In France, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds exhibit consistently lower levels of educational achievement and career achievement. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is that youths from these backgrounds lack access to the information and advice from parents and community members which makes such success possible. Many countries facing similar problems have considered career mentorship programs as a potential solution. Though such programs exist in France, they have not yet been studied in depth. This study evaluates the effects of Actenses, a program which provides French youths primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds with mentors from the professional world to help them learn about the job market and plan their careers.
A total of 22 schools participated in this study. Within each school, four classes were selected, of which three were assigned to the treatment group and one was left as a control. All the students in the treatment classes were assigned a mentor, while the students in the control classes were not. Administrative data and surveys were used to acquire background information on the students being mentored and eventually to measure the effects of the mentorship program.
The effects of the program were neither strong nor easy to interpret, and many effects were on the edge of statistical significance. The program seemed to gently make students either question their previous plans or come up with goals for the first time.