Facing the life-cycle trade-off between vocational and general education in apprenticeship systems: An economics-of-education perspective

Ludger Woessmann


This paper discusses the role of vocational education, and in particular apprenticeship education, in preparing students for the labor market, with a particular focus on a life-cycle perspective in changing economies. The basic idea is that vocational education may facilitate entry into the labor market but hurt em­ployment opportunities later in life because of limited adaptability to changing economic environments. We summarize evidence on the changing effects of vocational education over the life cycle from the international adult achievement tests IALS and PIAAC and country-specific evidence. We then discuss policy implications for elements of future-oriented education systems, especially apprenticeship programs.


Vocational education; Apprenticeship; Labor market; Life cycle

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Journal for Educational Research Online/Journal für Bildungsforschung Online (ISSN 1866-6671)