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Are school leavers' career dreams just pie in the sky?

New research shows 84% of 16-24 year olds are not pursuing their passions as a career

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 11, 2016 | People, policy, politics

As GCSE and A-level results are due to be released and thousands of young people make decisions on their futures, new research from Pitman Training and Censuswide shows a huge mismatch in career dreams and career choices, with many risking missing their true calling after leaving school.

With 84% of the 1,200 16-24 year olds surveyed revealing that they don’t know how to turn the interests they’re passionate about into a career, and 49% of these respondents considering that their lack of qualifications halts them exploring aspirational career opportunities, the next generation of employees are at risk of career dissatisfaction after entering the job market, according to research.

A gap in support has also been revealed as four in five (80%) young Brits agree they wish they knew more about options available to them on leaving school and a desire for guidance is apparent, with almost nine in 10 (88%) young Brits agreeing that with the right guidance they would be able to achieve their career dreams and the majority agreeing that uni is not the only route to a dream career. 

The top interests respondents aged 16-24 are passionate about include music, fashion, and technology, yet they believed that they wouldn’t be able to pursue a career in these sectors. 

In response to these findings, a new online resource has been launched as part of Pitman Training’s ‘U Know’ campaign, which sets out to provide confidence and insight to young people, to help them find their true career destiny.

Bringing together industry experts and young people’s stories, the site provides a free online tool and resource to help discover how personality and passions can be channelled into careers, along with a whole host of free advice and guidance.

Claire Lister, M.D of Pitman Training, said: “We cannot sit back and watch this huge proportion of young people entering into jobs they don’t really buy into, because they’ve given up hope on doing what they actually love. So there’s a love of music, why not work to become a PA within a record label or a web designer specialising in sites for musicians? So they might not be on stage themselves, but will get to live the buzz of it all, right? You’d love to work in fashion but are no designer - an [Executive Assistant] to a CEO of a leading retail brand brings with it an immersion into the fashion world, and opportunities to have a starring role, right?

“The idea behind the new online resource is this is that deep down we all know what we are good at, and would love to do with our talent - the problem is that the majority of us don’t believe in ourselves, don’t listen to our instincts and don’t know where to start, so our dreams, remain dreams. Whether this relates to wanting to work in a global organisation, be a successful internet sensation or become the Director of business, creating career progression requires a strategic approach. If at school age young people fall into jobs, or further training that is a ‘filler’ rather than a vocation, they really risk not achieving their true potential.”

Hattie Wrixon, co-founder of, which she set up when she was 17 said of the research findings: “When it comes to leaving school, it’s important that young people see no stigma in exploring alternatives to university, and are fully supported on their journey. To work in an area you love should not be so out of reach - in fact that should be the starting point when exploring career paths. I found it terrifying to read of such high statistics of people who don’t feel they can follow their dreams.”

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