I want to be a footballer

Having recently undertaken a video research project for the Institute of the Motor Industry, specifically looking at the notion of careers knowledge and aspirations with Primary School students, I am pleased to be able to report that the project certainly gifted us with great feedback and input from the student cohort we worked with.

Yes, there has been much said about the validity, relevance and longevity of Primary student career aspirations when you take a snapshot so early in their educational journey – so we went into this project with eyes wide open and the aim of exploring rather than guiding.

It may not surprise those careers professionals, parents, carers and general career stakeholders among you that a young student aged between 10 and 11 years old can have pretty clear ideas of what kinds of jobs they may or may not be interested in – after all, why shouldn’t they have a viewpoint of career pathways at this age however influenced that may be by those key influencers around them?

I guess this is where the initial validity discussion kicks in – what kinds of influence are coming to bear and shaping the view of a 10/11 year old in the classroom? We’ve all become accustomed to the multitude of research which points to parents and carers as the main influencers when it comes to career aspirations at this age group, but are we making a mistake to dismiss the findings we gather if the job ideas that these young students aspire to reach just happen to be jobs/roles that an older generation don’t recognise or value as a job?

No, it is no surprise when asking a group of 10/11 year old boys ‘What is your dream Job?’ that some reply “Footballer”  – but you’d be wrong to dismiss these replies without further qualifying your opening question with more insightful questions for further clarity and understanding. For instance, in our recent research it became clearly apparent that some of the boys who’d answered ‘footballer’ had thought deeply about the question. One boy spoke at great length about the lifestyle commitment and focus needed to achieve this dream job and the possibility of injury creating different job possibilities as a Coach, Trainer or Sports Scientist. Another boy spoke about the need for education to provide career options after a career in football as he would still be young enough to work!

The fact is that although it is easy to be dismissive as a parent/carer/teacher when faced with what you regard to be an unlikely choice of a career pathway for a young student, who are we to comment, dismiss or refuse? A few years ago I was delivering a careers Assembly looking at future jobs – one youngster suggested that she had a future as a YouTuber, however one of the Teaching staff suggested that this was not a job or a realistic possibility for a salaried position. I was beyond furious! Not only did I explain to the Teacher how wrong they were I made it very clear to the girl that it was a perfectly valid career aspiration and explored with her what skills she might need to be successful.

I guess my point is that young people are so exposed to media – so more media savvy than we ever were at their age, possibilities of future career paths become defined by their own and their peer group interests rather than any traditional approach to careers education, knowledge and guidance from us.

Only a few years ago the National Careers Service and many other stakeholder groups in CEIAG would have you believe there were around only 750 different job roles/types in the UK – really? There are so many new and what are being noted as ‘future’ jobs emerging and being driven by tech advancement that only someone narrow minded would surely suggest that we have a grip of the potential career pathways for tomorrow’s workforce?

So, 2 years ago suggesting you might make your living as a YouTuber was frowned upon – would you be so brave today to suggest that this was not possible to a young person?

The same 2 years ago a football player, namely Jamie Vardy, went from non league footballing obscurity to the ultimate prize…a Premiership winner.

The moral of this blog? Simple, Primary school students have much to teach the careers profession about realistic career aspirations for the future – the next time a young student replies ‘Footballer’ when asked about future job aspirations be prepared…. there is a good living to be made from non league football in its own right – but why not encourage a bigger discussion around this choice, you might learn something yourself!

About the Author

Nick Newman is the founder and CEO of National Careers Week