Uncertainty and Policy Disconnections in the Experiences of Young Adults Enrolled in High School Vocational and Technical Education Programs in Canada

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marc MOLGAT, University of Ottawa, Canada
Over the past two decades, governments and key decision-makers in the fields of education and work in Canada have expressed important concerns about access to and success in vocational education and training (VET) programs at the secondary level. In many ways, and reflecting a neo-liberal policy agenda, these programs are seen as closely connected to the labour market and an efficient way of facilitating transitions to work, regardless of the quality of jobs and working conditions that VET graduates obtain. Despite the concerns and the efforts made to reinvigorate technical education, a strong bias against the value of this type of education persists and many students face uncertainty before and throughout their studies. This paper presents the results of a study that examined how young adults (aged 18 to 35) in these programs deal with personal, familial, relational, school and work challenges. From a critical life course perspective the paper focusses on how their sense of uncertainty in the face of the labour market, marks their work and school transitions leading into and within these programs. To counter this uncertainty, young people develop strategies relying on various types of formal and informal support (government assistance, psychosocial intervention, career counselling, help from family and friends) which are gender specific in certain instances. The analysis is founded on 90 semi-structured interviews conducted in five vocational training centers in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Ultimately, on the basis of student experiences, the paper questions the underlying objectives of VET policies and institutions in Canada and shows that young people’s transitions need to be more adequately supported throughout VET programs.