I wanted to be a Chartered Surveyor when I was growing up, probably more to do with my exposure to property with my property manager father in my formative years. Had I not made a subsequent career in education I have always wondered if I might have been successful as a windsurf instructor in the summer and a ski instructor in the winter. I am not sure this lifestyle would have kept my children in Superdry merchandise but I would have had a lovely tan!
I had never intended to follow a career in education and it came about by chance really. I must say that I have never looked back. I thoroughly enjoy the variety that the job brings. Every day is different and working with people brings huge rewards as well as the odd challenge. I still remember my very first training course in Seaford, a Mathematics course I believe. It was a day that would shape the rest of my life.
In a spare moment this week I started looking at modern day jobs. Did you know that whilst an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programmer can take home an annual salary of $150,000, the big money is as an AI Engineer? Apparently one tenured professor was offered $540,000 to join Google. AI posts benefit from high salaries and a high demand for scarce talent. It comes down to the law of supply and demand. Currently anything AI-related is in very high demand. Although finding the right career is not just about selecting the best paid role, I would expect many young people these days to have their sights set on jobs in the digital world.
However this is apparently not the case. According to The Independent newspaper this week, young people are shunning digital jobs and aspiring to work in the most popular, traditional occupations such as teaching and veterinary surgery. This is despite major changes to the world of work and in particular the impact of technology on new career paths. According to a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), career expectations for young people have become more concentrated in fewer occupations over the past two decades despite the rise of social media and technologies like Artificial Intelligence.
Traditional jobs from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as doctors and police officers, continue to capture the imaginations of young people around the world as they did nearly twenty years ago. The report, based on the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of 15-year-olds in 41 countries, said the career expectations of youngsters may be “out of date and unrealistic”. Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education and Skills Director, said, “The surveys show that too many teenagers are ignoring, or are unaware of, new types of jobs that are emerging, particularly as a result of digitalisation.”
Nearly half of young people around the world aspire to work in just ten of the most common professions. The report suggests gender and social stereotypes still play a part in young people's career aspirations in the UK, but no more so than in other countries.
The reason for the narrow focus for career paths is being placed firmly at the door of schools and colleges, particularly in relation to careers advice. It is clear why this might be the case. Certainly it is important that schools help guide young people into careers where their skills and interests are going to be best utilised and exposure to these paths is key. However I wonder if the root of the problem is one of pure ignorance.
As a parent I feel in the difficult position of supporting my children with their choice of careers. To be honest my life has been made easier with my son who has been very clear on his intent to go into film and creative media. I do not really know what that looks like in reality but he is very clear. Furthermore I must say I simply do not understand the software and hardware he now talks about so supporting him on his path is somewhat problematic. That is my point. As adults we simply do not know what the future looks like in terms of employment opportunities and, more specifically, many of us have very little understanding of how technology is impacting on jobs for the future. How can I guide my daughter into a career which uses modern technology and, to some extent does not exist, without a solid understanding?
Why are young people seeking the more traditional professions? I suspect it is a combination of lack of direction and support, coupled with an ignorance of what is possible. My advice to my children has been simple – find what you enjoy doing, what ignites your inner flame, your passion and then find a career where you can utilise these skills and interests. They will spend long enough at work – they need to enjoy it.