Traditional career advice is failing many school leavers. The current job market and the advice which school leavers are receiving from their parents and teachers are at odds. As so many school leavers continue to choose courses aimed at traditional rather than digital careers, it becomes evident just how out of touch these traditional sources of advice are.
According to a recent study by the Association of Colleges (AoC) roughly 70% of school leavers seek career advice from their parents. 58% also seek career advice from their teachers and career advice tutors at school. This traditionally sensible strategy has now become a dangerous option. The study points out that teachers and parents are worryingly out of touch with the current trends in the job market. Despite the need for digital workers such as coders, many parents do not recognise their importance. In fact, as many as one in ten parents said they would discourage their children from pursuing a digital career.
To many parents and teachers the traditional career paths are still the best options. According to technology firm O2, 38% of parents said that would still encourage their children to study law or medicine at University. This view is extremely worrying as 23% of parents surveyed also thought that digital skills were irrelevant according to O2.
Digital Careers: A Brave New World
With so many new digital careers which did not even exist ten years ago some of these findings are frankly hard to believe. Social Media Executives, Content Writers, SEO Experts, Cloud Computing Developers, Mobile App Developer, Web Application Developer and many more are just a few examples. However, what is also worrying is that this attitude by adults and teachers is also damaging school leavers’ career prospects. In the UK and indeed many parts of the world there is a huge shortage of people with certain digital skills. Ann Pickering from O2, said "It is getting harder to get the skills we require. These are skills that didn’t exist five years ago, like with social media, for example." Director of corporate affairs at Microsoft, Hugh Milward said that "In the software industry alone there are 20,000 graduate vacancies a year, and only 7,500 computer science graduates to fill them Digital skills such as coding are being demanded not only by the high-tech sector, but by fast-growing sectors like media, publishing and finance."
Chief Executive of The Skills Show, Ross Maloney said the findings showed "that it is vital for young people to be inspired to explore new skills and discover opportunities with which to shape their futures, and use experiential careers models to help them find what they are good at and what they enjoy."
The Confederation of British Industry has also voiced its concern at the considerable skills gap which is emerging. Young people need to be given advice on what careers are in demand rather than what the traditional safe and well paying careers are. While the government has laid out plans to teach digital skills such as coding to children in school, the CBI argue that more rapid change is needed. According to O2 roughly 750,000 digital workers will be needed in the UK by 2017. CBI Director for employment and skills, Neil Carberry said the research showed a clear need for a change in what skills are taught to young people. "The government must press ahead with the delivery of high-quality vocational courses and widen access to apprenticeships to tackle the skills shortages we face in the economy."
The gap between the realities of the current job market and the advice provided by many parents and teachers is just too great. The best option for many school leavers is to simply think for themselves and look at what jobs are in demand.