Remember when you were at school, and you filled in those highly subjective careers questionnaires – the ones that told you that you were most suited to being a teacher, or fireman, or (as this happened to me), a zoo-keeper? Well, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Barclays, things may not have moved on much since the 1980s. Not only does it find that career choice is still bewildering to most people, more worrying, it finds that young people are woefully let down by the quality of careers advice they get at school and college.
According to the poll (which questioned 2,000 12-25 year olds), a staggering 93% of young people said they were not provided with all the information they felt they needed to make informed choices about their future careers.
The survey found that instead of talking to teachers, growing numbers of young people wanted to talk to actual employers. Some 16% wanted more talks from employers; 14% wanted more information about work experience and internships while 13% wanted more advice about the value and relevance of qualifications to the wider world of work.
Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “The quality of careers advice in England’s schools remains in severe crisis. For 93 out of 100 young people to not feel in possession of the facts they need to make informed choices about their future is a damning indictment.” She added: “These are some of the biggest decisions young people will ever have to take and they deserve reliable, relevant, inspirational and high-quality careers advice.”
But should all the blame be focused on the advice given by schools? Aren’t today’s youth the most digitally connected generation there has ever been, able to find out whatever they need, whenever they need to know it? Is ‘lack of information’ an adequate excuse in today’s information-age?
Perhaps it’s not lack of information that’s the problem, but an excess of it that makes it too difficult to wade through. One week, youngsters are being told nursing is the in-demand career they should all consider; the next week it’s teaching. Just this week, it was revealed that the UK’s hottest sector is oil and gas, which has seen a 25% increase in demand for geologists and meteorologists between 2010-13 and a 17% increase in IT user support technicians (source: Economic Modelling Specialists International).
It’s hardly surprising young people feel confused. But there’s one very important factor that has yet to be mentioned at all – ‘gut feeling’. Surely the best career to try and pursue is the one you really have an innate passion for. You’re far better doing the job that gets you excited rather than the job that will statistically give you the best chance of a foot in the door.
Pick an in-demand job, and yes, you may well have some money in your pocket at first, but is it really what you want for the rest of your life? The worst thing you can do is pick a career - just because it's easier to get into, and then get stuck in because it’s too difficult to break out of it further down the line.
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