Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK

We recently partnered with Education and Employers to release a major new report revealing a disconnection between young people’s career goals and jobs in the UK. The study explored current vacancies and projected demand. This report is based on over 8,500 young people aged 14-18, focusing on their responses revealed key findings.

Key findings

  • The sectors that young people strive to work in differ significantly from the career opportunities available
  • A large majority of young people are certain about their job choices - there is a three-fold disconnect or worse between career goals and demand in nearly half of the economy in the UK
  • Art, entertainment, culture and sport careers is a popular choice amongst young people, with five times as many wanting to work in these sectors as there are jobs available with over half of respondents not reporting an interest in an alternative sector
  • Young people aged 17/18 had similar career goals at the age of 14/15. With young people confident in their decisions and showing certainty and consistency in their career choices during their teenage years suggests a considerable effort to resolve the disconnect from jobs available
  • Many young people have reported that they receive limited careers support from schools and colleges. Young people that do have access to careers guidance and activities in secondary education set career aspirations which are better connected to the UK labour market
  • The outcome of the survey highlights how effective careers support reduces the disconnection between jobs and young people's career aspirations. Therefore, extending best practice can enhance the lives of thousands of school leavers each year

Improving career guidance and activities in secondary education and colleges alone has the potential to reduce the disconnect by up to a fifth. Employers can also play a huge role in engaging young people and solving the disconnect. Giving young people the opportunity to meet with employers brings insights into schools and attracts and inspires them to consider alternative options connected to the labour market.

There is a huge potential to drive substantial advantages to the UK economy. By improving career support and provisions given in secondary schools and expanding career-related learning within primary schools, this can bridge the skills gap and better align young people’s career aspirations to the demand of the labour market. 

Research confirms a positive correlation between GCSE attainment and young people engaging with the world of work. Research shows:

  • If a young person engages with employers they are likely to earn more and there is a decrease in likelihood that they will be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training)
  • Connecting children with careers related learning in primary schools tackles career stereotypes and is vital to getting them excited about learning and opening up opportunities.

Alongside the ‘Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK’ report new analysis of PISA data from the OECD will also launch ‘Dream Jobs? Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work’. Students have been asked to describe their views on the future of the world, their career aspirations and issues which matter to them. The World Economic Forum is directly accelerating career events and support.

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