New research by Pearson BTEC has revealed that nine in 10 young students desire a wide range of programme options to meet the needs of an ever-changing and increasingly digital employment market.
In this respect, an overwhelming majority of parents agree, with 95% believing a diverse choice of study pathways is necessary for their child to succeed, and four in five (81%) stating their their child’s chosen programme should instil them with practical skills along with theory-based learning.
The adult learning sector was also in agreement, with 83% of 25-44-year-olds calling for a broad selection of courses, including ‘bite-size’ learning options and short courses to help them thrive professionally.
As part of the Pearson BTEC’s Your Future, Your Choice campaign, researchers conducted a nationwide study of 3,000 learners: including 1,000 16-18-year-olds currently undertaking a BTEC, A-levels, an apprenticeship or a vocational course; 1,000 parents with children aged 16-18 who are currently studying the same programmes listed above; and 1,000 adult learners aged 25-44 years.
“After a highly uncertain year for young learners the results of this poll prove what we have long suspected: not every student in this – or indeed any – generation of ambitious young people, can be expected to commit to a lifelong career at the age of 16” – Dr Anne Murdoch OBE, Association of School and College Leaders
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digital adoption across industries worldwide, also impacting careers, learning and lifestyles on the whole, the crisis has driven long-term transformation within the employment market. While uncertainty remains, the role of education is crucial as the UK continues to respond to these changes at the individual, community and wider economic level.
“In recent times, we have seen a number of industries shift and evolve while newer sectors have sprung up or grown,” said Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice-president of Pearson BTEC and Apprenticeships. “Further education and career-focused education has always responded with a talent and skills strategy to support the evolving needs of employers, and we’ll need to be as nimble as ever to serve these emerging industries. This latest research shows the continuing need for broader courses that can take learners on a variety of career pathways, and the need for flexible and accessible bite-size learning for busy adults looking to develop the skills they need to meet changing demand.”
This, in turn, heightens the demand for future-proofed job preparation, with the ever-evolving landscape further cementing the fact that just 27% of 16-18-year-olds surveyed and 20% of their parents agree that young people are best off choosing a specific occupation to work towards, rather than opt for a study path that prepares them for a range of careers. But with the rapid advancement of digital, those who specialise in one particular field early on in their education risk their knowledge and expertise becoming obsolete later down the line.
When quizzed about their future employment prospects, more than four in five (86%) of young learners agreed that they will have to continue acquiring new skills throughout their lives and careers, ensuring they have the skills and knowledge to keep them in-demand, while over two-thirds (66%) of adults said the same thing. On top of this, 83% of young respondents said access to short, bite-sized learning is integral to their ability to upskill.
Dr Anne Murdoch OBE, senior advisor of the Association of School and College Leaders, commented: “After a highly uncertain year for young learners the results of this poll prove what we have long suspected: not every student in this – or indeed any – generation of ambitious young people, can be expected to commit to a lifelong career at the age of 16. The value of vocational education is plain for all to see, but it is crucial that our teenagers who opt for it are given the chance to change paths, and are equipped with a broad range of skills for them to apply and specialise in down the line. Only then can we ensure they are passionate about and effective in the career(s) that they then choose to pursue.”