Educational time-out between a rock and a hard place: Vocational students in search of coherent life narratives
Keywords:Vocational students, gap year, coherent narratives, individualisation, youth
This article analyses students in upper secondary vocational education and training (VET) for retail and office work in Norway who deploy gap year justification in search of an educational time-out. The international literature on gap year, emphasises that this is a way for privileged students of getting ahead in the competition for access to elite universities. Based on qualitative interviews of VET students, the article finds that this perspective is, however, very different from the (un)planned ‘gapping’ reality of the working-class students of the study. The findings show that the students have worked out neither activities for the gap year nor what they plan to do after their time off. Rather, the findings reveal gapping to be a strategy to postpone essential choices of what and who to become. By examining the ways in which VET students in weakly established vocational trades make meaning of their seemingly open-ended educational journeys, the article explores how their interpretations of the opportunities they face are informed by legitimising individualised gapping discourses.
Bagnoli, A. (2009). On an ‘introspective journey’: Identities and travel in young people’s lives. European Societies, 11(3), 325–345. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616690902764674
Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge: Policy Press.
Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage.
Birch, E., & Miller, P. (2007). The characteristics of ‘gap-year’ students and their tertiary academic outcomes. The Economic Record, 83(262), 329–344. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2007.00418.x
Bratsberg, B., Nyen, T., & Raaum, O. (2017). Fagbrev i voksen alder [Vocational qualifications in adulthood]. Søkelys på arbeidslivet, 34(1–2), 24–43. https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.1504-7989-2017-01-02-02
Côté, J., & Bynner, J.M. (2008). Changes in the transition to adulthood in the UK and Canada: The role of structure and agency in emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3), 251–268. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676260801946464
Curtis, D.D. (2014). The ‘gap year’ in Australia: Incidence, participant characteristics and outcomes. The Australian Economic Review, 47(1), 107–114. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8462.12054
Devadason, R. (2007). Constructing coherence? Young adults’ pursuit of meaning through multiple transitions between work, education and unemployment. Journal of Youth Studies, 10(2), 203–221. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676260600983650
Du Bois-Reymond, M. (1998). ‘I don’t want to commit myself yet’: Young people’s life concepts, Journal of Youth Studies, 1(1), 63–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.1998.10592995
Evans, K. (2007). Concepts of bounded agency in education, work, and the personal lives of young adults. International Journal of Psychology, 42(7), 85–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207590600991237
Furlong, A., Woodman, D., & Wyn, J. (2011). Changing times, changing perspectives: Reconciling ‘transition’ and ‘cultural’ perspectives on youth and young adulthood. Journal of Sociology, 47(4), 355‒370. https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783311420787
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Grytnes, R. (2011). Making the right choice! Inquiries into the reasoning behind young people's decisions about education. Young, 19(3), 333‒351. https://doi.org/10.1177/110330881101900305
Hamilton, S.F., & Hurrelmann, K. (1994). The school-to-career transition in Germany and the United States. Teachers College Record. 96(2), 329‒344.
Heath, S. (2007). Widening the gap: Pre-university gap years and the ‘economy of experience’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28(1), 89–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425690600996717
Heinz, W. R. (2009). Structure and agency in transition research. Journal of Education and Work, 22(5), 391–404. https://doi.org/10.1080/13639080903454027
Hjort, J.L. (2016). Oslo youth between individualization and class: A study of orientations towards the future. (Published doctoral dissertation.) Oslo: University of Oslo.
Høst, H., Reegård, K., Reiling, R.B., Skålholt, A., & Tønder, A.H. (2015). Yrkesutdanninger med svak forankring i arbeidslivet: En kunnskapsoppsummering [Vocational educations with a weak position in the labour market: A review]. Rapport 16/2015. Oslo: NIFU.
Høst, H., Seland, I., & Skålholt, A. (2013). Yrkesfagelevers ulike tilpasninger til fagopplæring: En undersøkelse av elever i tre yrkesfaglige utdanningsprogram i videregående skole [Vocational students’ various adaptions to vocational education and training: A study of students in three upper secondary vocational programmes]. Rapport 16/2013. Oslo: NIFU.
Jordfald, B., & Mühlbradt, M. (2015). Arbeidskraftbehov ved søndagsåpne butikker [Labour needs with shops open on Sundays]. Fafo-notat 2015:03. Oslo: Fafo.
Jørgensen, C.H., & Tønder, A.H. (2018). Transitions from vocational education to employment in the Nordic countries. In C. Jørgensen, C., O-J. Olsen, & D. Persson Thunqvist (Eds.), Vocational Education in the Nordic Countries: Learning from diversity (pp. 29–50). Cambridge: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315414492
Jørgensen, C., Olsen, O-J., & Persson Thunqvist, D. (2018). Vocational Education in the Nordic Countries: Learning from diversity. Cambridge: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315414492
King, A. (2011). Minding the gap? Young people’s accounts of taking a gap year as a form of identity work in higher education. Journal of Youth Studies, 14(3), 341–357. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2010.522563
Leccardi, C. (2008). New biographies in the ‘risk society’? About future and planning: Twenty-first century society. Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 3(2), 119–129. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450140802062078
Lillejord, S., Halvorsrud, K., Ruud, E., Morgan, K., Freyr, T., Fischer-Griffiths, P., Eikeland, O.J., Hague, T.E., Homme, A.D., & Manger, T. (2015). Frafall i videregående opplæring: En systematisk kunnskapsoversikt [Drop out from upper secondary education: A systematic review]. Oslo: Kunnskapssenter for utdanning.
Linde, C. (1993). Life stories: The creation of coherence. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Mead, G.H. (1959). The philosophy of the present. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
Olsen, O.J., Reegård, K., Seland, I., & Skålholt, A. (2015). Læringsmiljø og gjennomføring [Learning environment and completion]. In H. Høst (Ed.), Kvalitet i fagopplæringen: Sluttrapport [Quality in vocational education: Final report] (pp. 83–144). Oslo/Bergen: NIFU, Fafo, HiOA, University of Bergen.
Reegård, K. (2016). Creating coherence: A longitudinal study of students traversing vocational education for office work in Norway. Young, 25(2), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1177/1103308816639390
Reegård, K. (2017a). Vague orientations and weak institutions: A study of students and apprentices in vocational education and training or retail and office work in Norway. (Published doctoral dissertation.) Bergen: Department of Sociology, University of Bergen.
Reegård, K. (2017b). Contrasting prospects: The institutionalisation of VET for retail and office work in Norway. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 69(4), 558–575. https://doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2017.1322127
Reegård, K., & Rogstad, J. (2016). Introduksjon [Introduction]. In K. Reegård, & J. Rogstad (Eds.), De frafalne: Om frafall i videregående opplæring [Those who dropped out: On dropout in upper secondary education] (pp. 9–21). Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Simpson, K. (2005a). Broad horizons: Geographies and pedagogies of the gap year. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) Newcastle, UK: University of Newcastle.
Simpson, K. (2005b). Dropping out or signing up? The professionalization of youth travel. Antipode, 37(3), 447–469. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00506.x
Snee, H. (2014a). A cosmopolitan journey? Difference, distinction and identity work in gap year travel. London: Routledge.
Snee, H. (2014b). Doing something ‘worthwhile’: Intersubjectivity and morality in gap year narratives. The Sociological Review, 62(4), 843–861. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12116
Statistics Norway. (2015). Completion rates of students in higher education, 2013/2014. Retrieved 3. June, 2019, from: https://www.ssb.no/en/utdanning/statistikker/hugjen/aar/2015-06-26
Stehlik, T. (2010). Mind the gap: School leaver aspirations and delayed pathways to further and higher education. Journal of Education and Work, 23(4), 363–376. https://doi.org/10.1080/13639080.2010.492392
Thornton, P.H., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012). The institutional logics perspective: A new approach to culture, structure, and process. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199601936.001.0001
Vogt, K.C. (2018). The timing of a time out: The gap year in life course context. Journal of Education and Work, 31(1), 47–58. https://doi.org/10.1080/13639080.2017.1407493
Vogt, K.C. (2016). Men in manual occupations: Changing lives in times of change. Oslo: Open Access, Cappelen Damm Akademisk. https://doi.org/10.17585/noasp.10.31
Wahlgren, B., Aarkrog, V., Mariager-Anderson, K., Gottlieb, S., & Larsen, C.H. (2018). Unge voksnes beslutningsprocesser i relation til frafald: En empirisk undersøgelse blandt unge voksne i erhvervs- og almen voksenuddannelse [Young adults’ decision processes in relation to drop out: An empirical study among young adults in vocational education and training and basic general adult education]. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 8(1), 98–113. https://doi.org/10.3384/njvet.2242-458X.188198
Walther, A. (2006). Regimes of youth transitions: Choice, flexibility and security in young people’s experiences across different European contexts. Young, 14(2), 119–139. https://doi.org/10.1177/1103308806062737
Wollebæk, D., & Segaard, S.B. (Eds.) (2011). Sosial kapital i Norge [Social capital in Norway]. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2019 Kaja Reegård
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
NJVET is an open access journal, this means anyone can access, freely download and read the journal. There are no commercial interests for Linköping University Electronic Press or the Nordic network for vocational education and training (NordYrk) in publishing the journal. From 2021 NJVET publishes all articles under the Creative Commons License CC-BY 4.0.
The core idea of open access is that copyright remains with the authors. However, we publish with the agreement of the authors that if they decide later to publish the articles elsewhere, the publisher will be notified, prior to any acceptance, that the article has already been published by NJVET.
When publishing with NJVET, it is with the agreement of the authors that if they make their articles available elsewhere on the internet (for example, on their own websites or institutional websites), that they will do so by making links to the articles as published in NJVET using the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) numbers of the articles and acknowledge in the text of the sites that the articles have been previously published in NJVET.