Title: Self-efficacy and Views about Work and
Training: Report on a Current Pilot Study in Ontario
Author: Dr. Maurice Taylor, Dr. Marvin Boss, Dr. Rene Bedard, Carol Thibault (University of Ottawa), Dr. Karen Evans (University of Surrey, England)
Publication information: presented at the RC Harrogate ES Workshop, 8th-10th July, 1988
According to a recent Canadian government report, one of the most critical factors in the labour market experience of young adults is the smoothness of the process of transition from school to permanent employment. Many young people in Canada now encounter some difficulty in making this transition (Employment - Immigration Canada, 1983). The need to develop education and training policies to facilitate the transition from school to work is perceived as important in view of the changes that are occurring. Coupled with this accelerated change are the structural barriers confronting young people. Many unskilled entry- level jobs have been obliterated due to technological advances and international competition. This means that more people are now competing for fewer jobs and specialized fields of work.
The United Kingdom is currently facing similar problems of high youth unemployment and seeking ways of achieving more effective integration of young persons into the work force. An interest in understanding and comparing the various experiences of young people and initiatives to ease the transition to steady employment prompted a four month study visit, by Dr. Maurice Taylor, to the University of Surrey, in 1987. A focus of the study visit was participation with the Swindon Research Team in the 16-19 Adolescent Identity Formation Project. This longitudinal study is investigating ways in which educational and occupational experiences influence adolescent identity and how this, in turn, affects economic and political values and behaviours in the age group of 16-19.
The current situation of Canadian youth appears, on the face of it, to have many parallels with the situation of young people experiencing the transition to adult life in Britain and Western Europe. But, as Ashton (1988) points out, there are some fundamental differences in the structures of the respective youth labour markets which need to be considered. One point of contrast lies in the age of labour market entry and level of educational credentials. In Canada, most young people continue in high school education to 12th grade, usually reached at around the age of 18. Those who do not proceed to the 12th grade ('high school drop outs') have very restricted employment chances. A difference in opportunity structure is also identified by Ashton, in that the route of entry by apprenticeship and training schemes leading to skilled worker status is a minor one in Canada. As far as regional differences are concerned, labour markets vary from region to region as they do in the U.K., but the differences we argued to be of greater significance in Canada.
According to the Report of the Special Senate Committee on Youth (1986) young people from poorer families and remote regions, have high drop out rates from schooling. In the Atlantic provinces and the West, youth underemployment and unemployment are continuing difficulties. In Central Canada, the growth of new technology industries and the service sector appears to be creating more and labour market openings for young people. Yet even in this region, a recent study by the Ontario Manpower Commission (1987) reported that a considerable proportion of out-of-school youth are experiencing difficulties in making successful transitions from school to work. The high incidence of labour force turnover and unemployment particularly among those with a high school education or less, has strengthened the case for continued and strengthened counselling, up-grading and work experience programs so that these youth acquire the skills they need to compete effectively in the labour market. The report also demonstrated that the out-of-school youth, who consist largely of young people between the ages of 20-24 with high school education, experience considerable difficulty in maintaining steady employment. Out-of-school youth have a very high probability of experiencing some unemployment during the course of a year, one in two in the case of 15-19 year olds and one in three in the case of 20-24 year olds. (p. 35) Involvement in schemes of part-time employment/part-time study is common among 18-24 year olds.
In a study of the characteristics of Canadian youth, Goldfarb (1983) identified that having a steady job, being successful and having a stable, fulfilling family life were important aspirations for over 80% of the sample. But despite the high ratings given to traditional work- related values, Baker (1985) found that many youth expect to start at the top, or at least closer to it than they have done historically. Boys seem to be more realistic than girls when it comes to employment expectations, although they too are surprisingly optimistic given the current rate of unemployment. Girls seem to feel that movement in and out of the labour market for child rearing and family responsibilities presents no major problems when, in fact, job re-entry is a major obstacle for a large number of Canadian women. Dryden (1986) reports that studies of employers and their attitudes to youth also suggest a somewhat problematic youth profile. For entry level jobs of various categories such as general labour, skilled labour, managerial, professional and technical, employers placed the greatest value on attitude and commitment to work and personal characteristics. Yet in applying these standards to youth in general, employers were only moderately satisfied with youth attitudes and personal skills. (p. 13)
In this context it appeared that certain variables central to the 16-19 Adolescent Identity Formation Project would be informative both theoretically and in policy terms, for the provision of training and support for young Canadians about to enter the world of work. Variables which were of interest included (1) attitude towards training for new technology (2) economic locus of control - the application of the locus of control concept to economic behaviour (3) self efficacy - measuring belief in one's ability to perform successfully: expectation of personal mastery and success (4) self-estrangement - the psychological component of alienation. Earlier studies in the United Kingdom suggested that these variables were related to problems of young people hoping to enter the work force (Breakwell, 1985; Breakville, Fife-Schaw and Devereux, 1987; Breakwell and Fife-Schaw, 1987 a; Breakwell and Fife-Schaw, 1987 b).