23 May The Job Divide
Outdated and poor quality careers guidance is costing our economy dearly. A lack of appropriately skilled people means that hundreds of thousands of jobs are unfilled in the UK yet, at the same time, 1.7 million people are unemployed. Seems almost paradoxical doesn’t it? How can both of these statistics be true? Where does the responsibility sit?
There seems to be an endless stream of reports blaming schools for not nurturing the right skills young people need for the world of work; blaming businesses for not providing high quality experiences of work; blaming the apparently low aspirations of young people. It’s time to look for solutions.
Let’s start with learner aspirations. There is a huge mismatch between jobs available in the UK today and the aspirations of young people. According to recent data from Adzuna the top 10 jobs that employers are struggling to fill vacancies for are:
From a quick glance at the U-Explore data pool of more than 38,000 students, it shows that the top 10 careers young people aspire to are:
Computer Games Designer
Primary School Teacher
Computer Games Tester
The difference is vast! Only two of these jobs are aligned with the ‘in-demand’ jobs cited by Adzuna. Why is there such a difference? How can we bring these things together? Let me be clear, this is not about finding someone to blame. Teachers want to inspire young people and nurture skills that will enable them to go on to be successful. Businesses want to offer their expertise to young people and enable them to become great future employees. Everyone wants what’s best for young people but clearly something isn’t working. Generations of students are making the wrong choices about their futures simply because they don’t have the right information.
One thing is for sure, the vast majority of young people want great careers, they want jobs that challenge them and pay good money and they want to do well – they have high aspirations! The problem is that they only know what they know. If they don’t know that being an engineer is a great career, in huge demand, and one that requires skills linked with science, maths and technology; then they are not likely to aspire to it. They’ve heard of footballers, actors and doctors, and these are excellent careers, but just think what young people could do if they had the right information at the right time about interesting jobs linked to gaps in the labour market that they could fill. If a young person knew that careers in digital design were in high demand and commanded average salaries of £39,000 what difference might it make to their future?
We hear time and time again from people who wish they had known about all of the weird and wonderful jobs that exist so they could have made better choices in school. Information is king – in all of its forms. Only recently did the TES report on research showing that just six careers talks at school can boost a future salary by £2,000. Surely the investment now in young peoples’ futures is nothing compared to the benefits to our economy in the long term? Whatever the answer we need to keep challenging the way we deliver careers guidance. After all isn’t it the development of well-rounded young people, able to contribute to society and thrive in a career they love, the reason we send our children to school in the first place?