Parents and schools play a critical role in shaping a student’s future

Posted: 17th of August 2017 by Naomi Bourne

Rob Alder, Head of Business Development, AAT

Exam results are really meant to be the only blot of nerves in an otherwise carefree summer for 16 and 18 year olds. Having slaved away towards their final GCSE and A-Level exams for the best part of the past two years, their reward is an extended summer holiday – often approaching three months – a particularly excellent result given the generally good weather Britain has basked in this year.

Yet young people have told AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) that the fears and concerns they hold in results season isn’t simply confined to the letters and numbers printed on those certificates they are about to receive. Nearly every 16-19 year old we surveyed (94%) said that they are also worried about their career decisions of the future, including the type of job they ultimately want to do, or indeed deciding on what they wish to do after school that will put them on track for their future career destination.

Where do young people turn for advice?

When deciding what they want to do after secondary school, young people are looking for the influence provided by their parents more than anyone else (37%). Teachers (12%) and friends (9%) are not particularly strong influencers for these 16-19 year olds; indeed, after parents, the most popular answer given was ‘no-one in particular’ (24%), suggesting that many young people are concerned about their future careers but don’t believe there is any particular influencer available to them.

Young people also initially turn to their parents (62%) for advice if they have specific questions or difficulty with considering career decisions. Two in five (41%) would speak to their teachers with a similar number getting guidance from their friends (37%), while one in eight (12%) even look at social media for career advice.

And why do they seek this advice? Well, the 16-19 year olds we spoke to saw gaining better career options (23%) as the main driver in the decision that they will be taking after completing secondary school, followed by making more money in the long-term (21%) and developing their skills (18%).

  

Post-school options: truly the ‘Decision of a Lifetime’?

It is that third option – Developing my Skills – that I hope any young person currently pondering their future options considers the most. There’s no doubt that what they choose to do after school is an important decision that can cause stress and anxiety, as for many, at that moment in time, it’ll be the biggest decision they’ve ever taken.

But instead, the decision they take after school can provide them with a great deal of opportunity to hone their skills in an industry they believe they can be best suited to. No doubt both parents and teachers will have their best interests at heart and provide a great deal of wisdom and knowledge, but young people leaving school should think about those careers they may see as aspirational, and explore the great deal of pathways and options available to help them start out.

Our own research has shown that schools in particular push the university route to students, with 63% of 16-19 year olds experiencing pressure from their school to choose to go towards university – but there are other routes available such as undertaking a high-level vocational qualification or apprenticeship. With many companies nowadays seeking a diverse workforce, being a university graduate is not the only entry route into the career of your choice. In addition, choosing a non-university pathway can help young people avoid graduate debts which are now exceeding £50,000 on average, and instead allow them to gain the skills while earning a wage in the workplace, which is what the apprenticeship route provides.

In accountancy, many people who now work within the industry initially trained while gaining technical qualifications. This includes senior finance staff at household names such as Bupa, Thomson and the NHS, and indeed there are AAT students currently working at around 80 of the FTSE 100 companies.

For those young people viewing the ability to make more money in the long-term as their key goal in their post-schooling, don’t be fooled into thinking that only graduates will take a strong first step onto the career ladder. The 2017 AAT Salary Survey showed average salaries for AAT student members in full-time work of nearly £19,000, and this for students gaining valuable accounting qualifications while taking home their salary.

For many people, of course, actually what they do immediately after university isn’t the be-all and end-all job, or even career, for life. At AAT we take on thousands of career changers every year – those who have decided they wish to embark on a career in finance, who have first worked in an entirely different industry. With the average person working for six different companies in their lifetime, and with technology advances regularly creating new roles and even entirely new industries, you may find yourself often exploring new career paths as your skills and interests develop and evolve.

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