Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




There are significant changes happening in the world of work, under the guise of a 'new' economy that embraces innovation and technology, flexible labour, and risk and uncertainty. With the proliferation of less conventional work arrangements and new career forms, traditional notions of employment careers and life trajectories are in flux. To better understand these trends and potential consequences for workers, this research considers the relative timing of entry to a prototypical new economy sector, information technology (IT). Using the life course perspective as a guide, I investigate entry pathways to IT, assessing who is 'on time' (i.e., made a fairly direct transition from school to IT work in young adulthood with one's age cohort) and who is 'off time' (i.e., entered IT at a later life stage, often returning to school after some time away as part of the process). I then explore some of the nuances of on and off time paths, comparing motives, experiences of (re)training and IT work, career expectations and perceptions of future career trajectories. To do this, I employ a subsample of 135 Canadian IT workers and interview and survey data from a larger study, Workforce Aging in the New Economy. In this sample, a significant proportion of respondents (40 percent) are off time, and certain segments (women, older workers) are disproportionately so*. On time pathways tend to be better supported by social norms and institutions such as schools. Moreover, they appear to be associated with higher levels of education and holding the most highly skilled IT occupations, and presumably, more of the related benefits. Findings suggest that many off time entrants deal with unique struggles in education and labour market entry, including retraining challenges, greater difficulty securing appropriate employment in the field and lowered expectations in terms of their career development and satisfaction with working life. In a labour market environment that expects and encourages multiple changes in jobs or careers across the life course, this research reveals the need for structural change in work and educational environments to make such transitions easier and more efficient, especially later in life.



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