Picture yourself aged seven, being stared down at by an adult asking, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?'

Do you have an answer?

Well, according to a major report last year, the answers of kids aged 7/8 aren't that different to the answers of teenagers aged 17/18.

The report focuses on the concern that five times as many young people want to work in art, culture, entertainment and sport as there are jobs available. It states that as a result many are "destined for disappointment" and claims a large part of the problem is that as children grow up and progress through education they aren't being engaged with new career ideas and opportunities. Instead they're staying loyal to the aspirations they had at a young age.

Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK said "Young people are confident in their choices and the disconnect is strikingly 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."

The jobs mentioned - work in art, culture, entertainment and sport - aren't surprising. They're careers that offer levels of creativity, success and even fame.

But seeing as this report is based on an international survey of over 8,500 people aged 14-18 - an age group that have grown up through an age of great technological progression and change - it's surprising that career ambitions haven't changed as they've grown up. There are countless jobs that exist now which didn't exist ten years ago, but career aspirations don't always evolved with the change.

New Jobs and new ways to get into them

Roles such as Social Media Manager, SEO Specialist, App Developer, Uber Driver, Driverless Car Engineer, Podcast Producer, Telemedicine Physician, Zumba Instructor, Data Analysts or Scientist, Drone Operators, and pretty much anything to do with Artificial Intelligence, didn't exist when students leaving school now were aged seven or eight.

Likewise, career areas such as Business, Marketing, Physical Therapy and Software Development will continue to change at pace, with new technology continuing to create jobs that will be suited to young and newly qualified workers.

And as well as new jobs, there are also traditional jobs that are now more available and desirable to more people. Jill Halliday is a Higher Level Apprentice, and although she has always had an interest in Engineering, it wasn't previously a typical career for women.

Now Jill says: ‘There’s definitely more females getting involved in this industry. We’ve been given more opportunities, and the ratio of men and women in the engineering sector is only going to become more balanced in the near future.’

If you were to ask a seven year old today what they were going to be when they grow up, you'd be unlikely to get an answer that turned out to be true. Many of them would be likely to give the answer of sports star or entertainer, which is why, as the report says: 'There is a disconnect between aspiration and opportunity.'

However, with jobs, careers and opportunities emerging quickly in countless industries, these it's certainly not because there is a lack of opportunities in general. If our seven year old aspirations can't always be met, there are certainly plenty of new ambitions for today's young students to set themselves.

SWC Careers Team

Making the right career decision is important and at South West College the Careers Officers will assist you in choosing the right course and helping you plan your next step, be it entry into higher education or employment.

From career planning and development, employer visits and job fairs, interviews and employment advice, our team of friendly, qualified careers advisers are on hand to provide advice for all full time and part-time Higher Education students. Advisers are based at Dungannon, Enniskillen and Omagh campuses and welcome you to call or e-mail your nearest student services office or visit the South West College website.

Dungannon Cookstown - Claire.O’Neill@swc.ac.uk
Omagh - Teresa.Taggart@swc.ac.uk
Enniskillen – Nichola.Melanaphy@swc.ac.uk