Job vacancies across a variety of sectors in the UK — including 42,000 in construction, 60,000 in transport, 170,000 in food and accomodation, and 200,000 in care, highlighting the massive worker shortage plaguing the country. While the issue was fueled by matters such as Brexit as well as the coronavirus pandemic, other matters, such as a disconnect between career availability and individual aspirations bring to light other issues. From the disconnect itself to how today’s teens can find a fulfilling career that also meets the needs of the job market, here’s what you need to know.

A clear disconnect
For teens looking into career paths, avoiding disappointment can be a challenge when considering the disconnect between careers and the aspirations of young individuals. In fact, researchers have discovered a significant disconnect between such aspirations and the job market demand in the UK, which was primarily significant in areas such as culture, art, entertainment and sports. To highlight the matter further, five times as many teens want to work in these fields when compared with the projected positions available, according to one career expectations survey carried out by the organisation Education and Employers. On the other hand, other positions — aka those in areas like hospitality — happen to be high in demand, despite not enough young people wanting to work them. 

In relation to the matter, which has resulted in the disappointment of many who have aspirations aligned with unavailable careers, the director of education and skills at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Andreas Schleicher, commented on the potential reasons for the apparent disconnect. “There are many interesting future-oriented jobs that British students are not seeing, particularly disadvantaged kids, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Schleicher goes on to further note “My concern is we are closing too many doors too early in the lives of pupils.”

Finding a path through interests
When it comes to finding a fulfilling career path as an adult, exploring interests throughout life and as early on as possible can be an essential element in doing just that. In terms of the UK’s engineering skills shortage, an open letter to the Government actually suggests the implementation of engineering into primary school learning in order to mitigate the issue. That said, it’s important to also realise that those that have an interest in subjects like science can foster healthy habits — like gaining an inquisitive and scientific mindset — simply by exploring the subject in everyday life. Whether it be via observing local architecture and design or exploring structural engineering by building a ramp, science doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom, either. What’s more is that the benefits of the subject — such as the enrichment of wider learning and education, building problem solving and observation skills can all be carried over to a career — even if it doesn’t happen to be in the science field. 

The value in positive experiences
While many people are set on what they want to do as a career from day one, others might still feel a bit lost, even despite having a set of interests. That said, finding a career path that brings joy and is fulfilling can be done by gaining valuable life experience — whether it be in the form of a part-time job, a study abroad program, or even a summer camp, all of which can stem from already established interests. 84% of 16-24 year olds have revealed that they don’t know how to turn the interests that they’re passionate about into a career. For some, getting involved in opportunities may help set the stage and spark interest in a future career, and open up the mind to new possibilities. However, it’s worth mentioning that having a good experience in relation to career guidance at school (as well as through encouragement at home), should also be a priority in filling the gaps in the job market as well, and can further aid in educating on new and exciting paths out there.

With today’s job market and the severe disconnect between careers and aspirations, finding the right path can feel extremely daunting. However, by exploring interests early on and heightening awareness for careers that many may not know are out there, teens can more easily avoid disappointment.