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Presentation of the project research findings at the European Conference of Educational Research ECER 2023, 22-25 August 2023, Glasgow, UK.

Title of the presentation: Supporting and Hindering Factors in Vocational Education and Training – A Cross-National Analysis of Young People’s Perspectives 

Marieke Bruin, Vidmantas Tutlys, Meril Ümarik, Biruta Sloka and Ilze Buligina presented findings of the qualitative study executed in the second work package of the project.  

The study explores young people’s accounts on their experiences from Vocational Education and Training (VET) concerning factors supporting and hindering successful completion. The study is part of a cross-national research project, Vocational education and workplace training enhancing social inclusion of at-risk young people (EmpowerVET) involving four countries: Lithuania, Norway, Estonia, and Latvia. The purpose of the project is to investigate how vocational education and training (VET) may enhance the social inclusion of young people who are at risk of becoming economically and socially marginalised.  

To gain insight in strengths and weaknesses of VET-trajectories across four different countries, 80 young people aged 16-29 were interviewed about their experiences, providing authentic accounts of how the young people understand and negotiate their opportunities, prospects and limitations, and the contextual factors influencing these issues. With reference to Allan (2009), from an inclusive perspective, young people’s accounts embody an expertise that requires to be acknowledged as such. The article explores the following research questions: In their accounts on their experiences in VET, what do the young people convey about factors that may support and hinder successful completion, and how may this be understood? Through analysing first-hand experiences spanning four countries, the purpose is to develop knowledge that may contribute to strengthening vocational educational trajectories, increasing opportunities for successful completion for young people at risk of social exclusion. 

A central issue concerning factors supporting and hindering successful completion in VET is connected to relationships. Across the four nations, the analyses of the young people’s accounts convey that the relationships with family, with teachers and peers at school, and with supervisors and co-workers in the workplace influence the experience of belonging, motivation, and self-esteem, indicating a direct impact on a student’s chance of completing VET. The analysis shows that the young people’s accounts may be understood as narratives on participation and non-participation. Following Florian, Black-Hawkins, and Rouse (2017), participation concerns all members of a school’s community. Furthermore, participation and barriers to participation are viewed as interconnected and ongoing processes, supporting or hindering educational achievement (Florian, Black-Hawkins, & Rouse, 2017a). Raising academic achievement for all students is concerned with responses to diversity, creating equitable opportunities to participate in the learning community, regardless of student background and characteristics (Florian, 2015). The analysis shows that experiencing barriers to participation in a school’s community – albeit primary, lower-secondary, or upper-secondary and VET – is detrimental to the young people’s sense of belonging, motivation and self-esteem, and a hindering factor for successful completion in VET. The analysis will be discussed within a social capital framework (Field, 2017) from the following perspectives: 1) Narratives on trust and confidence – A social capital framework, 2) Promoting participation – Building inclusive social infrastructures. The discussion will pursuit the argument that VET’s development of students’ social capital may provide a factor stimulating resilience in students, so that they «get on and get ahead through the connections they have with other people» (Allan & Persson, 2020, p. 153). 

The presentation slides: Download Presentation