[Journal:] Journal for Labour Market Research [ISSN:] 2510-5027 [Volume:] 45 [Year:] 2012 [Issue:] 1 [Pages:] 79-98
Two contrary effects determine how age influences access to apprenticeships: on the one hand, training companies increasingly hire older apprentices. On the other hand applicants who are too old, face difficulty in finding an apprenticeship place at all. The paper analysis the selecting companies' motives in setting both the upper and lower age limits for new recruits. Referring to a conceptual framework of personnel selection drawn from the French sociology of conventions, the research question is investigated using secondary data analysis. Expert interviews with personnel managers in 60 small businesses from German-speaking Switzerland were interpreted using argument analysis. The findings show that most of the analysed training companies favour applicants who have not directly left school, but have usually spent one year in some kind of tiding-over arrangement. Despite this preference for 'older' candidates a significant minority of companies turns down applicants who have already reached a certain age. The network convention of workplace coordination gives rise to reservations towards too-young apprentices with regard to customer relations. In contrast, firms turn down older applicants because they believe they do not socially 'fit in', which can be interpreted through the domestic convention of coordination. These applicants are associated with a higher dropout risk, which would additionally entail costs to the firm in terms of the market convention. Having revealed the operations of age discrimination in hiring apprentices, the paper concludes that both the school leavers' delayed start of training as well as the problems faced by older job applicants to access apprenticeships are in part caused by training companies and their multiple requirements for social coordination.