Three Ways to Prepare Teens to Transition from Education to Work in the 2020s
Not so long ago the path into work and well paid jobs was clear. A-grade results in final exams, a university degree and either get picked up by corporates or do a quick-fire campaign applying directly to employers for work before finding a job. Today, with better results from schools and far more people going to university, young people have never been more educated. But for what? It seems not for the demands of jobs that employers need to fill. A recent report by the Confederation of British Industry states that 50% of employers report that school leavers and graduates are not work-ready. With education lagging behind monumental changes in the way we work and earn a living, it’s more important than ever for youth career guidance professionals and career strategists to focus on helping young people make sense of the labour market.
So how can we help young people transition into work in the 2020s?
1. Define the scope of the job market
We need to help teens and graduates make sense of the labour market and we can start by defining the work available and the broad scope for earning. The sheer range of occupations has expanded enormously in the last ten years. Alongside specialist roles in schools and hospitals (like teachers, doctors and nurses), there are jobs in big tech, in small start-ups and gigging jobs that can be accessed through platforms for freelancers (see below).
There are possibilities to multi-job e.g. affiliate marketing via a blog alongside a part-time job or running a popular Instagram account whilst working the gig economy. Young people can set themselves up in business as entrepreneurs or freelancers. In the digital era, everything you need to create a business is available for little or no cost along with online programmes that teach you how to run an eCommerce business, how to produce a podcast, create and sell a digital course or build websites for a living. Young people, many in their teens, are earning money from vlogging, managing social media accounts or selling hand crafted products via Instagram.
Ensure that young people understand that there are lots of ways into top jobs in 2021 that don’t involve university. Many corporate and trade jobs (as well as degree courses) can be accessed via apprenticeships. There are apps (like Fledglink) designed specifically for young people to help them negotiate the transition from study to finding work.
As parents we can also play a part in helping our kids understand the scope of the market by openly discussing the different ways of working in the 2020s — online, offline, freelance vs full-time work. Consider their interests and skills against prospects for work such as content writing, script writing, coding, video editing or buying and running social media channels. By mastering any one of these skills it’s possible to build assets that will create value and give access to an array of ways to earn a living and become financially independent. Find articles in newspapers and online. Google the skillsets affording the most job opportunities. Use opportunities at meal times or in the car to chat about your findings.
Intrepid young people can leverage their earning ability by keeping an open mind towards a host of roles and ways of working unheard of five years ago.
2. Define key skillsets that can be leveraged to find work (with resources for upskilling)
There is real value in pointing young people towards acquiring key skills that they can monetize as a freelancer or turn into a business. Knowing how to create a webinar that converts, how to send traffic to your online shop and how to write content that sells are invaluable skills in the 2020s and can be leveraged into ways of earning a living, eventually becoming financially independent from parents.
Ten years ago, achieving A grades in final exams or gaining an honours degree were critical factors for employers in assessing suitability for a job. Today top companies sit up and take notice if you have a successful online presence, create an app, write a blog that attracts thousands of followers, sell products from email campaigns or successfully sell beauty products on YouTube from the comfort of your home.
Explain to teens and graduates how having the right online presence, such as on IG or YouTube, can actually help them stand out in the crowd. The ability to sell online, attract and engage followers, show entrepreneurship, be positively proactive in the online space all help to show big tech companies that you have business intellect and understand the market.
The right social media account is the modern day equivalent of A*s, first class degrees and beautiful resumes. If your teen loves baking or draws the most beautiful cartoon figures, they might set up an IG account showing the product of their efforts. It doesn’t have to be a business-related topic for businesspeople to sit up and take notice. Passion and persistence sells and can be an alternative route to getting onto the best apprenticeship programme or getting that coveted job working for an influencer.
3. Teach entrepreneurship at school
Many successful young businesspeople today express the same view that, as academically capable students at school, they were discouraged from entrepreneurship and advised either to get a university degree first or find work experience. Successful young entrepreneurs who ignored this advice are growing in numbers and speaking out. Many say that there was no place for them to learn, to network or develop business intellect at school. Some admit that they became lethargic, disinterested and demotivated as a result. There is a growing demand for entrepreneurship to be encouraged and taught at school, whether or not one becomes an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial skills are never wasted.
How can we encourage young people to take on the role of entrepreneurs with all the risk and potential personal fulfilment that entails?
- Teach entrepreneurship as a subject. Include business modules at school that we teach to executives in the corporate world — reading the market, communication, negotiation, sales, presentation skills, how to close the deal, how to win friends and influence people, how to find and fund premises, source or build products, basic business finance.
- Invite successful teenage businesspeople to participate in formulating entrepreneurship modules.
- Establish mentoring relationships between budding entrepreneurs and businesspeople.
- Teach personal responsibility around work — the importance of showing up, being present and accountable and self-driven, giving of one’s best at all times, working to meet personal goals without helpful prodding from others.
- Ensure that every school is role modelling and rewarding a willingness in students to give things a try, fearlessness to approach doing something new, the ability to apply themselves to work in a focused way to achieve a goal, the belief that reaching goals and seeing success is possible and an acceptance of scrappy first efforts (better done than perfect!). The latter is really important. If the only behaviours being modelled are getting A*s in exams (linked to league table results and school rankings), there is little opportunity to celebrate a failure that has helped by underlining a strategy that doesn’t work or highlighting a way forward towards success.
- Invite young entrepreneurs to talk at schools. Invite young business owners, podcasters, bloggers, YouTubers, TikTokers to talk to students about what they do on a daily basis, the hard work involved, the skills required, the levels of return expected over X period of time.
- Invite speakers to the school who have created apps to help young people transition into work.
Entrepreneurial skills are necessary in the modern workplace whether one is an entrepreneur or not and are an absolute necessity for young people choosing to work the gig economy.
With business increasingly meaning online business, It’s really important that young people embrace new ways of working. For those who have set their sights on working for Big Tech and corporates, there are things they can do to stand out from the crowd and organisations (like Not Going to Uni) and apps (like Fledglink) that can help them find work. For those that want to strike out on their own it’s comforting to know that in the 2020s you don’t need to work for someone else from 9–5 to earn a living.
Traditional jobs were occupations undertaken for a significant period of time in a persons’s life with opportunities for progress. Whilst some specialist roles still conform to this pattern, the world of work today is characterised by entrepreneurship, fast-track apprenticeship routes, finding gigs on work-for-hire platforms, multiple career switches and multi-jobbing along with a myriad ways to upskill at little or no cost.
Forget traditional jobs! When it comes to the world of work, yesterday’s models are no longer fit for purpose.