Adam Harper, Director of Strategy and Professional Standards, AAT

Poll: Young people set sights on being their own boss

New research into young people’s attitudes towards their future careers has found that 43% of 16-24-year olds have the ambition to set up their own business during their working life, ahead of this Thursday’s A Level results day.

The findings come from a survey of 1,001 16-24-year olds commissioned by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) and conducted by Survation. AAT is the world’s leading professional body for accounting technicians with 130,000 members globally providing accountancy, tax and business advisory services.

The findings also reveal that young women are just as determined as young men to set up their own businesses one day – 42% vs 44%, suggesting that any constraints of gender are not acting as a deterrent.

Similarly, social-economic background doesn’t act as a barrier to entrepreneurial ambition, with those from a more disadvantaged background being the most ambitious. Almost half (49%) of young people from a lower socio-economic background want to start their own business compared to 46% from a middle socio-economic background and 44% with a higher socio-economic background.

When it comes to accessibility, well over half (58%) of young people feel that starting their own business is an accessible option for them as a career choice based on their social background. Encouragingly, a similar level (51%) of those from a lower socio-economic background consider that becoming an entrepreneur is accessible to them, this is compared to 47% and 72% respectively for people of a middle and higher socio-economic background.

Asked about what the most important factors are in setting up their own business, having enough money to get started is seen as the top priority (44%). When it comes to the skills required for starting a business, 40% of the young people surveyed identified financial management skills as the most important skill followed by communication/negotiation skills (36%) and leadership skills (29%).  

Adam Harper, Director of Strategy and Professional Standards, AAT said:

“It’s great to see that young people have the ambition to start their own business irrespective of their background. Despite the prevailing barriers to social mobility, the next generation of workers have an entrepreneurial spirit that supersedes these. With the rise of the gig economy, flexible working environments, SME numbers and digital opportunities, young people are increasingly living in a world where they may view their only limitation as the scale of their own ambition.  

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“It’s crucial that we support young people’s ambitions by providing them with the solid foundations and transferable skills they need to succeed in whatever career they choose, particularly when they are looking to start a business themselves. 40% of those who wish to start their own business correctly identified the need for financial management skills as being of great importance. At AAT we equip thousands of people with real-world accounting qualifications which will help them in their chosen industry, from engineering to fashion to football – as every sector needs financial skills.”

Young people believe they’ll have to upskill to prepare for the future job market

Young people are also willing to consider taking significant steps in order to create the opportunity to be able to work for the brand or company they are passionate about. More than half (52%) said they are willing to gain a new qualification such as a degree, while 38% would be prepared to change career and 37% would undertake an apprenticeship.

With the changing nature of the economy and the rise of automation 61% of the young people surveyed expect that they would have to upskill during their working life. Furthermore 55% of young people feel it is likely that they will have to re-train over the course of their career in order to retain an advantage in the job market. When asked which skills they believe will be the most important for the future job market 42% of young people believe it is communication skills followed by problem solving skills (35%) and tech skills (31%).   

Young people go against the realities of the gig economy

Surprisingly, despite continued growth in the gig economy and the rate with which individuals are changing jobs, only a third (32%) of the young people surveyed currently expect to change their job once or twice during their working lifetime, while 16% expect to change their job three times during their working lifetime. Interestingly, 9% of young people believe they will never change the company they work for.

Meanwhile, when it comes to changing career, 1-in-5 expect to change careers twice during their working lifetime (23%), dropping to 14% for those that expect this to happen three times.  Around 1-in-6 (16%) believe they will change career once, with the same amount not expecting to change career at all.

Adam Harper continued:

“Switching career means that people will need to consider the transferrable skills that they have and how they can take them on a new career path. Building a portfolio of different skills, as well as new qualifications and training can help people to make the transition.”

“A qualification in finance not only prepares young people for the future but unlocks the door to an abundance of career opportunities. Every sector out there needs core financial skills and accountancy, and you are not necessarily tied to working in the finance services industry. AAT’s members work across a broad range of industries across all sectors. For those receiving their A Level results this week, they really do have the world of opportunities at their feet.”

About the survey

*Methodology Note: In determining the social status of the survey sample analysis was undertaken across multiple data points.

The social statuses referred to are defined as follows:

  • Low socio-economic background – Education level 1 or 2, income £0-19,999, occupation DE/C2
  • Medium socio-economic background – Education level 3, income £20,000 - £39,000, occupation C1
  • High socio-economic background – Education level 3 or 4, income £40,000+, occupation AB

The survey was undertaken by research agency Survation, between the 15-19th July 2019. The sample covers 1,001 16-24 year olds in the UK, representing all regions.

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