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Young people are aiming too high with career aspirations
Photography Sam Balye, via Unsplash

Young people are aiming too high with career aspirations, says study

Teenagers in the UK are reportedly ‘destined for disappointment’, with five times as many wanting to work in certain sectors as there are jobs available

The career hopes of young people in the UK are too aspirational for the types of jobs actually available, according to a new study.

A report by the charity Education and Employers says teenagers are “destined for disappointment”, revealing that five times as many 17 and 18-year-olds want to work in art, culture, entertainment, and sport as there are jobs available, with 51 per cent of them uninterested in any other sector.

The study is based on a survey of 7,000 teenagers aged between 14 and 18, and uses data from the Office for National Statistics. Participants were asked which of 21 sectors they wanted to work in, and their responses were compared with current and projected demand in the UK.

According to the report, young people’s aspirations are set as young as age seven, and don’t change enough over their teenage years to meet actual job demands. The greatest shortfall is in accommodation and catering, which needs almost seven times as many students as are expressing an interest.

In order to reduce the disconnect, the charity asserts that secondary schools and colleges should put “a concerted effort” into “extending and improving career activities”, while potential employers need to bring “their insights into schools” and ensure the “opportunities they offer future workers are attractive and inspiring”.

While careers education is reportedly improving in the UK, the report suggests that “much more needs to be done to ensure that all young people get access to high quality, independent, impartial careers advice and guidance so they can understand the opportunities available to them, regardless of their background”. The charity also says that young people’s aspirations should be “constructively challenged” where necessary. 

The study continues: “From age seven, we need to ensure that children get to meet a range of people from different backgrounds doing different jobs. People who can bring learning to life, show them how the subjects they are studying are relevant to their futures. We need to stop children ruling out option because they believe, implicitly or explicitly, that their future career choices are limited by their gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.”

“We need to ensure that every young person has the equality of opportunity to express their talents and lead full and meaningful lives.”

With the insecurity of Brexit looming, zero-hour contracts on the rise, a quarter of minimum wage workers being underpaid, and at least five more years of Tory rule, it’s unsurprising that young people have aspirations that stem from reality, when reality looks pretty bleak.