When it comes to career aspirations, young people can dare to dream but should be prepared to face reality

Teenagers may be disinterested in working in growth sectors, but as many graduates continue to face slow, if any, progress in securing any employment let alone their career of choice, it is more crucial now than ever to provide careers guidance that is not just aspirational but practical.

A survey by Magnified Learning of over 1,100 14-15 year-olds, from schools in London, the South East, and Birmingham, has highlighted the existence of “image problems” for many sectors key to Britain’s economic growth. The results show the majority of teenagers surveyed regard many growth sectors as “boring”.

Only 2.6% of respondents expressed an interest in working in the environment sector and just 3% wanted to working in energy. Conversely, more than a third want to work in media (36.7%) or the arts (34.5%), which are already highly competitive sectors for finding employment (for the top 10 rankings see below).

When looking at the sources of these perceptions, questions are once again raised about the availability of professional careers advice for young people.

  • This survey identified three main sources of careers information:
  1. family (almost 39%);
  2. the media (around 30%);
  3. teachers (14%).

According to Magnified Learning, it is employers who need engage with young people.

    ‘The high levels of youth unemployment are alarming, but even more alarming is that our research shows that the industries in which there are likely to be jobs opening up for young people are not even being considered by the vast majority of them.’

Director of Magnified Learning, Chris Horton, explained that

    ‘…tackling these negative perceptions is a two-way process, and it is important that industry leaders recognise their responsibility to engage with the next generation in order to foster new talent.’

Moreover, as we have seen on The Student Room, the ‘negative perceptions’ formed at this age can also have an impact on other issues such as stifling gender diversity in certain professions. Interestingly, although the findings of this survey listed charities as the second most boring sector to work in among teenagers, this time last year, a survey by the Guardian found this sector to be the ‘dream’ choice of many female graduates.

Magnified Learning’s survey echoes some of the findings of The Student and Graduate Recruitment Report published by The Student Room last year, by indicating that ‘the optimum period for career decisions to be made’ is still ‘at A‐ Level/before degree.’ The Student Room’s report similarly highlighted the opportunity for recruiters to target young people and contribute to the provision of more comprehensive and constructive careers advice at this critical decision-making stage.

In the meantime, while ‘fostering’ this new talent, employers should beware of the crop of older graduates ready for harvest. Due to the number of young people still unemployed, it is likely that another key point raised in TSR’s report also still rings true, that as many graduates have been taking any job in the interim to boost their CV,

‘the best candidate for a graduate role might not be the 21 year old University leaver but a 29 year old graduate already in the world of work.’

Bearing in mind that for the latest generations of graduates, many of their career aspirations are being confronted by harsh realities and less defined or direct career routes, these teenagers need support and advice not just with a view to what they would like to do for a living, but also how to face the challenges and delays they may face along the way.

  • The top ten sectors teenagers want to work in:
  1. Media (37%);
  2. Creative industries (35%);
  3. Health & social care (21%);
  4. Sport & leisure (21%);
  5. IT (18%);
  6. Uniformed services (16%);
  7. Financial services (14%);
  8. Teaching (14%);
  9. Hair & beauty (13%);
  10. Animal care (13%).
  • The top ten ’most boring’ sectors:
  1. Public transport (23%);
  2. Charities (22%);
  3. Civil service (22%);
  4. Farming (22%);
  5. Financial services (20%);
  6. Estate agency (19%);
  7. Environment (16%);
  8. Energy (15%),
  9. Hair & beauty (14%);
  10. Construction (14%).