The transition from high school into educational and occupational pathways is a bewildering process for many young people and their parents. From the time they start kindergarten to the day they graduate from high school, most youth travel down a relatively straightforward path. They proceed systematically from one grade to another. Everyone their age is doing pretty much what they are doing school-wise, and career decisions are something for the distant future.
Then comes high school graduation and the roadmap ends. Some young people move smoothly into post-secondary training and satisfying work while others flounder. They change their education programs multiple times or drop out altogether. Many graduate from college or university with no idea what they want to do and spend years careening from one job to another and back to school in an attempt to establish themselves in a fulfilling career. This research seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the educational and occupational pathways that high school graduates take after graduation with a particular emphasis on the supports, roadblocks, and detours they have encountered along the way.
The goal of this project was to help young people and those who guide them, whether parents or career professionals, to understand the challenges facing high school graduates, the multiplicity of possible pathways they may follow when continuing their education and finding employment, as well as how to help the graduates to make a successful transition after completing high school.
The young adults selected for inclusion in the study participated in a one-on-one interview lasting 60 to 90 minutes, which focused on what they had been doing since graduating from high school. Specifically, they were asked to reflect on what influenced the pathways they took and what supports and constraints they encountered as they made their way into post-secondary education and/or directly into the workforce. As well, they were asked to share any advice they might have for how parents and professionals could best help young people. The interviews were audio taped, transcribed, and analyzed for both common and unique themes. Follow-up interviews were conducted with those who were willing to be contacted again.
There are a multitude of factor influencing the pathways taken by young people Young people’s educational and occupational pathways are being influenced by a host of complex factors that reside both within them and in their environment.
Each site includes a small advisory committee of two to three local individuals who can help to identify appropriate ways to access youth, help to define the construct of resilience, and oversee the ethical application of the research in their community. These individuals are also influential in their community of service providers and act as aids for dissemination of results to practitioners and policy makers.
Two guidebooks have been written based on the findings that emerged from the study. One for parents and the other for professionals. Both guidebooks outline the variety of pathways young people take after high school, who and what influence their choices, and the strategies they use to negotiate their transition from school to the workforce.