Saturday, 20 January 2018


Education and Employers has published another important piece of research. Their Drawing the Future report shows that the difference between children’s career aspirations from age seven to 17 are marginal, and too often based on gender stereotypes, socio-economic backgrounds and the media. The report which looked at 20,000 primary school children has significant implications for social mobility and gender equality and also shows that some sectors vital for economic health look set to be badly under-resourced in future.

UK findings
Most popular jobs
• The most popular job for children (21.3%) in the UK was either a sportsman or sportswoman. This was followed by teacher, vet and social media and gaming.
• The outlook seems positive for STEM-related professions. STEM-related careers ranked highly as some of the most popular jobs...Vet, Doctor, Scientist and Engineer (civil, mechanical, electrical).
• A number of children also aspired to one day have a health based job, Doctors, Nurses/Health visitors but less than 0.5% wanting to become dentists, midwives and physiotherapists.
• There also seems to have been a shift in the aspirations of children, built largely upon new communication methods and the growth of online and console based gaming.
• For more and more children and young people online celebrities and YouTube gaming ‘vloggers’ have taken the place of TV and movie stars.
Gender stereotyping exists from the age of 7
• Children’s aspirations appear to be shaped by gender specific ideas about certain jobs.
• Boys overwhelmingly aspire to take on roles in traditionally male dominated sectors and professions.
• Gendered patterns also emerge in STEM-related professions. Over four times the number of boys wanted to become Engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical) compared to girls. Moreover, nearly double the number of boys wanted to become scientists compared to girls 
• However, strikingly, two and half times the number of girls wanted to become Doctors compared to boys, and nearly four times the number of girls want to become Vets compared to boys.
• Conceptions of traditional femininity, specifically ideas around ‘nurturing’ or ‘caring’ roles, may also explain the difference in the number of girls wanting to become a teacher or doctor compared to boys. In our sample, nearly nine times the number of girls wanted to become Teachers compared to boys.
It may also be influenced by the teachers the children see, with the majority of primary school teachers being female. 

Aspirations are influenced by social background
• Using the Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility of the pupils in a school, there is some evidence of children in less deprived schools being relatively more likely to have aspirations in higher-earning professions.
• Relative to those in higher deprivation schools, boys are more likely to choose engineer than mechanic, more likely to choose manager than retail sales assistant, and more likely to choose lawyer than police. There is also some evidence that certain creative professions with very high barriers to entry are more popular to boys in less deprived schools, such as being a singer/musician, actor/actress and author. Among girls, architects, engineers and vets are more popular in less deprived schools, whereas hairdresser, nurse, retail sales assistant and beauty therapist are more popular in the more deprived schools.

International findings
• While aspirations, and the influences on these aspirations, vary by country, there are a number of global trends which emerge from the data
• In terms of gender stereotyping and gendered career expectations, aspirations do tend to lay in stereotypical masculine/feminine roles across the sample. One of the most popular jobs for boys is often police and armed forces while teaching emerges as one of the most popular professions for girls.
• The trends for STEM related aspirations is largely similar. In keeping with popular theories around masculine and feminine roles, boys in our samples have preference for working with things, for example working as an Engineer or Scientist whereas girls seem to aspire to jobs working with people/caring professions for example working as a teacher, nurse, doctor or vet.
•In all countries Maths or Science is in the top two favourite subjects among children (for girls
and boys), apart from children in Australia and China.
• The general trends suggest that in some developing countries children have more practical and high
professional ambitions (Doctor, Teacher), whereas in developed countries aspirations are often formed
around celebrity culture (e.g. Sportsperson, a career in social media and gaming).
• Parents, and other members of extended family, are often the biggest influencer if the respondent
indicated that they knew someone personally who did that job. The exception is in developing countries such as Uganda and Zambia, where teacher is often the biggest influence.
•  If a young person did not know someone personally who did that job, TV/Film is the biggest influencer, again with exception of Uganda or Zambia. 

What can we do about it?
• A future career seems a long way off for most primary-age children. Making a connection between what they learn in primary school and the jobs they might one day pursue is not easy, particularly for those from challenging backgrounds, where local unemployment is high and horizons may be set low.
• Early intervention can be a very cost effective targeted way ofraising children’s’ aspirations and
broadening their horizons.
•  The evidence suggests that giving children the chance to meet volunteers from the world of work helps them to see the meaning and relevance of the subjects they are studying at school.
•  Embedding experiences of the real world in learning and the school curriculum can lead to increased motivation resulting in increased educational attainment.
•  When they engage with children, volunteers are routinely perceived as speaking from a vantage point of real authority: who better to testify how numeracy is used outside of the classroom, after all than someone who earns a wage to apply it in a workplace?
•  Volunteers from the world of work can also play a key role in providing children with role models
and tackling stereotyping around gender and ethnicity and help ensure that children at a young age don’t start ruling out options for themselves.
•  Instead the aim should be to show children the vast range of opportunities open to them and ensure they don’t start ruling out options for themselves at young age. 

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