Jan 22, 2020
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Warning over youth career aspiration-reality disconnect

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Too many people are aspiring to work in art, culture and entertainment, the report says

The career hopes and dreams of young people in the UK are at odds with the types of jobs available, a study warns.

Research by the charity Education and Employers suggests five times as many 17- and 18-year-olds in the UK want to work in art, culture, entertainment and sport as there are jobs available.

And this disconnect means far too many are “destined for disappointment”.

The report, Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK, is based on a survey of 7,000 teenagers.

Also using data from the Office for National Statistics, the charity found the greatest excess of aspiration related to jobs in in art and culture, entertainment and sport, where five times as many 17- and 18-year-olds want to work (15.6%) compared with the projected demand in the economy (3.3%).

And for most of those (51%), this was the only sector in which they expressed an interest.

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Young people’s career aspirations need to be “constructively challenged”, the report says

The analysis suggests the greatest shortfall of interest is in accommodation and catering, which needs “almost seven times as many students (9.7% of the economy) as are expressing an interest (1.5%)”.

It also says: “Wholesale and retail trade similarly sees a very large shortfall – 2.6% expressing interest against 15.1% required.”

The report says young people’s aspirations are set early – as young as age seven – and do not change enough over time to meet demand.

And this consistency of young peoples’ career choices throughout their teenage years (and the frustrations and wasted energy it produces) will need significant effort to resolve.

The research says young people’s career aspirations need to “be engaged with and, if necessary, constructively challenged”.

It says a “concerted effort” is needed to address what it calls an aspiration-reality disconnect and calls for:

  • significant expansion of career-related learning in primary schools
  • more support for careers guidance in secondary schools
  • better labour-market information for young people.

The report says: “From age seven, we need to ensure that children get to meet a range of people from different backgrounds and doing different jobs.

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The government says early careers advice can help young people “set out on the right path”

“People who can help bring learning to life, show them how the subjects they are studying are relevant to their futures.

“We need to stop children ruling out options because they believe, implicitly or explicitly, that their future career choices are limited by their gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background.

“This is not about providing ‘careers advice’ in primary schools but breaking down barriers, broadening horizons and raising aspirations, giving children a wide range of experiences of the world including the world of work.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Young people are rarely short of ambition and we want them to have the skills and direction to match.

“As the report suggests, early careers advice can help young people set out on the right path to the job that channels their interests and unlocks their potential.

“That’s why we’re committed to having career leaders and have announced new funding for jobcentres to provide advice to more schools across the country.”

The Education and Employers report is launched alongside new analysis of Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) data by international economics think tank the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is being presented during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, said: “There are many interesting future-oriented jobs that British students are not seeing, particularly disadvantaged kids, and you can’t be what you can’t see.

“My concern is we are closing too many doors too early in the lives of pupils.”

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