Labor shortages and the rising cost of living have pushed up the dropout rate and dropped enrollment in vocational training centers and adult education. More and more young people are abandoning their studies to enter the labor market.
Absenteeism or abandonment blows a void in our schools. We are gradually witnessing the formation of a gigantic open-air skating rink. Many of the young people who usually attend our centers have encountered difficulties in their schooling. They have had atypical and difficult previous careers, they are fragile.
Some, out of spite, turn to the present moment, they live their life at full speed, they spend the money earned now to buy immediate satisfactions, identity compensations, to stay in the game, up to date with the latest technological devices, stay connected with a network, identify with a social group.
Others no longer have a choice, they believe: in the case of young parents, it is the only possible solution to offset inflation, survive a recession, continue to pay ever-increasing bills . For others, finally, it is an expected pretext to flee the school environment, synonymous with devaluation and discomfort, and a family environment shaken by the COVID years. These young people are fleeing ahead.
For everyone, it is important to acquire adult status, the status of full-time worker, a symbol of autonomy and freedom, a form of social recognition. They were, a few months ago still, pupils in difficulty, pupils with disorders, special needs, a DAP (particular assistance file), a particular follow-up. They become team leader, manager, partner…
A bright future or an uncontrollable slippage?
Four puddles of water are freezing under their feet. There is a fundamental difference between the educational relationship and the professional relationship: in the educational relationship, the student and his needs are the primary purpose of the intervention. A group of stakeholders, from all approaches and disciplines, are mobilized to meet its needs. The student is the object to be trained and accompanied. In a professional relationship, it is the profit or the yield of the company which is the finality and the central object of the efforts engaged by all the actors of the production.
Suddenly, it’s as if the shortage of labor and the difficulty of offering regular service had transformed all jobs into a gigantic Walmart: flexible hours, inconsistent conditions, lack of follow-up and incomplete training. How do you learn on the job when managers are at their wit’s end, overwhelmed by anxiety and no longer have time to train the next generation? David has just learned after ten days of work that it is better to start the coffee machine after removing the detergent cartridge.
We take off the helmet!
A good employee provides good work, period! Sarah-Jane works her best and does not understand that the other employees, often from a previous generation, reproach her for her “indolence”, her delays, the lack of regularity in the quality of her work. She hoped to find an environment where she would be appreciated for her perseverance, she does not understand that there is not more flexibility, adaptation to her characteristics as a learner, she finds it hard to bear criticism being straightforward, without care.
Suddenly, authority seems aggressive to her, it isolates her and she can no longer adapt. The repetition of the same scenario in different jobs is a real disappointment and she protects herself with a bitter and defensive attitude. “His stupid look”, as some colleagues tell him.
We take off the cozy coat!
To work too early, when you don’t yet know how to manage your life, is to set foot in a spiral of consumption. Prices are rising, so are needs when you want to be reliable on the job market: car, apartment, clothes, etc. With a minimum wage, debt comes quickly, then it becomes endemic, their shoulders are fragile and not very broad. Francis already has four credit cards at 19.
We take the pants off!
Believing that today, being hardworking is enough is a mistake. When the pressure of the workplace increases, when technological tools require constant adaptation, when pressure from peers and clients draws a halo of anxiety, many young people shiver. The ability to discern the right strategies, the ability to reinvest knowledge, the strength to maintain an appropriate attitude are challenged too brutally, in the sole perspective of a rapid result. Sarah hasn’t come to work for a week, she stays in her room.
So self-esteem collapses, the feeling of not being able to meet expectations, of being inadequate is devastating at 16, 17, 18 years old. It is no longer just a label “with difficulties, troubles, DAP, etc.” which is formed in self-awareness, it is ‘unsuitable, useless, incapable’. And it hurts so much more! There is a risk of soon speaking of failure of social integration and no longer of dropping out. If lifestyle habits are at risk, how far will this hasty decision take them?
Do you see them, these exhausted young people going around in circles in the gusts? I so hope to see soon the return to our centers of these young people who will have taken stock of an inconclusive employment experience. In a few years, if the storm does not cause too much damage, they will return to our classes for a career change. In truth, it will be a return to oneself.
In the meantime, we, their clients in everyday life, let’s be respectful of their efforts, stop expecting from them what they are not yet able to give, without being complacent. Let’s understand that they are drooling and that their trajectory is fragile.