The labour market position of narrow versus broad vocational education programmes

J.B. Coenen, J.A.M. Heijke, C.M. Meng

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This paper compares narrow, or specialised, and broad, or less specialised, upper-secondary vocational education (VE) programmes in the Netherlands with respect to their graduates’ position in the labour market. The data are from three cohorts of the Dutch VE Monitor, a survey of VE graduates 18 months after graduation. The programmes of the highest level—Level 4—of the school-based learning route are investigated. To separate narrow from broad programmes, a novel criterion is used, based on the argument that the match between education and a job within a narrow programme’s occupational domain is better than outside that domain and that, for a broad programme, such a match does not differ significantly between the programme’s domain and outside it. This study shows that graduates from narrow education programmes have a less favourable labour market position than graduates from broad programmes. They have a greater chance of being unemployed and are more often mismatched in their jobs, both horizontally and vertically. They earn less in any case, particularly if their job is outside their occupational domain or below their level. They consequently experience worse career opportunities and many are more dissatisfied with their jobs. To solve this problem, it would be better to focus on realising a shift in the influx of students from narrow to broad education programmes instead of broadening all narrow programmes. Besides this shift to broader programmes, offering broad variants of narrow programmes while maintaining the narrow, specialist variants could be highly allocation efficient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
JournalEmpirical Research in Vocational Education and Training
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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