This study revisits theoretical arguments and provides new empirical evidence on the early labour market outcomes of secondary school graduates in European countries with various approaches to the organization of vocational education and training (VET). In the German-speaking countries, as well as in Denmark and the Netherlands, and in Central and Eastern European countries, which have reintroduced the apprenticeship system following the fall of socialist rule, VET graduates tend to have a smoother labour market entry than their counterparts from secondary general tracks. In the rest of the European countries, VET graduates enjoy no meaningful advantages. The analyses that focus solely on VET graduates demonstrate that the advantages of firm-based or dual-system training over school-based training are that non-school-based training ensures quicker job entry and more stable contracts, although they tend to be lower-status jobs in a broad range of countries. We further confirm that in the German-speaking countries and Denmark, retaining apprentices and offering them regular contracts is the main mechanism through which the system operates. Individuals who are screened during the training period but are not retained by their employers have no comparative advantages over graduates with school-based training.
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