The relationship between formal education and skill acquisition in young workers’ first jobs
We analyse the relationship between formal education and on-the-job skill acquisition (SA) for a sample of Flemish school-leavers. SA is measured directly through subjective assessments. Formal education is found to reinforce labour market inequality because additional years of education enhance the probability of all types of SA. With respect to general SA, this impact is higher for generally-educated compared to vocationally-educated individuals. This is predominantly explained by between-occupation effects; jobs that require more years of formal education also require more additional SA. Within occupations, we find some limited evidence on both dominant complementary and substitution effects. Under-educated workers have lower overall SA probabilities than adequately educated workers in similar occupations; over-educated workers with a vocational degree acquire less transferable or general skills than their adequately educated colleagues. Because over-educated workers work in jobs with less additional SA requirements, they also acquire less additional skills than adequately educated workers with similar educational backgrounds.
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