Career Aspirations Limited by Stereotypes and Lack of Role Models

Education and Employers, a UK based charity, aims to provide young people with the inspiration, motivation, knowledge, and skills they need to help them achieve their potential. Couragion shares in that mission. So when their new collaborative research findings were just published, we took notice. 'Drawing the Future' explores the career aspirations of 20,000 primary school children from around the world aged seven to eleven who drew a picture of the job they want to do when they grow up. To understand the factors influencing career aspirations, kids were asked if they knew anyone personally who did the job they selected, and if not, why they had chosen the job.  

Here are a few observations from the research: 

  • Career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs and if unaddressed will result in severe resource deficiencies.  #workbasedlearning #careerliteracy 
  • Thirty-six percent of children from as young as seven years old, base their career aspirations on people they know.  #rolemodelsmatter 
  • STEM-related careers ranked highly as some of the top jobs that children aspired to become - however over four times the number of boys wanted to become engineers and nearly double the number of boys wanted to become scientists as compared to girls.  #STEMjobs  
  • Based on previous baselines, this research shows increased diversity (breadth) and aspiration (interest) of girls' career choices. Woohoo! 

The primary survey research was complimented by drawing on the astute insights of a collection of preeminent researchers. Below are two of the more salient contributions.  

Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education, had this to say: 

"Economically it is desirable to see jobs allocated on merit, rather than based on gender. As the report points out, some sectors face staff and skills shortages, which are compounded by the lack of uptake by women or men respectively. Such trends suggest that many people are still having their ambition and potential capped by horizons that are narrowed by gender." 
Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD, commenting on the survey said: 

"The lack of access to role models and awareness of the different jobs is a particular concern for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. All children, regardless of their social background, where they live or the jobs their parents do, should have the same chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs to help them understand the vast opportunities open to them." 

If young children do in fact carry forward their career aspirations into their decision-making years, we need to support career exploration at an earlier age. Couragion strongly believes that career literacy should be integrally woven into education to improve relevance and better inform student choice. Have you had your kids 'draw their futures'? 




Melissa RisteffComment