Continuous learning, a good salary and stability as key career priorities for young people but more than 40 per cent are putting career plans on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those were the findings of BAE Systems which commissioned research looking at the impact the pandemic had on the career aspirations of 16-24 year-olds. The research also found that engineering and technology and digital were among the top industries which young people believe hold the best long-term post-pandemic career opportunities. Almost two thirds of respondents (63 per cent) have or would consider an apprenticeship.

With young people facing the toughest job market since the 2008 recession, a fifth (21 per cent) said they were even more confused about their career path, with 20 per cent stating the industry they had wanted to work in has been deeply impacted.

Salary, stability and a future-proof career are important

When asked what matters most to them in a career, almost a third (31 per cent) of young people said continuous learning and the ability to develop their skill set was an important factor, reinforcing the need for flexible training and skills development, as set out by the government in its recent FE White Paper. Wanting to earn a good salary (41 per cent) topped the chart, but jobs that provide stability and routine (30 per cent) and a future-proofed career (25 per cent) were key areas of concern.

Respondents had clear views on the skills that they thought would be most important to support their future long-term career plans, with ‘soft’ skills ranking among the highest, including communication (35 per cent), problem solving (31 per cent) and team work (30 per cent). With the pandemic highlighting the critical role of healthcare and education professionals, these industries came out top with young people believing they hold the best long-term career opportunities. Nearly a third of respondents said the opportunity to make a difference to the world (30 per cent) was important to them in a future career.

The top seven industries for long-term career opportunities are:

  • Healthcare (31 per cent)
  • Education (20 per cent)
  • Finance (14 per cent)
  • Technology & Digital (13 per cent)
  • Engineering (13 per cent)
  • IT (11 per cent)
  • Science (11 per cent)

With more than half of young people (51 per cent) now placing more importance on their career as a result of the pandemic, many were looking at what options were available to them when looking to enter the job market. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) said they have or would consider an apprenticeship, of which, four in ten (41 per cent) cited gaining experience in the working world as a key driver.

Young people face “extremely tough” jobs market

Richard Hamer, Education and Skills Director at BAE Systems, said: “It’s clear that currently, the path for young people looking to enter the job market is extremely tough. The ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic are far reaching and have left students with greater uncertainty about their future. That’s why it’s important that those of us who can, must continue to create new opportunities for young people, working hand in hand with the government and wider industry, to make available options known to young people.”

“Apprenticeships play a significant role, providing people with the necessary skills to work in highly specialised and technical industries. Through on-the-job learning of practical skills, the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals and the provision of support at every step of their training, apprenticeships can offer an entry into a long-term and successful career.”

Ben Marson, Director of Partnerships at The Prince’s Trust, said: “The pandemic continues to negatively affect young people’s employment prospects. At The Prince’s Trust, we know from our own research the impact unemployment can have on young people’s mental health and overall future. Our recent Youth Index report found that 60 per cent of young people say that getting a new job feels “impossible now” because there is so much competition and 23 per cent saying they don’t feel confident about their future work. It is absolutely crucial that we work with our corporate partners like BAE Systems to provide opportunities for young people to gain the skills and confidence for work, so they do not lose hope for their future.”

Louise Fairclough, a first year Chartered Management Degree Apprentice with BAE Systems, said: “I joined the company in January, having gone through the virtual recruitment process. Since then, I have been working from home and feel that despite the pandemic, my career has got off to a fantastic start. I have already had the opportunity to contribute to projects, including the Learner Voice survey which collects feedback from apprentices and helps the business to make informed decisions with regards to the running of its apprentice induction programme.”

Highest apprenticeship intake in a single year

The research was commissioned by BAE Systems to mark National Apprenticeship Week last week. BAE Systems has announced the recruitment of more than 850 apprentices and 400 graduates in 2021, the highest intake in a single year. The company has doubled the type of apprenticeship programmes on offer to more than 50, including options to study up to degree level. Opportunities are available in a variety of roles including accountancy, human resources, electronic systems design, software development, joinery and mechanical fitting. The programmes also offer a wide range of opportunities for people over 25 looking to retrain.

The apprenticeship application window is open until 28 February 2021. For more information visit: Careers | BAE Systems | International