What do you want to be when you grow up?

 

”What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we’ve all heard throughout our lives and – aside from that one infuriatingly self-assured friend who’s always know what they want to do, we often struggle to answer.

It’s probably fair to say that if we asked you if you’d have seen yourself in the job you’re in now all those years ago, the answer would be ‘’no’’.

With that in mind, what’s influencing the young people of today in the careers decisions they make? Are they the right ones? And, what can we do to make those choices easier and more in line with the reality of the options out there today and into the future?

The Careers & Enterprise Company’s report, Moments of Choice, has helped us begin to answer just that. It’s identified a wide range of factors influencing young people’s career choices. They range from the people we engage with such as parents, peers and teachers, to social factors such as gender and personality and even the relative popularity of our favourite TV shows.

These wide ranging and often conflicting influences can result in young people having a world view that’s not totally in line with making the best decisions about their future. For example:

  • Young people refer disproportionately to jobs that were common during their parents’ youth, rather than those available today.
  • Parents often believe that their own education is the most appropriate for their own children.
  • So while parents who went to university feel that apprenticeships are a good option, very few feel it is right for their own children.
  • Young people are likely to view university as their preferred choice, even when this is unachievable or irrelevant to their chosen career.


It seems there’s a bit of a disparity between the times. Young people are aspiring to jobs that are no longer prevalent, with parents that are gearing them up for an education that’s not what they need.

The results suggest that young people might make more informed career choices if they were better able to assess the options available to them.

It also seems that young people are most inspired by things that give them an idea of what it would actually be like to have a particular job. They seek ‘inspiration’ rather than information. We need to reduce the cognitive burden of careers choices and increase young people’s confidence and enthusiasm towards this confusing process. Encounters with employers are key to providing this.

Evidence suggests that high quality encounters with employment have a real impact on both the likelihood of a young person getting a job and the amount they earn:

  • Young adults who have four or more encounters with employers while at school are 86% less likely to be NEET (not in employment, education or training).
  • They’re also likely to earn around 18% more during their career than their peers who did not have the same opportunities.


However, to what extent can we expect employers to be accountable for supporting and inspiring young people through these difficult moments of choice?

There’s great work being done by employers in our area to enhance careers decision making for young people. But many challenges still remain.

The rurality of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (YNYER) is often cited as a barrier to young people engaging with employers, as is the large proportion of SMEs.

The latter is positively reflected in the number of Enterprise Advisers in the area working for SMEs. What we don’t know is if this level of engagement is simply proportionate to the amount of SMEs within the areas and therefore to be expected, or if it indicates a reluctance of large businesses to engage at a local level?

Data published by The Careers & Enterprise Company infers that employers are relatively satisfied with how prepared young people in the area are for the world of work. However, research also showed the percentage of employers in YNYER who offer work experience and inspiration is among the lowest in England. One conclusion could be that young people are being prepared for the world of work by others, for example schools and colleges.

Perhaps employers within YNYER are not offering work experience but are instead providing more innovative or impactful ways of engaging and inspiring young people? If the latter is the case, how do we capture examples of this best practice to showcase the importance of employer engagement? Being part of the Enterprise Adviser Network, where evidence and best practice is shared among peers is critical to helping achieve this.

In any case, the challenge still remains:

How do we make sure that our young people are better informed about the reality of careers options available to them, today, and how do we encourage businesses to inspire them to confidently begin answering that age old difficult question,

‘’What do you want to be when you grow up?’’

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One response to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  1. John Doris says:

    I would support the comment that high quality encounters with employment (but maybe better said – with employers) can and will have a positive impact on young people getting a job. At East Riding College we have been working closely with a large engineering employer who held an “open evening” with school students and their parents to show the wide range of high quality careers that are available. The school and the College have created a “curriculum pathway” joining up the provision and which will culminate in qualifications and experiences which will be ideally suited to careers with engineering employers.

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