Tracking soon-to-be graduates: So, what’s the point?

There are a plethora of different surveys and instruments that focus on discovering the route followed by graduates once they set sail from our VET schools. The list of questions asked across these studies is endless, but the main focus is almost always employability. Have they got a job x months after graduation? Is this job somewhat connected to their field of study?   Are they happy about it? Was their education relevant to the job they are doing? Or maybe they have continued further studies?

The data gathered from these surveys are often hurriedly translated into a series of flashy statements about the employability of VET graduates and the adequacy or shortcomings of schools’ curricula.  But these conclusions may be built on somewhat shaky ground. For instance, let’s say we contact a graduate and find out she is not working in a sector or industry related to her course of study.  This negative answer understandably rings alarm bells among policymakers, schools and society almost instantly.  Yet, this question alone fails short to derive any meaningful conclusions. We take for granted she’s been struggling to find that job and that failing to do so, she may be frustrated at this time.  This is just one of the plausible scenarios.

Imagine we can refer back to information about her expectations and future plans shortly before graduation.  Perhaps she chose to enrol on that course of study while waiting to be admitted somewhere else, or maybe she completed studies yet realised this type of job she wanted to do, or maybe she planned on taking time out to travel. All of a sudden that ‘negative’ answer takes on a completely different meaning.

Exploring the initial expectations and future plans of soon-to-be graduates enables a more fine-grained analysis of graduate tracking data.  This is exactly what TRACKTION is doing in the second piloting round that’s just started this week.  Soon-to-be VET graduates from Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are being contacted before they leave school and they’ll be contacted again 6 months after graduation (January 2020).  Responses are collected with two online surveys specially designed by the project team.

TRACKTION Measurement Areas Before and After Graduation

This first contact while they are still at school has some other advantages.  On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to explain why they are being surveyed and make them feel part of it. On the other, we can clarify on the spot all privacy issues regarding the use of personal data.  And last but not least, it allows us to collect up to date contact information, rather than college emails which will no longer be used after graduation.  It is hoped that this pre-graduation contact will positively impact the response and completion rate of the post-graduation survey.  But right now, it is too soon to tell.  We will keep you posted with further updates.

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