Young Australians would rather be dentists than entrepreneurs: Does the business world need to do better PR?

Girl Geek Academy

The Girl Geek Academy team: April Staines, Lisy Kane, Tammy Butow, Amanda Watts, Sarah Moran. Source: supplied.

Young Australians have their sights set on “fantasy” jobs like becoming Youtube stars or elite sportspeople instead of starting their own projects, according to a recent study of school students, prompting entrepreneurs to call for better public relations campaigns from those in the technology and business sectors.

Government body the Australian Institute of Family Studies released its study of the career aspirations of 3378 young Australians aged between 14 and 15 this week, having asked this group whether they knew which career they wanted to be in, and what their current dream jobs were.

The results indicate young Aussies are keen on professional jobs in the health sector, with ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dentist’ ranking as one of the most common responses, with 5.3% of young people surveyed wanting to enter healthcare professions.

This compares with 1.2% of respondents who said they’d want to enter the world of “business professionals”.

The area of information and communication technology (ICT) jobs showed a particular split in interests, with 5.9% of boys wanting to enter the field, compared with just 0.3% of girls.

However, the study found those wanting to get involved in information technology jobs want a specific kind of role, with a large number of male respondents reporting interest in computer programming and gaming.

Young men wanting to get involved in this sector said they want job titles like”games developer”, “Youtuber” and “Apple genius”.

Researchers also noted that a number of respondents nominated what they call “fantasy” occupations, including wanting to become soccer players, music hosts, acrobats and actors. The study said while it was possible young people could feasibly attain these goals, for many these are likely to remain just a fantasy.

Meanwhile, a significant gap still exists in the engineering space, with 4.8% of boys reporting they want some kind of engineering role in the future, compared with 0.1% of girls.

While many in the startup world are seeking to close that gap, surveys of this kind don’t tell the whole story about what kids want to do with their professional careers, or the jobs on offer in future, says founder of Girl Geek Academy, Sarah Moran.

“For example, every job is an IT job now — tell me a profession that doesn’t have a proliferation of IT roles,” she says.

The challenge with asking young people what they want to be when they grow up is that other statistics show the entire Australian workforce is moving towards a “portfolio” model where people will have a variety of jobs throughout their career, Moran says.

Moran says it’s important to show young people what career titles like “engineer” or “ICT professional” could actually mean in practice.

“When you picture what an IT professional is, it’s mismatched, because we think it means something in our heads … [but] by the time these kids are working it will be something different,” Moran says. 

However, when it comes to the number of young people who want to become a “business professional” when they’re older, some more work might need to be done to start the conversation about what life as a business owner is actually like, Moran says.

“In terms of the narrative around it, the business world probably needs a better PR campaign behind it,” she says.

“We don’t have strong visibility about what a business owner’s lifestyle is like, and if you look at those other stock-standard professions, well, there is visibility about what those jobs are like.” 

Career aspirations for 14-15 year olds: Top 10 desired occupations

1. Doctor, dentist or healthcare professional: 5.3%

2. Engineering or transport professional: 4.9%

3. Legal or social professional: 4.2%

4. Education professional: 3.8%

5. Performance arts and production: 3.4%

6. Protective services: 3.2%

7. ICT professional: 3.2%

8. Professional design or architect: 3.2 %

9. Science professional: 2.9%

10. Construction worker: 2.8%

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