New opportunities or reinforced disadvantages? Variation in returns to low-achieving school leavers’ participation in pre-vocational training programmes (N.O.R.D. 1)

Main content

Germany is famous for its apprenticeship system, which integrates school leavers without a university degree into skilled jobs. However, the German apprenticeship market is rather competitive, and especially low-achieving school leavers have difficulties in gaining access to apprenticeships. In our DFG project NORD I, we asked:

1. Why do low-achieving school leavers face difficulties in entering apprenticeships?

2. Do prevocational programs (short: pre-voc programs) provide a ‘second chance’ to enter apprenticeships or do they put young people on hold and hide youth unemployment?

We used data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). The data concerns a cohort of 9th graders who were followed in their school-to-work transitions. Low-achieving school leavers are defined as those who have left regular schools and special needs schools for learning disabilities without a school certificate or with only a lower secondary school certificate.

Only half of these low-achieving school leavers enter a regular apprenticeship straight after school. We found that most low-achieving school leavers do not lack aspirations or vocational orientation, but many of them do not apply for an apprenticeship directly after leaving school—regardless of their skills. Employers recruit students based on school certificates, whereas they do not seem to consider social skills and personality traits beyond certificates.

Taking into account selection processes in school-to-work transitions, we showed that pre-voc programs improve low-achieving school leavers’ chances of entering an apprenticeship. In this respect, pre-voc programs open up new opportunities, especially for young people with particularly poor training prospects directly after school. Both those who attained a higher-level school certificate and those who spent time in firms during pre-voc programmes increased their opportunities to access apprenticeships afterwards. However, only those who attained a higher-level school certificate are able to enter higher-status training occupations afterwards.

While we focused on access to apprenticeship in the first project (NORD 1), our extension project NORD 2 investigates the risk of dropping out of these apprenticeship positions.

Wzbaktiv
2021
Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike/Ehlert, Martin (2021): "Improving Formal Qualifications or Firm Linkages. What Supports Successful School-to-Work Transitions among Low-Achieving School Leavers in Germany?". In: European Sociological Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, S. 218–237. (vorab online publiziert 21.12.2020)
2019
Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike (2019): "Schulabgänger und –abgängerinnen mit maximal Hauptschulabschluss". In: Gudrun Quenzel/Klaus Hurrelmann (Hg.): Handbuch Bildungsarmut. Wiesbaden: Springer VS Verlag, S. 365-388.
Menze, Laura/Holtmann, Anne Christine (2019): "Was können Schulabgängerinnen und Schulabgänger ohne Mittleren Schulabschluss aus Übergangsmaßnahmen mitnehmen? Entwicklungen und Übergangschancen in Ausbildung". In: Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Jg. 22, H. 3, S. 509-533 (vorab online publiziert 05.06.2019).
2018
Ehlert, Martin/Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike (2018): "Besser als ihr Ruf. Übergangsmaßnahmen erhöhen Ausbildungschancen bei leistungsschwachen Jugendlichen". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 162, S. 41-43.
Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike (2018): "Mangelt es wirklich an der 'Ausbildungsreife'? Die Bedeutung von Handlungsressourcen und Gelegenheitsstrukturen für die Ausbildungschancen von leistungsschwachen Jugendlichen". In: Nele McElvany/Wilfried Bos/Heinz Günter Holtappels/Johannes Hasselhorn/Annika Ohle-Peters (Hg.): Bedingungen erfolgreicher Bildungsverläufe in gesellschaftlicher Heterogenität. Dortmunder Symposium der Empirischen Bildungsforschung, Bd. Bd. 3. Münster: Waxmann, S. 9-33.
Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike (2018): Unentdeckte Kompetenzen. Jugendliche ohne Mittleren Schulabschluss finden schwer einen Ausbildungsplatz. WZBrief Bildung 36/September 2018 36/September 2018. Berlin: WZB.
2017
Holtmann, Anne Christine/Menze, Laura/Solga, Heike (2017): "Persistent Disadvantages or New Opportunities? The Role of Agency and Structural Constraints for Low-Achieving Adolescents’ School-to-Work Transitions". In: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 46, No. 10, Special Issue "Social Inequality, Life Course Transitions, and Adolescent Development", edited by Tina Malti/Annekatrin Steinhoff/Marlis Buchmann, S. 2091-2113. (vorab online publiziert 27.07.2017)
2015
Solga, Heike (2015): 'A Fault Confessed is Half Redressed'. Review Essay on Low-achieving School Leavers' Access to Apprenticeships and Their Returns to Participation in Prevocational Training Measures. WZB Discussion Paper SP I 2015-501 SP I 2015-501. Berlin: WZB.

Research fields

Education and Training
Project Management
Duration
01/2015 – 10/2021
Funding
funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Cooperation partners
Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany