The world of work is changing and becoming more diverse, but the career aspirations of young people have, conversely, narrowed. This was the finding of a new OECD report, “Dream jobs: Teenagers’ career aspirations and the future of work”, discussed yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Out of 600,000 students surveyed about their future careers, half of them aspired to be in one of just 10 popular jobs—and these are 19th and 20th century jobs, the jobs most likely to be automated away, said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills.
“The world of work has become more diverse, but the career expectations of young people have become more myopic, more concentrated,” he said at a panel discussion hosted by Deloitte. “Many accessible and well-paying jobs do not make it into the expectations of young people.”
Socioeconomic background, according to the report, plays a major role in determining young people’s aspirations, largely because youths from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to be exposed to a wide range of occupations. Gender is another huge factor: existing gender stereotypes about career self-perpetuate among young people simply because it is what they are familiar with from childhood. And without role models, their career aspirations are constricted.
“You cannot be what you cannot see,” said Schleicher. “If you’ve never met an engineer, why would you study science? If all the engineers around you are men then why would you, as a woman, see science as something worth investing effort into?”
If this is to change, said panelists, employers need to get involved in the education system, and from a very early stage. Nick Chambers, the Chief Executive of Education and Employers, pointed out that gender and social stereotypes become ingrained as early as the age of seven, when children notice that there are far more female than male teachers. To “It’s important that young people, from primary age, get to meet a wide range of people doing a wide range of jobs, to show them that authenticity,” he said.
The OECD report also found that career guidance can influence young people to consider more job possibilities. Participating in internships or job-shadowing activities, attending job fairs, speaking to career advisors, or even just researching careers increases their occupational expectations. Again, this requires employers to be closely involved with schools.
“It’s about showing role models, it’s about integrating the world of work and learning. That gives young people a reflection on who they are and who they want to become,” said Schleicher. “Seeing a different range of jobs in your schooling life helps you see through the gender and social stereotypes that often frame working life.”