Teenage “information gap” between aspirations and work

    A new study by the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET) claims that there is an “information gap” between the careers that young people aspire to and the reality of the labour market, which is failing both our school leavers and UK businesses.

    In its report, Nothing in Common: The career aspirations of young Britons mapped against projected labour market demand 2010-2020, the taskforce looks at the ambitions of nearly 11,000 teenagers and compares them with expected demand from employers over this present decade.

    The report follows on from a number of smaller studies in recent years, all of which have reached the same conclusion – that the aspirations of young people do not match the reality of the jobs market. Many teenagers prefer the idea of working in industries such as sport or the media rather than building a career in finance or distribution, even though there are far more jobs anticipated being available in these areas.

    At Ambitious Minds, we have seen this through our own teaching in schools, delivering employability skills and financial education. Many of the young people we work with have strong ideas about the lifestyle they aspire to but don’t have any real grasp of how they will achieve it. As we take them through the realities of the workplace, explaining the connections between money, work and lifestyle, we see their attitudes change and the questions they ask become more focused on what the ‘real world’ of business will demand of them.

    One particularly notable reference in the EET report is that of the previous research conducted in the British Cohort Study, which has been monitoring the prospects of young people since 1970 and has shown that teenagers with aspirations of careers requiring higher qualifications than they are expected to achieve, spend more time than their peers Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) after leaving school.

    Over recent decades, we have encouraged our young people to aspire to a better life but we have failed to equip them with the knowledge and understanding required to achieve those aspirations, or to shape them within the practical context of the world of work.

    Last year, an estimated 80% of schools cut their careers advice, making things even more difficult for this generation to make informed choices about their path from education to employment, yet opportunities still exist within the current framework to assist young people in this way.

    The Citizenship programme within the National Curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils are “equipped with the financial skills to enable them to manage their money on a day-to-day basis as well as to plan for future financial needs”. If this is done by making clear the connections between money and employment and explaining them in the context of the labour market, with direct input from employers, then this generation can develop the knowledge they need to bridge that “information gap”.