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The rehabilitation of banking: school-leavers choose money over fun from their careers

Finance jobs shoot up career wishlist, but poll of over 600 16-year-old Londoners also shows they are less confident than last year in their chances of getting a job when they leave education

You might think that young people want to be celebrities and pop singers, but new research into their career aspirations show that they are a generation of realists, who know the importance of well-paid work and favour professional careers.

The research, conducted by Skills London, of 16-year-olds across the capital, found that medicine, teaching, law were the most popular career aspirations.

Banking, which was not a top 10 career choice last year, has shot up to the fourth most popular career aspiration, from 11th last year – indicating a reputational rehabilitation of a sector that was hit hard as a result of the financial crisis.

Top 10 career aspirations

  • Doctor
  • Teacher
  • Lawyer
  • Banker
  • Accountant
  • Don’t know 
  • Scientist
  • Software engineer
  • Business career
  • Psychologist or psychotherapist

But the poll also revealed a drop in confidence among the school leavers about their chances of landing their ideal job (six per cent down), or any job at all (seven per cent down).

This is also reflected in a drop in salary expectations. Whereas 48% wanted to earn £40,000 a year after five years in employment in the 2014 survey, the number has dropped significantly this year to just 34%.

The survey showed:

  • 43% of student respondents said they were either ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ of getting their ideal job. 21% were either ‘unconfident’ or ‘very unconfident’.
  • When it comes to getting any job after finishing education the ‘very confident’ and ‘confident’ responses rise to 52%, however, so do the ‘unconfident’ and ‘very unconfident’ responses to 25% (both at the expense of the ‘unsures’).
  • Good qualifications are thought to be the thing most valued by employers, followed by good employability skills and then work experience. This doesn’t necessarily chime with what employers say.
  • When it comes to earnings, there seemed to be a good deal of realism among students for the short term. 25% said they wanted to earn £15,000 – £19,999 in their first year of work. A further 21% expect £20,000 – £29,999. 21% wanted to earn £10,000-£14,999 (The average income for a full-time employed 18-21 year old is £14,403, according to the Office for National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.)
  • After five years their expectations have become scaled down from last year. Last year, a whopping 47% expected to be earning £40,000+ after five years of work; this has scaled back to 34% this year.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who visited Skills London, said:

“The capital’s future depends on getting young people into the sort of jobs that will continue to drive London forward as a leading city.

“Skills London offers access to tens of thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities up for grabs in the capital. Any young person who is unsure about their future should get down to Excel and talk to the folks at Skills London, who can put you face-to-face with potential employers and help get you onto the career ladder.”

Mark Hilton, Director of Skills at business group London First, which co-organises Skills London, said after several tough years there was an increased sense of optimism returning to young job seekers.

“It’s easy to characterise Generation Z as having unrealistic expectations of work, but actually today’s school-leavers are aspirational realists are focussed on knuckling down and getting well-paid work.”

Andrew Coates, Director at co-organiser Prospects, said:

“Skills London 2015 is London’s biggest jobs and careers event for young people, and offers families an opportunity to see a full spectrum of opportunities in a fun and interactive way.”

Find out more about Skills London and get involved next year



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