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Paid employment in adolescence and rapid integration into a career-related job in early adulthood among vulnerable youth : the identity connection

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For youth transitioning to adulthood, finding a job that matches one’s career aspirations is a major challenge. This is especially true for non-college-bound youth, for whom well-paid, meaningful work opportunities are scarce. One avenue often proposed to enhance these youths’ chances of successful professional integration is through work experiences during high school, which are thought to help at least in part by supporting identity development processes. The purpose of this study was to test this premise in a Canadian sample (N = 386; 50% female; 23% minority) of socioeconomically disadvantaged and academically vulnerable youth (48% without a post-secondary degree) followed longitudinally from their mid-teens to their early twenties. Beyond potential confounders, no direct association was found between adolescent employment (at both moderate and intensive levels) and integration into a career-related job. However, mediation analyses showed that moderate work in high school (i.e., < 20 hours per week) was significantly associated with identity commitment (b = 1.82, p < .001), which was in turn linked to integration into a career-related job matching professional goals in early adulthood (b = 0.08, p < .001). Among the control variables, having a vocational degree was a strong predictor of integration into a career-related job. Overall, these results suggest that career counselors accompanying adolescents who do not intend to attend college should consider employment at moderate levels as an option to foster their identity related to future plans, interests, and values, as well as vocational training options.

Journal of vocational behavior, Vol. 142, 103864 (2023)
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Vocational education., Adolescent, Career development, Identity formation, Social disadvantage
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