, which may prevent them from discovering such within-group differences. We therefore investigate the interplay between agency and its constraints, that is, whether higher cognitive and noncognitive skills and more parental resources provide low-achieving school leavers with new opportunities in the school-to-work transition period or whether their low school attainment causes the persistency of their disadvantages. We use panel data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), which started in grade 9. The NEPS also includes school leavers from special-needs schools. Our sample consists of 3417 low-achieving adolescents (42% female), defined as adolescents who leave school with no or only a lower secondary school-leaving certificate. Their average school-leaving age is 16 to 17 years. Our key findings are that the transition period opens up new opportunities only for those low-achieving adolescents with better vocational orientation and higher career aspirations, leading them to make stronger application efforts. The success of youth’s initiative varies considerably by school-leaving certificate and school type but not by competences, noncognitive characteristics, and parental background. Thus, the label of “having low qualifications” is a major obstacle in this transition period—especially for the least educated subgroup. Their poor school attainment strongly disadvantages them when accessing the required training to become economically independent and hence in their general transition to adulthood. Our results are also of interest internationally, because participation in firm-based training programs functions as the entry labor market in Germany. Thus, similar explanations may apply to low-achieving adolescents’ difficulties in finding a job.
Voetnoten
1
This share ranged from 20% in Thuringia to 32% in Bremen—indicating that low-achieving school leavers are a minority in all German states.
 
2
It is important to note that the German state-financed school-based training sector has a rather fixed number of places (like the firm-sponsored apprenticeship market) and does not adjust the provision of places to the number of applicants.
 
3
The SUF SC 7.0.0 accidentally does not include some respondents’ school biography (see release notes for version 7.0.0). We retrieved these episodes from the previous version SUF SC4 6.0.0.
 
4
In 2010/11 (i.e., the time of the first wave), about 80% of the students classified as disabled attended a special-needs school (of these, about 50% were schools for learning disabilities) (Klemm 2015, p. 57). Students attending integrative school settings are also in our sample (mostly attending lower secondary schools) but difficult to detect. They often do not know about their classification if they do not attend special-needs schools (and teachers were not allowed to report this to NEPS). Thus, comparisons between adolescents with learning disabilities from special-needs schools and regular schools are not possible.
 
5
Low-achieving school leavers are not entitled to pursue a university entrance qualification directly. We therefore included these unclear episodes in the “others” category.
 
6
Official statistics do not differentiate between lower and extended lower secondary certificate.
 
7
The NEPS data provide information on the question: “How likely is it that somebody will support you to get an apprenticeship?” However, about 80% of the respondents answered this question positively—without information on potential differences in the quality of this support, which is however essential for the very idea of networks.
 
8
These figures are very similar to official statistics (National Education Report 2014, p. 277).
 
9
The AME is −.01 (not significant), when only including the control variables and the combined competence score.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Persistent Disadvantages or New Opportunities? The Role of Agency and Structural Constraints for Low-Achieving Adolescents’ School-to-Work Transitions
Auteurs
Anne Christine Holtmann
Laura Menze
Heike Solga
Publicatiedatum
27-07-2017
Uitgeverij
Springer US
Gepubliceerd in
Journal of Youth and Adolescence / Uitgave 10/2017
Print ISSN: 0047-2891
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-6601
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0719-z