Background: The current global cohort of youth has been called ‘a generation at-risk’, marked by a dramatic rise in youth who are not in employment, education or training programmes. In 2010, youth were three times as likely as adults to be unemployed, with youth unemployment worsening in 2012 and 2013. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to examine educational structures that can promote greater labour market attachment and successful transition into employment for youth worldwide. Vocational and work-based education (WBE) has been identified as one of the most recommended and promising educational structures for curtailing youth under- and unemployment. However, WBE takes many forms, making it difficult to discern which WBE programme is most likely to meet the diverse needs of any individual at-risk youth. Moreover, there has been a dearth of theoretical conceptualisations to explain WBE as a context that promotes resilience for at-risk youth as they transition into the world of work. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present a revised model for WBE as an enabling context for at-risk youth in transition from school to employment. Specifically, a person-in-context approach is used, situating youth-related facets (e.g. agency) in relation to systemic facets (e.g. political, cultural) to provide a comprehensive theoretical basis for WBE. The revised model maintains three overlapping domains – the individual, the social-cultural and the economic-political – to address a theoretical gap in the literature on transition systems while providing a foundation for practical efforts to prepare at-risk youth for engaging in a changing labour market. Design and Methods: The model was constructed through a systematic and interdisciplinary integrative literature review that examined empirical, conceptual, policy-based and practice-based literature on at-risk youth transition from school to work. Articles and documents were analysed for both individual and contextual factors that influence transition, in order to contribute towards the development of a robust person-in-context model. Existing models of transition and other systems were also examined that addressed the needs of at-risk youth. A ‘person-in-context’ approach was selected for our model as it enabled representation of both macro- and microcosmic factors that shape effective WBE programming. Conclusions: The model is organised around three critical domains that were identified as being influential for school-to-work transition: the individual domain, the social-cultural domain and the economic-political domain. Within each of these domains, multiple facets are described that shape youth transition. WBE is positioned at the centre of the model as an educational structure that can attend to the multiple facets that shape engagement in school and work. The paper concludes with an explicit research agenda linked to the model and practical implications for WBE programming.

Additional Metadata
Keywords at-risk youth, disengagement, person-in-context model, school-to-work transition, work-based education, youth unemployment
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2015.1030854
Journal Educational Research
Citation
DeLuca, C. (Christopher), Godden, L, Hutchinson, N.L. (Nancy L.), & Versnel, J. (Joan). (2015). Preparing at-risk youth for a changing world: Revisiting a person-in-context model for transition to employment. Educational Research, 57(2), 182–200. doi:10.1080/00131881.2015.1030854