Title: Variables Related to the Transition of Youth
from School to Work
Author: Maurice C. Taylor,Algonquin College, Marvin W. Boss, Rene Bedard, Carol J. Thibault University of Ottawa and Karen Evans, University of Surrey
The purpose of the study was to determine the reliability and validity of a British measure of attitude toward training for new technology, economic locus of control, elf-efficacy, and self- estrangement for a Canadian adolescent population. In addition, the relationship between educational settings and beliefs and attitudes of 255 young Canadians soon to enter the work force was examined. The results from the Canadian data were comparable to results from the United Kingdom. Significant differences were obtained for educational settings on the variable of attitude toward training for new technology. Males had significantly more positive attitudes than females toward training for new technology.
One of the most critical factors in the labour force experience of adolescents and young adults is the transition from school to employment. The need to develop appropriate education and training policies to facilitate this passage is important in view of the significant changes occurring in the industrial, technological, and communication fields.
Recent Canadian studies have tended to focus on parental occupations, economic conditions, and the development process involved in understanding work concepts. For example, in order to determine the ways in which parents might contribute to children's learning about the occupational world, Piotrokowski and Stark (1987) surveyed 88 families with school aged children. Respondents included parents who were employed in either blue-collar or service occupations and the children themselves. Results indicated that children are fairly accurate in their perceptions of their parents' job satisfaction and working conditions. They concluded that the family is important in helping children learn more about occupations and working conditions; however, their research did not address how the information children acquire affects the development of self-identity or shapes decisions related to the world of work.
Pautler and Lewko (1987) believed that prevailing economic conditions were more likely to exert influence on children's perceptions of the world of work than family life. They surveyed 1106 students from grades 6, 9, and 12 during an economic recession in Northeastern Ontario. In order to determine whether employment status of the father and the general negative economic climate influenced student attitudes toward work, the authors compared results with a representative sample of students from a positive economic climate in Alberta. Results suggested that direct exposure to unemployment did not have an overwhelming influence on student views toward the world of work. However, adolescents living in a negative economic climate had little confidence in their ability to get a job and to be successful. They indicated that young people from a negative economic climate held views that were consistent with a change in thinking away from the traditional work ethic.
Santilli and Furth (1987) considered a "relational-developmental" approach to determine young people's knowledge and understanding of work relative to employment and unemployment. For concepts of work, career, and occupation, results revealed a trend towards greater understanding with age for boys while girls tended to have a better understanding at an earlier age. It was suggested that sex-role socialization may have contributed to these differences. They concluded that perception and understanding of work varies across age and, to a lesser extent, level of formal reasoning for adolescents.
Industrialized countries facing problems of high youth unemployment are now recognizing the need for more effective integration of young people into the workforce (OECD, 1985). Various strategies have been undertaken. In a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom (U.K.), career paths of young people and initiatives to ease the transition to steady employment are being investigated. The purpose of this four-year study is to identify ways in which educational and occupational experiences influence adolescent identity and how this, in turn, affects economic and political values and behaviours in this age group (Bynner, 1986). It appears that certain of the variables central to the U.K. study would be useful in identifying the training and support needed by young Canadians about to enter the world of work. Variables which were of interest included attitude towards training for new technology, economic locus of control, self-efficacy, and self-estrangement.
Variables Under Investigation
Technological changes over the last decade have influenced the labour market in which young people find themselves upon leaving school. The recent free trade pact with the United States will likely escalate the need for and development of technological skills with even further implications for young people preparing to enter the world of work. However, provincial policies to create a technologically skilled work force often assume that young people can make the transition from school to work as long as training and education are provided. Such assumptions fail to consider the importance of attitudes towards training for new technologies. According to Breakwell and Fife-Shaw (1987) young people's attitudes towards training for new technology are largely pragmatic rather than evaluative and are strongly related to psychological factors as well as to education and familial background. If we are to understand young people's approaches to work and their integration into the labour market, then the way they relate to new technology will become increasingly important as retraining initiatives are implemented.
During adolescence young people break away from the relative security of family and school and enter the more uncertain and sometimes confusing adult world. They become increasingly aware of the need for and the difficulty entailed in obtaining financial independence. Economic locus of control, a belief in control over one's reinforcements (Furnham, 1986), may help us to better understand exactly how young people feel about having to cope with an economy that will determine their own lives. If training schemes and educational courses are to be effective in preparing the job-entry workforce, it is important to know what young adults think about their actual economic reality.
Self-efficacy theory has proposed that two types of expectancies exert powerful influences on behaviour: outcome expectancies, the belief that certain behaviours will lead to certain outcomes, and self-efficacy expectancy, the belief that one can successfully perform the behaviour in question (Maddux, Sherer & Rogers, 1982). The self-efficacy expectancy variable is being investigated in this study. According to Bandura (1977), expectancies off self-efficacy are the most powerful determinants of behavioural change. These determinants are the initial decision to perform a behaviour, the effort expended, and persistence in the face of adversity. This variable has many implications for identity processes and may have some explanatory power as to how young people assess skills and competencies in their social context.
Researchers have shown that the late adolescence period is one during which "a major reduction of contact between youth and their parents takes place" (Sprinthall & Collins, 1988, p. 509). Keniston (1965) introduces the concept of alienation to illustrate the distance that temporarily separates youth from their families and from the society in general. In fact, alienation may be a threatening reality especially if young people do not feel adequately prepared to get involved in society. Moreover, society at large is not always a welcoming one for those who have not yet demonstrated who they are and what they can effectively accomplish. It is in those circumstances that the feeling of alienation or self-estrangement emerges in young people who have to go through a precise transition. This is what Keniston means when he says that "the estrangement of youth entails the feeling of resolution, unreality, absurdity and disconnectedness from the interpersonal, social and phenomenological world" (1965, p. 637).
These four variables should be useful in explaining the process through which an individual becomes aware of the realities and meanings of his/her own existence and how this awareness influences career development. For most young people the successful movement into the labour force is an important transition from adolescence to becoming an adult. The extent to which this transition occurs has some influence on the formation of the self-identity. These variables when taken into account may help explain how young people experience and perceive a changing world of work.
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