A change of course



After spending several years in the workforce, some young people choose to return to vocational training in order to redirect their careers. Understanding their objectives and what returning to school means to them is essential in order to provide better support and to properly adapt vocational education to their needs.

The move is highly symbolic and may be related to, not only a professional change, but also a personal change.

Jonas Masdonati, an education researcher at Université Laval, conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 vocational training students between the ages of 25 and 40 who returned to school after spending at least two years in the workforce.

He observed two main motivations: some students were reacting to dissatisfaction with regard to their work or to certain obstacles, such as health problems, while others returned to school because they became interested in a different trade or dreamed of better prospects for the future.

These changes in life course also vary according to the individual, and Jonas Masdonati attributes them to three primary sources:

  • A fresh start. The move is highly symbolic and may be related to, not only a professional change, but also a personal change. Stuck in a precarious situation, some see the return to school as the first step to a new life.
  • Progression. Not so much a dramatic break as a new step along a logical path. The student is looking to improve his skills and add another string to his bow, while remaining in the same professional field.
  • Questioning. Some students question their choice. While determined to complete their training, they are not convinced that they want to work in that field later on.

A number of vocational training centres have shown an interest in using these findings to better understand their students and refine their teaching. Jonas Masdonati has presented his findings at scientific conferences in Paris, Madrid, Lausanne and Geneva, and has written two scientific articles on the subject.