Almost three in four parents feel overwhelmed by the number of career options available to their teenagers

Parents of 11 to 18-year-olds are worried about the career advice they are able to impart, as their children opt for careers they know nothing about, according to new research released today.

The research shows that nearly three in four (71%) parents feel overwhelmed by the number of options available to their child and three quarters of parents (75%) feel this is exacerbated by a fast-changing jobs market, which makes giving relevant career advice challenging.

What’s more, with nearly two thirds (66%) saying their child has expressed an interest in exploring a future career they know nothing about, and with nearly as many (62%) admitting to relying predominantly on their own experiences when talking to their child about what their future options could be, parents are getting lost in a ‘job fog’, which could be hindering informed and constructive career conversations.

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    The survey of 2,000 parents of secondary school pupils in England was carried out for Talking Futures – the national campaign which helps parents, carers, and guardians of 11–18-year-olds have constructive and informed conversations with their child about education choices and careers. The survey explores parents’ views on the current job market, and how and to what extent they are able to support their child find the right pathway for them.

    Compounding this sense of confusion, parents are also feeling pressure to have vast knowledge of the education and career landscape in order to provide useful advice. The majority (83%) of parents admit to feeling worried that they don’t take into account all the options that exist, including those they know nothing about, when having these conversations with their children.

    A tool to generate conversations

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    Talking Futures has launched a new digital tool, ‘Conversation Cards’, to help parents and their children have a conversation about the education and career options that might be right for them. It has been designed as a framework to support parents as they guide their children through the decision-making process and discover the careers that may interest them.

    Funded by the Gatsby Foundation, which created the Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Career Guidance that schools and colleges across England must deliver against, Talking Futures is a campaign designed to help parents, carers and guardians, have meaningful conversations with young people (11- to 18-year-olds) about careers and education. The campaign website provides guidance and practical tools for parents and also recommends other useful sites and resources that can help parents explore the different training and education opportunities available for young people. Through Gatsby’s collaboration with the Careers & Enterprise Company, the campaign also supports educators to connect parents into career programmes at school and college.

    Shavanda Levers, based in Croydon, parent of secondary school student Omari, aged 16, said: “I first started having conversations with my son about what his future career options could be when he turned 11yrs old and, as a parent, it did initially feel daunting. From a very young age, Omari has always dreamt of becoming a professional basketball player. I thought I needed to have all of the answers as to how he could look to make this dream a reality but, with time, I realised that you don't need to have it all worked out. The simple act of being open to having regular conversations and making your child's aspirations feel valued is the most helpful thing you can do as a parent. 

    “Over the last few years, I have helped him research what could be his best options and pointed him in the direction of colleges and further education courses, which has truly helped him. He’s now considering playing semi-pro, but also considering a career as a physiotherapist for players.

    My advice to parents who may feel lost in the ‘job fog’ is to support your son/daughter in whatever they decide to do in life. You may not like their career choice or feel it’ll be too difficult for them to pursue, but don’t fret if they stumble. Just be there to support them the best way you know how. Always offer alternatives that might help them to achieve their dreams but don’t divert them away from it. In the end, they will be eternally grateful for walking with them on their journey of discovering who they want to be.”

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    Michelle Rea, spokesperson for the Talking Futures campaign at the Gatsby Foundation, said: “All the evidence points to the pivotal role parents’ attitudes and opinions play in shaping and influencing their children’s education and career choices.

    Ever-changing jobs

    The temptation is to stick with what we feel most confident talking about and that’s usually what we know and have experienced ourselves. Things have changed since most of us were at school or college however and, along with the bombardment of constant news headlines about the ever-changing jobs market and the rising cost of living, it’s no wonder that parents can feel lost in a ’job fog’.

    The pressure of feeling like you need to have all the answers is what can make these conversations seem stressful and it was no surprise to us that our research revealed that most parents (74%) feel there should be more support for them to help their child navigate their options. Finding your way through the ‘job fog’ is best tackled one step at a time and so what we’re launching today aims to do just that, breaking the information and advice into manageable, bitesize chunks.

    Nicola Hall, Director of Education at the national body for careers education The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) said: “We know that parents want to help guide their children on the pathway from education into employment. They have a vital and influential role to play, supporting their children in making career choices and finding the path that’s best for them.

    “However, the rapidly changing landscape of the world of work can be complex and confusing, with children choosing to explore opportunities that diverge and differ from the experience of their parents.

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    “Talking Futures cuts through that complexity. It empowers parents to have constructive career conversations with their children, guiding them to the information they need to help them find their best next step. It also supports teachers in having informed conversations with parents about how best to guide their children in making the decisions that will help shape their future careers.” 

    Parents and educators can find out more and access free resources by visiting the Talking Futures website at: https://www.talkingfutures.org.uk/.