A report by Keith MacAllum, Karla Yoder, Scott Kim, Robert Bozick, commissioned by the Academy for Educational Development/National Institute for Work and Learning
The report gives the findings of a longitudinal study of the Lansing Area Manufacturing Partnership (LAMP) programme, tracing the career and Higher Educational progress of three cohorts of graduates. The school-to-career initiative was launched by United Auto Workers and General Motors (GM) in 1997 and offers high school students in their final year a 2.5 day employer-driven curriculum that prioritises project-based learning, team-teaching and fostering close relationships between students, teachers and employees. The study is based on quantitative survey results and qualitative interviews with three cohorts of students graduating in 1998, 1999 and 2000: a total of 128 students. Control groups of graduates of the same high schools (matched for gender, ethnicity, age and academic attainment) were included in the study, which took place between 1999 and 2002.
Findings were as follows:
LAMP graduates were more likely to enter, and remain in, further education e.g. 68% of the LAMP class of 1999 still enrolled 2 years after graduation against 40% of the control group, suggesting students were better prepared for the transition from school to college and better able to plan and develop their career goals. They were more likely to undertake paid work during their studies, and this was not shown to detract from their academic attainment, which was similar to that of the control group throughout the study.
Most students from both the LAMP and control groups saw Higher Education as the means to further their career prospects, and LAMP graduates were no more likely than control groups to enter employment from high school, countering claims that school-to-career programmes prevent high school participants from entering further education by pushing them into work.
Of those students entering employment, LAMP graduates were found to change jobs more frequently than their non-LAMP counterparts. Reasons given for this were pragmatic, such as seeking higher wages, which the authors suggest may reflect LAMP graduates’ greater ability to ‘apply problem-solving skills to their work’.
In the workplace, LAMP graduates were shown to work more hours. Interviews suggested that they had better workplace skills than the control groups and that they were more likely to become union members. They were also more likely to participate in career enhancement activities such as sitting exams.
LAMP graduates were far more likely to find employment with GM, which they used as a step to furthering their career goals, even if these lay beyond the auto-manufacturing industry. GM’s highly-paid entry level jobs partly accounts for LAMP graduates having better short-term wage prospects than control groups (on average 25% higher). 18 months after high school graduation, 31% of LAMP graduates (10% of control group) stated a career goal relating to the automotive industry. The LAMP experience revealed to some students job prospects in this industry e.g. in accountancy, that matched their interests but that they had been previously unaware of. For some, conversely, the experience made them realise what they didn’t want to do.
Job satisfaction rates for LAMP and non-LAMP graduates did not differ significantly. In fact, LAMP graduates showed slightly lower job satisfaction, suggested to be due to their having gained high expectations of the workplace as part of their LAMP experience.
As regards prospects for future employment and wages, the authors note several limitations of linking individual outcomes to LAMP participation:
- Evidence of lowering impact as time since LAMP participation increases.
- The difficulty of attributing employment outcomes to a 2.5 day high school programme, given that most students attended further and higher education, where career choices are continually shaped. Such choices will also be affected by full or part time employment after leaving school.
- However, overall results suggest that LAMP offers more than just a short-term headstart, giving participants the skills and confidence to plan and develop clear career goals and making them more likely to pursue their education.
The authors recommend the expansion of programmes such as LAMP, linking classroom to workplace throughout students’ high school careers, which would in likelihood increase the short-term benefits of LAMP participation as clearly demonstrated by the study.