Children’s Career Aspirations – They have little in common with projected workforce needs survey finds

Education and Employers, today launched a landmark report, Drawing the Future, which revealed that the difference between children’s career aspirations from age seven to 17 are marginal, and too often based on gender stereotypes, socio-economic backgrounds and by TV, film and radio. The report also shows that some sectors vital for economic health look set to be badly under-resourced in future.

Findings include:

  • The patterns of jobs chosen by seven-year-olds mirror those selected by 17-year olds
  • Gender stereotyping about jobs is set from a young age
  • Family, TV, radio and film have the biggest influence on children’s choices
  • There is a need for greater access to career role models from a young age
  • Children’s career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs, which could have serious implications for the UK’s economy
  • Children in some developing countries often aspire to more professional jobs than those in some affluent countries.

In partnership with Tes, the NAHT, UCL Institute of Education and OECD Education and Skills, the biggest survey of its kind asked primary school children aged seven to 11 to draw a picture of the job they want to do when they grow up. To determine the factors influencing career choices, the survey also asked participants whether they personally knew anyone who did the job, and if not, how they knew about the job, as well as their favourite subject. Over 20,000 entries have been received (from UK and internationally) and international participants include Australia, Belarus, Bangladesh, China, Columbia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Uganda and Zambia.

Based on results from 13,000 UK primary pupils, this demonstrates that children’s aspirations are shaped from a young age.

The report showed that 36 per cent of children from as young as seven years old, base their career aspirations on people they know. For those who didn’t, 45 per cent stated that TV, film and radio were the biggest factors influencing their choice. Meanwhile, less than 1 per cent of children knew about a job from someone visiting their school. This has real implications for social mobility, as children from poorer backgrounds may not have successful role models from the world of work and their aspirations are limited as a result.

Socio-economic background wasn’t the only factor impacting children’s decisions.  With ‘sportsman’ (8 per cent), ‘social media’ and ‘gaming’ (9.4 per cent) featuring top of list of chosen careers for boys, and ‘teacher’ within the top choices for girls (18.6 per cent), it is clear gender stereotyping starts at a young age and there is more to do to promote gender equality in the workplace to help breakdown traditional gender roles.

The survey also revealed that children’s career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs – proving that despite government interventions, we are failing to attract young people into careers in future growth sectors and those where there are already significant skills gaps. This is particularly troubling with Brexit on the horizon, given the UK’s current reliance on migrant workers to fill gaps in sectors with a lack of interest in careers like engineering (2.47 per cent) and nursing (1.6 per cent).

What can we do about it?

• A future career seems a long way off for most primary-age children. Making a connection between what they learn in primary school and the jobs they might one day pursue is not easy, particularly for those from challenging backgrounds, where local unemployment is high and horizons may be set low.
• Early intervention can be a very cost effective targeted way of raising children’s’ aspirations and broadening their horizons. The evidence suggests that giving children the chance to meet volunteers from the world helps them to see the meaning and relevance of the subjects they are studying at school work. Embedding experiences of the real-world in learning and the school curriculum can lead to increased motivation resulting in increased educational attainment. When they engage with children, volunteers are routinely perceived as speaking from a vantage point of real authority: who better to testify how numeracy is used outside of the classroom, after all than someone who earns a wage to apply it in a workplace? Volunteers from the world of work can also play a key role in providing children with role models and tackling stereotyping around gender and ethnicity and help ensure that children at a young age don’t start ruling out options for themselves. Instead the aim is to show children the vast range of opportunities open to them and ensure they don’t; start ruling out options for themselves at young age. This is at the heart of Primary Futures developed by Education and Employers – giving primary schools access to a vast range of volunteers from the world of work.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Drawing The Future published – Education and Employers

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