Dream jobs report – Are young people’s career aspirations narrowing?

The OECD have launched new research exploring young people’s career choices. The Dream Jobs? research findings indicate that young people focus on a narrow field of career choices…

Dream Jobs? Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work

The OECD found that young people’s aspirations do not appear to be expanding. Instead, they are focused on just ten career choices.

Whilst we might see the world of work as changing with increasing digitalisation, social media and artificial intelligence it appears that young peoples aspirations are not changing in line with this.

The research covers insight from 15 year olds across the world. When asked which jobs they expected to work in by the time they were 30, around half of young boys and young girls expected to work in just one of ten traditional, popular jobs. The drive in these ten popular jobs appears to be led by disadvantaged students.

World analysis finds that young people from countries such as Germany, with strong, established vocational training for teenagers, show a broader range of career aspirations.

Dream jobs? Research findings:

  • gender still plays a part in career decisions, it is overwhelmingly boys who more often expect to work in science and engineering
  • high achievers do not always aim to their potential, High-performing young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, four time less likely to hold ambitious aspirations
  • there is a mismatch between young people’s career aspirations with the education and qualifications required to achieve them

Key findings for the UK

Findings compiled by Education and Employers

• The jobs young people aspire to work in differ from those available and predicted. With many young people certain about their job choices but in some cases a three-fold disconnect or worse between aspirations and demand in almost half of the UK economy;

• Five times as many young people want to work in art, culture, entertainment and sport as there are jobs available. Over half of those respondents do not report an interest in any other sector;

• The disconnect in aspirations and work available is similar at age 17/18 as at age 14/15, with similar patterns to the jobs to which children aspire at age 7/8. Such certainty and consistency of young peoples’ career choices throughout their teenage years suggests that this disconnect from available jobs, and the frustrations and wasted energy it produces, will require significant effort to resolve;

• Many young people report only limited careers support from their schools and colleges, but those who are benefitting from careers activities and multiple career influences in secondary education have aspirations that are – in aggregate – better connected to the labour market;

• Effective careers support reduces the disconnection between aspirations and jobs. Extending best practice and improving careers activities in schools and colleges could change the lives of 100,000 school leavers per year.

Making a change

“Young people have been telling us for many years that they struggle to understand the different careers and opportunities available to them, what skills they need to get there and where to start. Young people in our Youth Voice Census tell us that they want, and crucially, that they need one to one support to navigate career decisions. With more information available to them than ever before what is clear to us is that without the an effective, mandated, quality careers education programme in our schools and colleges young people will continue to make decisions on their future by piecing together bits of different jigsaw puzzles.

Supporting young people’s career aspirations isn’t a job for schools alone, Youth Friendly Employers form part of the solution as well as us as individuals too. This report echoes findings from our social mobility and role of the family research about the importance of social and family backgrounds in career choices and the worry for me is how we ensure young people without that support or families without social capital to help navigate these important transitions”

Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO

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