New research reveals career aspirations for young people in the UK, with scientists the most admired; above musicians, influencers and sports stars

More than 80 per cent of young people surveyed believe that a career in technology will be important for the future, whilst a third are future-proofing their career by studying science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects at school.

Almost a third of young people aged 16 to 24 are inspired to follow in the footsteps of high-profile scientists; ahead of musicians such as Stormzy and Billie Eilish and sports stars such as Jordan Henderson. The A-listers were deemed less aspirational for a generation where nine in ten are concerned about future-proofing their career.

The research was commissioned by one of the UK’s leading engineering companies, BAE Systems, which polled 2,000 young people during National Apprenticeship Week. The results reveal that science is one of the most popular career paths for Generation Z (Gen Z), alongside teaching, gaming and engineering.

Seeking purpose over pay

Concerned about what their future careers might look like, a third of young people agreed that they don’t want a solely desk-based job. Gen Z is prioritising purpose over pay, with 30 per cent wanting to choose a career that will make a difference in the world. In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed want to work with emerging technologies, while a quarter want to pursue a career path that will allow them to travel and broaden their horizons, while continuing to develop their skills.

Future-proofing careers

The results also highlighted that common misconceptions of engineering remain amongst Gen Z, including that it involves physically intensive work and is a predominantly male environment. Despite this, 34 per cent of those surveyed studied STEM subjects at school, with nearly a third of young people aged 16-18 planning to continue studying these subjects in further education.

In the hope of future-proofing their careers, many young people are looking to apprenticeships as the answer. More than three-quarters of Gen Z would consider an apprenticeship, with nearly 60 per cent wanting the opportunity to earn as they learn.

Khadijah Ismail, a third year Engineering Degree Apprentice in the BAE Systems Air sector, said:

“My apprenticeship is exciting and diverse; no two days at work are the same. It gives me the opportunity to obtain valuable hands on experience - learning from some of the best engineers in their field - while earning a competitive salary.

“I want to inspire anyone who's unsure about studying engineering or pursuing an apprenticeship to go ahead and do it. The possibilities really are endless and you will be given the best start to your career.”

Richard Hamer, Education and Skills Director at BAE Systems, said:

“It is great to see more young people considering a career in STEM and becoming more aware of the range of opportunities and roles available to them by studying these subjects.

“Our apprenticeship programmes give young people award-winning on the job training, alongside prestigious qualifications, whilst undertaking vital work on some of the UK’s most exciting and nationally important programmes. From developing future combat air technologies to world-class cyber security solutions, engineering can lead to a long, successful and varied career.”

Last year, BAE Systems published a white paper ‘Future Skills for our UK Business’ outlining six guiding principles for the development of future skills in the UK in an environment of rapid technological change and fierce global competition.

The Company has recently invested in two Academies for Skills & Knowledge to train and develop its employees across the UK. The first academy was opened in Samlesbury, Lancashire, in 2016 to support its Air sector and in the first two years of operation, more than 100,000 people used the £15.6m facility. The second academy in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, represents a £25m investment to develop the engineering skills needed to deliver complex Royal Navy submarine programmes. The facility was opened in December 2018 and has since delivered more than 8,800 training hours.

BAE Systems recently announced plans to recruit more than 800 apprentices during 2020.

The breakdown of vacancies available across the UK by business:

  • Submarines – 348
  • Air – 246
  • Naval Ships – 72
  • Maritime Services – 58
  • Applied Intelligence – 46
  • Electronic Systems – 20
  • Land UK – 18
  • Shared Services – 4

The breakdown of vacancies available across the UK by region:

  • North West – 200
  • South Cumbria – 331
  • Yorkshire and Humber – 68
  • Scotland – 63
  • South East – 133
  • South West – 14
  • Other – 3

BAE Systems manages its own sought-after apprenticeship training programmes and its apprenticeships have been rated as 'outstanding' by Ofsted. In recent years the Company has led sector-based employers by chairing the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group, designing new apprenticeship standards and assessment plans.

The majority of BAE Systems apprentices train for engineering related roles and undergo a three to four-year training programme, with many progressing to study Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The business also offers direct entry onto a range of degree apprenticeships.

Anticipating future resource needs, the Company continually evolves its apprenticeship offering. In 2019, for the first time, the business has launched a Software Engineering Apprenticeship, with successful applicants undertaking a Level 4 Apprenticeship in the subject. The new cohort will start in April.

Methodology: The research was conducted with 2004 people, aged 16-24, by Opinium between 28 January and 3 February 2020.

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