Young people identify engineering, tech and digital among top industries for career longevity

While the pandemic has forced many young people to put their career plans on hold, a survey conducted to mark the UK’s National Apprenticeship Week shows that they still prioritise continuous learning, stability and a good salary when choosing a long-term profession

In a survey conducted by BAE Systems to mark National Apprenticeship Week (8–14 February) in the UK, young people aged 16–24 identified engineering, technology and digital among the top industries they believed to hold the greatest career opportunities and longevity.

The research sought to examine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on what’s fast becoming known as the ‘lost generation’, exploring the pandemic’s impact on the career aspirations of the future workforce.

With recent figures confirming that the current jobs market is the worst seen since the 2008 recession, it’s no surprise that 43% of survey respondents selected ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’ when asked whether they were putting their education or career plans on hold until the pandemic is over.

On top of this, a fifth (21%) of participants claimed they are now more confused about their professional aspirations following the events of the last 12 months, with 20% also noting that the industry they had previously wanted to work in has been deeply affected.

Career considerations

When asked to list their primary professional priorities, almost a third (31%) of 16–24-year-olds surveyed cited continuous learning and development among the most important factors when choosing a career, reinforcing the need for flexible training and skills investment, as laid out in the government’s FE White Paper last month (21 January), which pens a “blueprint for a post-16 education system that will ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives”.

The ability to earn a good salary topped the list of priorities at 41%, but at 30% and 25% respectively, jobs that provide routine and stability, and jobs that are future-proof, are also key concerns.

In terms of career opportunities and longevity, the top seven industries listed were:

  1. Healthcare (31%)
  2. Education (20%)
  3. Finance (14%)
  4. Technology and digital (13%)
  5. Engineering (13%)
  6. IT (11%)
  7. Science (11%)

Both the healthcare and education sectors have been fundamental to steering us through the coronavirus crisis, and that has no doubt contributed to young people’s opinions of these fields holding promising opportunities. It’s worth noting that almost a third of respondents (30%) say the chance to make a difference to the world is important to their future career decisions.

Tomorrow’s world

More than half (51%) of survey respondents are now placing more importance on their career in the fallout of the pandemic, with many seriously considering all available options before entering the competitive jobs market. Almost two thirds (63%) said they have or would consider an apprenticeship, of which, four in 10 (41%) cited gaining work experience as a key driver.

Richard Hamer, education and skills director at BAE Systems, commented: “It’s clear that currently, the path for young people looking to enter the job market is extremely tough. The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching and have left students with greater uncertainty about their future. That’s why it’s important that those of us who can, must continue to create new opportunities for young people, working hand in hand with the government and wider industry, to make available options known to young people.

“Apprenticeships play a significant role, providing people with the necessary skills to work in highly specialised and technical industries. Through on-the-job learning of practical skills, the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals and the provision of support at every step of their training, apprenticeships can offer an entry into a long-term and successful career.”

Louise Fairclough, a first year chartered management degree apprentice with BAE Systems recommends the apprenticeship route to both school and college leavers, as well as anyone thinking about retraining. “There are a wealth of opportunities provided right from the get-go,” she said, “and I have a received a huge amount of support from the company.”

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