Study on transition into adulthood

Apprentices as happy with their lives as graduates

Young people in the UK who pursued vocational training rather than university report being just as satisfied with their lives, according to new research by Ingrid Schoon, Research Professor at the WZB and Professor at the UCL Institute of Education in London, and Mark Lyons-Amos, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The study examined information on more than 9,500 young people living in England, who were born in 1989-90 and are being followed by a study called Next Steps. The researchers found that there was no ‘right way’ to transition into adult life. Instead, young people followed a range of viable paths after completing compulsory schooling at age 16. Forty-five per cent of them went into higher education, and a similar proportion – 42 per cent – entered the labour market.

Just over a third moved quickly into work after finishing school, with some continuing their studies for a limited period of time before doing so. Roughly 6 per cent pursued vocational training before getting a job. At age 20, the young people were asked how satisfied they were with how their lives had turned out so far. There were no significant differences between those at university, those in apprenticeships or those in work.

The authors suggested that work may offer an opportunity to feel valued, to belong and to make a contribution for young people who do not go to university. However, if young people struggle to find meaningful and challenging work, it can be detrimental to their wellbeing.

“It is encouraging that young people who find a viable career path after leaving school are just as happy with their lives regardless of whether they go on to university, an apprenticeship or work. This suggests there isn’t just one way to successfully transition into adulthood,” said Professor Ingrid Schoon. “We must make sure that there are equal opportunities for young people who do not pursue higher education immediately after completing secondary education – this includes good quality vocational training and local labour market opportunities, particularly in the most deprived neighbourhoods.”

The article ‘A socio-ecological model of agency: the role of structure and agency in shaping education and employment transitions in England’ by Ingrid Schoon and Mark Lyons-Amos was published in Longitudinal and Life Course Studies on 26 January 2017.

To the press release of UCL