Dr. Alison Cathles

Educational Pathways and Skills: Past, Present and Future

Year: 2019

Jo Ritzen & Adam Szirmai


Technology is changing everything, and education is no exception. In a world of rapidly changing technology, will vocation-specific or transversal skills be the most relevant?  This debate is challenged by lack of data. Research on the impact of vocational education in macroeconomic settings is scarce. To address this gap, this thesis builds a dataset for vocational secondary schooling and uses it to determine the effect of vocational secondary schooling on long-run macroeconomic performance. General numeracy skills are arguably foundational skills for work (and life) that can be honed in specific occupations.  The thesis examines the effect of public investment on adult numeracy skills and concludes that public investment is an important determinant, and that the timing and spread of investment matters.  In 12 advanced economies, differences are found between people who pursued vocational versus general higher education in: their use of numeracy skills on the job and their education-job match.  These differences depend (at least in part) on the structure of the overall education system.  An exploratory survey was conducted in the Netherlands and the in New York State in the United States, two countries with very differently structured education systems. Higher professional education institutions in the two places experience different challenges and opportunities when they try to adapt their educational services to meet the needs of a changing workplace.

Selected publications by Alison Cathles