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  • Beyond College for All,James Rosenbaum
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Beyond College For All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half (American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology)

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In Beyond College for All: Career Paths for theForgotten Half, James Rosenbaum provides important insightsinto a complex web of information, actors, institutions, and socialrelationships that contribute to the dysfunction of the highschool-to-work transition in America. He starts by viewingthe school-to-work process from several prominent theoreticalvantages, including neoclassical economics, segmented labormarkets, signaling and network theories. This review is auseful contribution in itself because it offers a comparativeapplication of competing economic and social theories of employmentto an often overlooked process. Finding these theoriesindividually to be useful, although ultimately incomplete,Rosenbaum then presents his institutional linkages modelthat draws heavily from James Coleman’s work on socialcapital. Specifically, Rosenbaum suggests that established,on-going social relationships between individuals or institutionscan provide valuable signals that ensure the trustworthiness andrelevance of information, properties that characterize manysuccessful economic transactions. One of the central problems of the American school-to-worktransition, Rosenbaum argues, lies in the weak linkages among therelevant social institutions and their agents.

In a society where everyone is supposed to go to college, the problems facing high school graduates who do not continue their education are often forgotten. Many cannot find jobs, and those who do are often stuck in low-wage, dead-end positions. Meanwhile employers complain that high school graduates lack the necessary skills for today's workplace. "Beyond College for All" focuses on this crisis in the American labor market. Around the world, author James E. Rosenbaum finds, employers view high school graduates as valuable workers. Why not here? Rosenbaum reports on new studies of the interaction between employers and high schools in the United States. He concludes that each fails to communicate its needs to the other, leading to a predictable array of problems for young people in the years after graduation. High schools caught up in the college-for-all myth, provide little job advice or preparation, leading students to make unrealistic plans and hampering both students who do not go to college and those who start college but do not finish. Employers say they care about academic skills, but then do not consider grades when deciding whom to hire. Faced with few incentives to achieve, many students lapse into precisely the kinds of habits employers deplore, doing as little as possible in high school and developing poor attitudes. Rosenbaum contrasts the situation in the United States with that of two other industrialized nations-Japan and Germany-which have formal systems for aiding young people who are looking for employment. Virtually all Japanese high school graduates obtain work, and in Germany, eighteen-year-olds routinely hold responsible jobs. While the American system lacks such formal linkages, Rosenbaum uncovers an encouraging hidden system that helps many high school graduates find work. He shows that some American teachers, particularly vocational teachers, create informal networks with employers to guide students into the labor market. Enterprising employers have figures out how to use these networks to meet their labor needs, while students themselves can take steps to increase their ability to land desirable jobs. "Beyond College for All" suggests new policies based on such practices. Rosenbaum presents a compelling case that the problems faced by American high school graduates and employers can be solved if young people, employers, and high schools build upon existing informal networks to create formal paths for students to enter the world of work. "A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology"

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