In the European countries, upper secondary qualification is identified as critical for individuals’ career development as well as a key to the progress of communities and society at large. In an European perspective, Sweden today has relatively high proportion of young people without upper secondary status when leaving upper secondary school as well as high youth unemployment rates. The restructuring of the public sector, the reduction of the Swedish welfare system and the development of the school system towards increased deregulation, decentralization and market release seems to have had a particularly negative effect on young people at risk. In this paper the intention is to give voice to young adults without upper secondary qualifications, some of them with different kinds of disabilities, some with non-Swedish background and most of them unemployed. How do they describe their pathways in school and school-to-work (STW)-transitions? How do they describe measures intended to promote completion of school and getting a foothold in the labour market? What characterizes their horizons of action? The aim of this study is to increase the knowledge about biographical experiences of STW- transitions among young adults in their twenties without upper secondary status, focusing on their understanding of institutional processes, their experiences and individual strategies. The study is part of the research project - Troublesome transitions: School-to-work transitions of young people at risk in a longitudinal perspective - funded by the Swedish Research Council. To analyse the young adults’ narratives about their STW-transitions a careership theory is applied, outlined by Hodkinson and Sparkes. The theory considers the agency-structure interrelationship, and is connected to Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, field and capital. Key concepts are routines, turning-points, field and horizon of action.
Method The study is based on interviews with 111young adults, from twenty selected Swedish municipalities (of 290). The municipalities were selected according to different types, such as urban, suburban and industrial areas, and according to more or less successful communities when it comes to the percentage of young people who have completed upper secondary school, rates of employment and proportion dependent on social welfare. Aiming at reaching a diverse group of young people at risk we did guide our gatekeepers to mediate contact in respect to: a gender mix, age around 20 and without upper secondary qualifications. Beside these general criteria, which all respondents share, we ensured that young people with non-Swedish background and young people with disabilities that participated in ordinary schools as well as special schools were included. A thematic interview guide was employed and besides these themes there was space for the young adults’ narratives and digressions. The interviews were conducted in the respondents’ hometowns in 2011 or 2012 and took around one hour to carry out. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed based on emerging themes.
Expected Outcomes The young adults display fragmentized paths, both during education and after,with many shifts and a majority seem to have experienced more turning-points than peers of the same age. Some of these turning-points can be described as forced, others as structural and yet others as self-initiated. Many experience a turbulent time and unsafe conditions after leaving school. The most common explanation to their situation is school-failure – something they blame themselves. The study shows in the group of young adults lacking upper secondary qualification, the type of municipality they live in has a smaller significance to their STW-transition. The patterns – troublesome education-background with lack of (proper) support at school, fragmentized transition patterns, lack of influence, alienation, absence of measures entering the labor market and temporary low-qualified employment – is recurring and their experiences and their horizon of action can to a larger extent be linked to background-variables such as gender, dis/ability and the accumulated capital of the family than to geographical location. By numbers, young men are more exposed. However it is the young women who express greater distress about the future. Young adults with disabilities is collectively the group that faces the greatest challenges during the establishing-phase.
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ECER European Conference of Educational Research, Istanbul Turkey Sept 2013