British teenagers are in danger of pursuing careers that represent only a small fraction of future job vacancies, according to new research that exposes the gulf between pupils' aspirations and the demands of the labour market.
The study of over 11,000 teens aged 13 to 16 compared their career ambitions with projections of U.K. job availability over the next decade.
It showed that over a third of teenagers are interested in just 10 occupations. These included glamorous roles such as acting and professional sports, and professions such as teaching, law, medicine and psychology.
The contrast is most stark among 15- to 16-year-olds, a fifth of whom have ambitions to work in the culture, media and sport sector, which is projected to have only 2.4 per cent of the U.K.'s new and replacement jobs between 2010 and 2020.
Conversely, this age group has largely shunned jobs in administration and care work, even though each of these sectors represents about 8 per cent of future jobs.
The 10 least popular professions include relatively highly paid roles such as surveyors, human resources managers and speech therapists, as well as jobs in call centres and factories, which often attract immigrants because of a shortage of willing applicants among the local work force.
The report was carried out by the U.K. Commission for Employment and Skills, which advises government, and the Education and Employers Taskforce, a charity.
Its authors warned that young people risk realizing too late that they have pursued the wrong qualifications and experience, leading to a period of "churn" as this group retrain and adjust themselves to the needs of the labour market.
Nick Chambers, director of the Education and Employers Taskforce, said that "far too many" young people were having to make vital decisions about their futures without enough access to reliable information.
"With the high costs of higher-education tuition fees, the financial penalty for young people and their parents of making an ill-informed careers choice is starker than ever," Mr Chambers said. "We need to ensure that young people have access to high-quality impartial professional careers advice backed up by first-hand insights into the world of work."
Sir Roger Carr, chairman of energy supplier Centrica, said industry itself must take responsibility for making sure that those in education were clear about what was required.
But Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and also chair of the U.K. Commission for Employment and Skills, cautioned that pointing school pupils toward more useful academic courses and giving them more careers advice in the classroom was not enough on its own.
"The gaps that young people have are not just in their qualifications, it's a lack of experience in the world of work," Mr. Mayfield told the Financial Times.
Pointing to research showing that the number of people who do Saturday jobs has been halved over the past 15 years, the Mr. Mayfield lamented the increasing disconnection between teenagers and the workplace. "The gap between education and work has become larger at a time when we cannot afford for that to happen."