How well are students prepared to enter the world of work?

By Andreas Schleicher (Director) and Anthony Mann (Senior Analyst)

OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Across the world, young people are leaving education more highly qualified than any preceding generation.  Yet, in many countries they struggle to find good jobs that reflect their skills and interests.  When graduates can’t find suitable employment and recruiters can’t find the young talent they need, there is reason to look afresh at how well young people are being prepared for their lives in work.

Today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the OECD reveals new data on the career expectations of young people, how they have changed since the start of the 21st century, and how they are related to labour market demand.  Dream Jobs? Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work is published at a time of growing concern over young people’s school-to-work transitions.  With young people staying in education longer, they need to make more decisions about what, where and how hard to study. At a time when automation is rapidly changing the character of the labour market, the decisions that young people are making are not only more numerous, but also more difficult. 

Dream Jobs? looks at data from the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests and earlier tests to explore teenagers’ thinking about their future careers.  The analysis suggests that, in many countries, young people’s career aspirations increasingly bear little relation to actual labour market demand.

Since its first survey in 2000, PISA has asked young people what kind of job they expect to have at age 30. Nearly half of today’s 15-year-olds anticipate working in just 10 different jobs, some of which are 19th and 20th century jobs, not 21st century jobs, and with increasing concentration particularly evident among boys, weaker performers on the PISA tests and children from more disadvantaged backgrounds.  Young people’s career aspirations are often narrow, unrealistic and distorted by gender and social background.  What’s more, there is evidence to suggest young people have limited awareness of the ways in which automation is likely to change work.

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