Some young people know exactly what they want to do from an early age, whether it’s being a nurse, an electrician, an actor or a train driver. They are the fortunate ones, and most young people will need support and guidance to make one of the biggest decisions of their life.
With their working lives stretching out ahead of them, many young people feel ill-prepared for the world of work and have absolutely no idea what career choice might be right for them. In fact, most teenagers have probably never heard of many of the jobs that would be a great match for them.
Few schools are now able to ensure all key stage 4 pupils (age 14-16) have an interview to discuss their careers options and the number of young people engaging in work experience placements has declined substantially over the last five years.
At best, this lack of careers support means many young people will drift into employment or careers they find unfulfilling, undemanding or are reflective of their gender. Without aspirations or a career plan, other school leavers may end up not in education, employment or training (NEET).
A young person can only make an informed decision about their future if they have access to accurate and up-to-date information about the options available to them.
This is easier said than done, not least because the jobs market is changing all the time. Careers like mobile app development, robotics engineering and social media management are relatively recent, and it’s impossible to know how much the jobs market will have changed in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time.
The best approach is for a young person to concentrate on their more immediate future and ask themselves some simple questions. For example:
- What am I interested in? This doesn’t have to be an academic subject – it could be politics, or a sport or the environment.
- What am I good at? Again, they may be good at maths, but they might also be incredible at putting people at ease or developing software.
- How much studying is involved? Some careers involve more studying than others, occasionally up to PhD level.
- What work environment do I want? Outdoors types will hate the thought of being office-based, while others enjoy driving around and meeting people.
- Do I want to work with others? Would they prefer to work in a small team, with the public or are they happy to be a lone-worker?
- Where do I want to live? Depending on the industry, they may have no choice but to travel or relocate for work.
While it’s important to be honest and realistic, always encourage a young person’s aspirations and don’t rule anything out until you’ve done your research together.
Careers Wales has a lot of information on its website to help young people understand the full range of post-16 options available to them.
My Future has information and games to help young people think about their future in the world of work.
The job matching quiz is another good starting place as it helps young people match their skills and interests to different jobs and explains what training, qualifications and skills they will need to fulfil their ambitions.
The job market takes a look at Welsh regions to see which industries are growing in each and which are likely to bring more jobs to the economy. There is also information about the potential jobs growth in specific sectors like life sciences, energy and environment, creative industries and constructions.
Careers Wales offers impartial guidance to young people who are unsure what to do when they leave school.
If a young person rings on a mobile they will call back for free. Call: 0800 028 4844. Instant messaging is also available during office hours.
The Prince’s Trust helps young people up to 30 to unlock their potential, find a job or get into education and training.