The Research Unit "Youth Transitions" was set up at the Deutsches Jugendinstitut (DJI) to investigate school-to-work transitions among disadvantaged young people and to evaluate training and other schemes established to improve the occupational and social integration of this group.
One focus of our research are the living conditions and careers of adolescents and young adults in the processes of being trained in schools, in training schemes and in vocational training and employment in enterprises. We have found that patterns of transition from school to work, though increasingly characterised by discontinuity, are still an important frame of reference for the transition of young people to adulthood. We have also found that particularly young people from families with little economic, social and cultural capital bear a high risk of not successfully completing general education, of being unable to enter vocational education and training, of failing to find stable employment or even any employment at all. Adolescents from immigrant families constitute a large portion among early school leavers, among young unskilled workers and among the unemployed which raises the question to what extent this can be attributed to literary problems, values and orientations or possibly ethnic discrimination by the German host society.
A second focus of our research is the evaluation of education, training and employment schemes that have been installed at various levels of schooling, vocational education and training and in the labour market to improve school-to-work transition processes of adolescents, particularly young people from disadvantaged groups. We have found that while methods of self evaluation are widespread in the area of support of young people in the school-to-work transition, there is little research on the effects of this support on the acquisition of competences and on vocational careers.
To gain a better understanding of the determinant of individual careers and of the effects of education, training and social work we use both retrospective and longitudinal approaches. We have completed a nationwide longitudinal study on the careers of participants of specific training schemes that have been installed to help unskilled young workers to enter and complete vocational education and training (see: "Freiwilliges Soziales Trainingsjahr”). We are in the process of conducting a longitudinal study on the careers of graduates of the lower secondary school (Hauptschule) to learn more about the passages that they take in their attempts to complete vocational education and to enter employment and about the effects of a variety of measures designed to support this process (“Übergangspanel”).