Holistic advice is key in making the right career decision – we talk to Nerys Bourne from Careers Wales

To mark National Careers Week, Nerys Bourne a specialist in guidance for young people at Careers Wales and Director of Customer Strategy and Service Development, discusses how expert advice combined with parental support can help young people to think outside the box about their futures.

“It’s well-known that a child’s ideas about their future is often shaped by their parents and surroundings. In fact, research tells us over 60%[1] of Generation Z believe family members are key role models when it comes to making big decisions.

“Other major influencers are teachers, friends, family, and their surrounding environment. In essence, a child’s career ideas are shaped by those around them who they see on a daily basis, so it’s natural they look to emulate those who they’re inspired towards, looking back at their parents and older family members.

“Between these generations however, career choices have undergone a revolution. Teenagers of today have big decisions to make; from going to university, starting an apprenticeship, taking a gap year to getting work experience. The range of careers has evolved too with emerging  career paths that didn’t exist twenty years ago such as game designers, social media managers and the renewable energy industry.

“This plethora of options brings its own challenges – quite simply put, it can be overwhelming! While previous generations were faced with prospect of not much career choice, the opposite can be said for the class of 2023.

“These days there are number of choices available to young people including vocational routes, A Levels, apprenticeships, volunteering, degree apprenticeships, university courses and employment.”

“So, it’s probably not a surprise that most teens turn to their biggest influencers for advice – and I’m not talking Tik Tokkers. Research shows[2] that parents are among Gen Z’s biggest influencers when it comes to decision making about their futures.

“So how can parents advise their children and equip them for entering the world of work when it looks very different to the one they started out in? The answer is of course, to ask an expert!

A blended approach of digital and face-to-face is key for teenagers of today

“It’s a typical assumption that most young people prefer to do everything via technology, and we’ve worked hard as an organisation over the last decade to increase our online and digital services, but we still find that demand for in-person appointments is still high.

“Having initial face-to-face conversations is immensely helpful in finding out more about a young person and the direction they want to go in, as well as their skills and interests. This is crucial in helping them start their career journey and helping them to find a career goal personal to them.

“We then find our online resources and virtual appointments can then be more convenient for customers to point them in the right direction for support after these face-to-face appointments. These resources include personality and job matching quizzes, information about support for young people and signposting to live vacancies in organisations across Wales.

Young people still largely look towards traditional roles

“What’s interesting to me, as someone who has worked in the career guidance industry for almost 30 years, is that the majority of young people come to our advisers looking to enter traditional sectors, through traditional routes, in part as a result of what they see day-to-day growing up.

“That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with traditional sectors – we need teachers, nurses and mechanics more than ever – but what a careers adviser can do is dig a little deeper, broaden horizons and open up the possibility of a career in a sector outside of one they’ve been exposed to or experienced to date.

“For example, the UK has been facing an unprecedented shortage of staff within the transport and logistics sector, and there are more than 4,500[3] job vacancies – requiring diverse skills – within Wales posted online every month. In the childcare and early years sector, job vacancies posted online since 2020 have risen by 65%[4] with roles from play workers and nursery managers to child development specialists and educational consultants.

“However, it’s also important not to encourage a young person into a career that doesn’t suit them simply because there are roles available.”

“New and emerging industries such as the green sector are creating jobs in a huge range of areas – from engineering to planning, construction, education, and politics – it’s estimated more than 60,000[5] jobs were created in the green economy in the past year. Careers advisers can help identify roles young people can work towards, but in a way that’s moulded to their skills, talents and passions.

Building self-awareness is key to unlocking futures

“If a young person comes to us and says they’d like to work in construction for example, we’ll ask them about why they’d like to do it – perhaps they have family members or role models who work in the sector, perhaps they’re a hands-on person, or a logical thinker, maybe they’re great at the maths and equations that comes with calculating a complex construction plan.

“We speak to them about different roles that are available within the sector, the types of experience and qualifications they’d need, such as apprenticeships, vocational qualifications, degree apprenticeships and degrees to help them weigh up their options and decide on the right path for their future.

“Expert careers advice helps young people become more self-aware so they’re able to realise what makes them tick, what they’re interested in, what will they be willing to get out of bed for every morning and work towards and what they want to achieve in their professional lives.

The lightbulb moment

“It’s so satisfying to see things start to click into place once a young person has worked out what they want to do, the skills they need to develop and how to get there – it’s literally a lightbulb moment.

“Parents have a crucial role in helping to develop their self-confidence and identify their passions as they know their child inside and out. But when it comes to the wide range of options out there, that’s where Careers Wales’ independent and impartial advice and guidance can come in, providing the latest information on the types of training, funding and qualifications available to young people today.”

A new web page designed specifically for parents has been setup on the Careers Wales site, offering materials including support available for children of all ages and making the most of the Careers Wales services.

For more information, or to book an appointment to speak to our expert team, visit  careerswales.gov.wales/parents or call 0800 028 4844.

[1] Mintel Lifestyles Generation Z 2020

[2] Youth Census Report 2020

[3] Lightcast April to September 2022 & Careers Wales Labour Market Information campaign

[4] Lightcast & Careers Wales Labour Market Information campaign

[5] Careers Wales Labour Market Information team