How well do young people transition from one educational level to the next and from school to the world of work? This is a question occupying many minds within society, since the educational and career paths of young people are of interest to both decision-makers and experts in education and youth work. The new Helsinki University Press volume Youth on the Move: Tendencies and Tensions in Youth Policies and Practices, which discusses the transitions of young people in the Nordic countries and England, looks at this question from the perspective of research. The editors of the book, Professor Kristiina Brunila from the University of Helsinki and Professor Lisbeth Lundahl from Umeå University, take a critical perspective on the topic.
"The uncertain school-to-work transitions of young people represent one of the most urgent social problems today in many countries. An entire 'transition machinery', consisting of education and training aimed at young people, has been created to help these transitions. We find it problematic that issues encountered by young people – for example, unemployment, poverty and discrimination – as well as solutions to these problems are seen are individual challenges. However, these issues are first and foremost based on structural factors related to social power relations and inequality, and they may marginalise young people. Such socially important differences as age, gender, ethnicity, social class and health affect the opportunities of young people in a variety of ways. We want to move the focus from the individual to structures."
Articles in the Youth on the Move book analyse the views of decision-makers, teachers, guidance counsellors and other experts as well as those of young people on various transitions.
"By studying the views of various parties, it is possible to render current problems visible and provide an answer to why, despite good intentions and numerous measures, the social status of young people remains unchanged. The work of professionals may, for example, be guided by unidentified ideologies or stereotypical expectations of what kinds of education and career paths are suited to young people coming from different backgrounds."
According to Brunila and Lundahl, it is important to ask what kinds of positions are available for young people in the transition machinery and how young people perceive their own status.
"In our opinion, looking at policies and practices related to transition in social terms is important, since these practices not only describe but also mould opportunities for young people to act and exist. Young people’s own experiences and wishes have been largely absent both from research and decision-making."
Brunila and Lundahl wanted to provide open access to their book, so that it would be easily available to as wide an audience as possible.
"We think openness is crucially relevant, as we hope our book reaches not only the academic community but also decision-makers and professionals in the field of education. Researchers should value openness. We cannot demand funding for our research if we don’t make our findings available outside academia."
Kristiina Brunila is a sociologist and professor of social justice and equality in education at the University of Helsinki. Lisbeth Lundahl is a professor in educational work at Umeå University.
This story is part of a series introducing Helsinki University Press's new publications and presenting HUP's authors as well as their views on open-access publishing.
Translation: Language Services, University of Helsinki.