From education to employment

Moments of Choice

The decision about what to do after education is an important one for all young people. But, according to our Moments of Choice report, the process of making this decision is made incredibly difficult. Published today, the report finds the way future careers information is presented is overwhelming and creates “choice overload”, causing many young people to switch off from decision-making altogether. 

The research found that many young people are so overwhelmed they either disengage from the process of decision making altogether, or rely on simple rules of thumb based on TV shows or outdated perceptions of the world of work. The research highlights that this is a rational response to the complexity of the decision making process. The challenge is in how we frame career information for young people more clearly and help them develop better rules of thumb.

For instance, we identified nearly 50 different websites available to help young people make career choices. Many of these are innovative and brilliant, but the sheer number is overwhelming. Also, only a handful of these websites provide the personalisation that young people have come to expect from the other resources they rely on – for example, iTunes or Amazon’s ‘people like you also like’ experience. 

At the same time, careers information is offered predominantly in a ‘pull’ format, relying on young people to seek it out.  This contrasts with most public health campaigns which ‘push’ information out to guide behaviour, for example around the danger of smoking cigarettes or the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. We believe that careers information could be considered in the same way, so that we ‘push’ guidance to a young person long before they have to make a post-16 decision. 

There are two things we need to do to help:  frame choices more clearly for young people, and build their judgement through giving exposure to business when in education. This exposure to the world of work creates context and meaning around careers. It brings jobs to life. Without any experience of the word of work, picking between a long-list of careers is an almost impossible task. The words themselves have little meaning.

Experience of work provides a compass to navigate decisions and gives young people the cues and connections to be informed decision makers. This ultimately allows them to take reasonable shortcuts when presented with lots of information, as they start to build a sense for what they like and understand how this relates to the skills in demand in the workforce. 

Jess is a year 13 student who took part in our research. She is considering a career in midwifery. She has a thoughtful approach to her future, using the limited resources available to her to think about what she is interested in:

“Watching One Born Every Minute on the telly, [being a midwife] just looks like the experience of a lifetime, delivering a baby into the world. It’s not an easy job. It’s a challenging job, which makes it more rewarding as well.”

Like many others, she uses TV to build rules of thumb. When she seeks to test her hypotheses however, she cannot access the support to do so:

“I keep asking if they can get a [doctor or nurse] in to answer questions, but they never do. I suppose they’re always really busy.”

We could make it much easier for Jess and others like her to become more informed decision-makers in a changing world of work by improving contact with the workplace and by making it easier to navigate resources. Tackling this challenge requires collaboration between schools, colleges, employers, data providers and social enterprise. The Careers and Enterprise Company has also published some proposals for how we might address these issues and we would very much welcome your contributions.

Alongside our report, we have also published a discussion document setting out how to better frame careers information. We are looking for input into this consultation. Anyone interested is welcome to download the report and recommendations from our website and submit their comments by 30th September.

Claudia Harris, CEO of the Careers & Enterprise Company

Related Articles