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Research Shows Gaps In Children’s Career Aspirations

A new report highlights work needed to broaden children’s career expectations, says Tertiary Education Commission Chief executive Tim Fowler.

The ‘Drawing the Future’ report was launched at Parliament last week.

It is based on contributions by 7,700 primary and intermediate students from around the country, who were asked to draw pictures showing the jobs they were interested in.

‘This is the first time such research has been done in New Zealand,’ says Tim Fowler.

‘It’s good to see that 48 percent of the children chose future jobs because they’d enjoy them.

‘And some of the reasons for their choices are heart-warming: the girl who wants to be a lawyer to help the innocent, or the boy who’d like to be a soldier so he can protect the people he loves.

‘On the other hand, the report confirms international findings which show that unconscious bias caused by a child’s race, gender and socio-economic status can have an early effect on career choice.’

Around two in ten New Zealand children aspire to a science, technology, engineering or maths-related career, but girls are one and a half times more likely to than boys.

Māori children are the most likely to aspire to be sportspeople, but are less likely to be interested in science and technology-related jobs; Pacific children are more than twice as likely as others to want to be police officers.

‘Such bias can affect the choices made later in life, such as subjects studied at secondary school and training or education pursued after graduation,’ says Tim Fowler.

‘This research offers us unique insight into what New Zealand children want to be when they grow up - and just as importantly, the career choices they haven’t even considered.

‘Tellingly, more than 50 percent of drawings for both boys and girls show just nine jobs: sportsperson - way ahead at almost 17 percent - vet, police officer, teacher, social media influencer, artist, doctor, military or firefighter, and farmer.

‘While these are important occupations, the results tell us that many of the critical skills that New Zealand needs for a productive economy are not evident.

‘Over half of New Zealand children aspire to a professional career, but only a quarter of people in the workforce are expected to be employed in those roles in 2028.

‘We need to engage children in a wider range of occupations - for example those related to science and technology - if New Zealand is to thrive, and future generations are to enjoy satisfying, lifelong careers.’

TEC is working on a number of initiatives to help broaden the horizons of tamariki so they can pursue jobs that are in demand now and in the future, says Tim Fowler.

‘The results of the Drawing the Future research will help design a new programme to overcome some of the children’s bias that often limit young people’s career aspirations.

‘Under the programme industry volunteers will visit schools to talk to learners about different career options and how to achieve them - we’re starting pilots in several schools around the country in the coming months.

‘I am very excited by this research, and by how we’ll be able to use it to create lifelong learning opportunities for New Zealanders.’

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