Employers in certain sectors ‘will struggle to recruit’

The career aspirations of young people “have nothing in common” with the future demands of the job market, a survey has revealed.

A major piece of research, conducted by the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET), suggests that this mismatch will be a “significant problem” for employers.

Results from the EET’s survey of 11,000 13- to 16-year-olds, outlined in its report ‘Nothing in Common’, show that teenagers do not understand the breadth of job opportunities across the economy. This leads them to identify limited career aspirations and skills, which hamper their career progression.

“For young people, misalignment in the character of ambitions and the availability of realistic employment prospects makes it much less likely that they will experience smooth school-to-work transitions,” the report warned.

The research also identified a lack of understanding about the potential earning power for different jobs. While the average wage of the top 10 occupations (£36,000) is higher than that of the 10 least popular occupations (£25,536), the report said, it should not be assumed that young people are responding to salary alone.

In fact seven of the 10 least popular jobs among young people (including HR, locksmith and surveyor) typically pay more than the UK’s average salary (£21,473), and in some cases substantially more, the EET findings showed.

But more than a third of the teenagers surveyed (36.3 per cent) were interested in just 10 careers, teacher, lawyer, accountant, actor, police, IT consultant, doctor, sportsperson, army/navy/airforce/fire fighter and psychologist. And half of respondents career interests were in just three of 25 broad occupational sectors.

“While some employers will be spoilt for choice in considering new recruits, others are very likely to be struggling to find young people who are aware of the job opportunities they have to offer and well prepared by their educational choices for them,” the report said.

Career guidance, or a lack of it, has previously been highlighted as a reason for the gap in information.

Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “It’s normal that young people’s career aspiration’s differ from work place realities – who didn’t want to become an actress or sportsperson when they were young? However, we know from our mentoring work with young jobseekers that this misalignment often means that young people miss out on job opportunities because they haven’t studied the right course or qualification or because they simply don’t know what jobs are out there.”

The CIPD is working with the EET on a new initiative to get volunteers from business and HR into schools to talk directly to young people about what opportunities exist. Further details will be made available in the next few weeks.

Last year, Michael Heseltine conducted a review to identify how the UK could better promote economic growth. One of his recommendations was a call for greater levels of employer engagement in education.

The EET’s report also highlights the importance of schemes like the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme and the work of UK Commission for Employment and Skills to encourage greater employer engagement in education in general.

Issues of inadequate careers advice were raised by the CIPD last week, in its Employee Outlook: Focus on Apprenticeships. This research suggested that the benefits of apprenticeships have not been relayed to school children meaning many could miss out on those opportunities. 

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