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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the issue of dual vocational education and training (VET) attritions as indicating difficulties in the transition from school to work. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The methodology consists of a content analysis of semi-structured interviews with 46 young people who interrupted their dual VET during the first year. Findings ‐ The findings showed that VET "dropouts" experience transitional problems. These can be one of two sorts: diachronic or synchronic. Diachronic problems are related to difficulties with the shift from a standard school system to VET. Synchronic problems are due to difficulties in learning, relational or working environments. Research limitations/implications ‐ The results stress the need to widen the definition of transition and to consider the context in which the transition takes place. Further research could compare these results with employers' and trainers' points-of-view. Practical implications ‐ Accordingly, interventions should be taken before and after the precise moment of the shift from school to VET and should include all stakeholders of VET. Originality/value ‐ The paper encompasses three original aspects: it considers school-to-work transition as a process beginning before and ending after the concrete shift to VET, suggesting that a transition is achieved only when the person reaches a relatively stable situation on the workplace; consequently, it conceives VET attrition as an indicator of a failure of the school-to-work transition process; and it stresses the influence of the social and the learning environment on the quality of VET.