This chapter addresses two linked questions about the directions of contemporary European social change processes. First, what kinds of changes appear to be taking place in the social construction of the life course that impinge on the modalities of youth transitions? Second, what kinds of flexibilities are demanded of individuals and forms of social organization in “knowledge societies,” a term gaining increasing currency in both theoretical and policy discourses on the nature and implications of economic and social change for education, training, and employment?
To date, public sphere debate has focused on how to promote change at the level of individuals themselves (how to become more innovative, adventurous, autonomous, enterprising, qualified, and so on). There is considerable room, however, for institutional and organizational change toward forms of openness and flexibility that can both facilitate active citizenry and assist people to meet the increasingly complex circumstances in which they must plan and carry through their education training and their paid working lives.
It would be implausible to argue that the risks and difficulties people experience in initial (and increasingly, recurring) education-to-employment transitions are either caused or might be resolved by the withering away of institutionalized arrangements for managing these processes. Such arrangements clearly vary between European countries: Some national-cultural traditions display quite highly structured transition management systems, whereas others have developed looser frameworks in this respect.