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UK: Wide gap between career aspirations and actual numbers of jobs available

Career aspirations
More young adults are hoping to venture into art, culture, entertainment, and sports careers. Source: Tyler Casey/Unsplash

New research has discovered a significant disconnect between career aspirations and job market demand in the UK.

It is most visible in the areas of art, culture, entertainment, and sports – five times as many teenagers want to work in these fields compared with projected positions available. 

This data comes from UK charity organisation Education and Employers, which carried out a career expectations survey on 8,500 14-to-18-year-olds. Of this sample, 7,000 respondents were from the UK.

Titled Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK, the report was released alongside the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) data by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

OECD director of education and skills Andreas Schleicher commented, “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.”

Career aspirations

Although hospitality and trade jobs are in high demand, not enough young people are interested in them. Source: Kate Townsend/Unsplash

Why dreams are dashed

Education and Employer’s findings are corroborated by data from the Office for National Statistics, which outlined the vast difference between expectation and demand in art, culture, entertainment and sports careers. 

More than half of 17-to-18-year-olds with such aspirations were entirely focused on this sector and did not consider other prospects. In contrast, not enough young people want to do hospitality or trade jobs, which are in high demand in the UK’s current economy.

According to the initial report, this disconnect often leads to growing frustration among young people who unsuccessfully channel their energy in one direction. Parents and teachers encourage big dreams from a young age but if these ambitions are never supplemented with the right knowledge and skills, they only cause disillusionment and disappointment. 

Career aspirations

Schools, parents, employers and the government must work together to encourage students to broaden their horizons. Source: Ari He/Unsplash

What can be done?

The numbers may seem dire, but this survey also sheds light on how and when we should talk to children about their ambitions. These are the roles of each party, according to researchers.

Schools Although careers education is improving in the UK, it is vital that all young people have access to “high quality, independent impartial careers advice and guidance” that chart clear options and pathways. This exposure promotes healthy, informed aspirations backed by a knowledge of actual job market demands.

Parents Children should have conversations about work from as early as seven years old. Parents should expose them to all kinds of different people who do well at various jobs to broaden their horizons and goals. At the same time, blind faith in children’s abilities must be replaced with honest engagement about their career aspirations and pathways. Challenging these ideas constructively teaches children to measure their goals against ability and reality. 

Employers Employers must “bring their insights to schools” by offering attractive opportunities in line with economic and labour laws. This means appropriate remuneration, progression and support for long, flexible and fulfilling careers.

Government – Regular, comprehensive projections of labour market demands would prepare students for the challenges and competition in their dream careers. The government can work closely with career guidance counsellors to disseminate such information to students.

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