by Nadia Rousseau, Ghislain Samson and Karen Tetreault
Saving a job is about more than money: it’s also a major part of participating in the broader society. And the path toward getting a job very much and increasingly passes through education. In a difficult job market, high school dropouts clearly bear the brunt of unemployment and social exclusion. According to Quebec Department of Education statistics, between 1990 and 2003 the unemployment rate for high school graduates increased by 6.8 per cent, while for high school dropouts the increase was 34 per cent.1
Not long ago, the problem was seen in terms of lack of access to education, so the solution would have been to build more schools and increase the mandatory education age. But the persistently high dropout rate shows that lack of schools is not the problem, and given what we know about the dropouts, more mandatory education is not the solution. The real question is: How can we help students who are unable to complete high school become competent and conscientious workers? How can we positively affect the future of young people whose academic experience has been negative, frustrating and sometimes demeaning? An innovative program in Quebec combining education, recycling and on-the-job training, the Centres de Formation en Entreprise et Récupération (centres for youth training and recycling) or CFERs, may have a great deal to offer.
The challenges of vocational programs
For a young person to find a place in the adult world, it is critical that knowledge acquired through education be successfully transferred to the job market. This has become increasingly complicated as accelerating social change has made people more mobile. Hence schools must prepare students to invest and reinvest their knowledge in different settings outside the school. While there is now a greater willingness among educators to go beyond traditional education methods, the challenge is still daunting when it comes to vocational and social integration.