Next generation divided on future career plans

Northern Ireland’s changing employment landscape will require greater attention in order to understand and support young people’s career plans, according to the findings of a recent survey.

Carried out by the organisers of Skills Northern Ireland – an interactive event aimed at 14-19 year olds, teachers, parents and influencers – the survey of 500 school leavers entitled ‘Young People’s Plans for Jobs and Skills in Northern Ireland’, revealed that the next generation is divided on their future career plans.

The findings show that while 50% report they know what job they want to do, the other 50% are unsure about their future employment plans, demonstrating a need for high quality careers information, advice and guidance for young people.

The changing nature of the jobs market, including digitalisation and automation, means there is an even greater need for specialised, tailored advice for our young people to help them find the most successful career path.

The Skills NI Exhibition, which will take place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on 7th & 8th November, can help equip young people with the best information to achieve the career of their dreams given the new demands facing the world of work here.

The Skills NI survey also revealed:

  • 40% of young people said they feared Brexit would make it harder to find a job, despite the fact the Skills Barometer 2017 findings predict there will be an even greater demand for well-qualified school-leavers after the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
  • Most young people do understand what is required of them with 48% citing good qualifications as most important to employers. The least important in their opinion was charisma, personality, connections and knowing the right people.
  • Thirty-two per cent worry that there may not be enough jobs when they leave education with 44% believing their parents, and 40% saying their grand-parents’ generation, found it easier to get a job.
  • Forty-eight per cent believed their parents are key to help with career planning while the majority (57%) believed careers advisers to be the most helpful.
  • The workforce’s next generation report they mostly seek out careers information online (66%).
  • Only nine per cent believe they will be in a job for life and 46% expect to stay in their first role for two to three years.
  • They are also aware of the impact of technology and automation believing this will lead to the disappearance of certain jobs in their lifetime such as cashiers in shops (55%), journalists (36%) and taxi drivers (33%).

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Chair of Skills NI said: “Many young people rely on parents for careers advice who often feel ill-equipped in their knowledge of career pathways, qualifications, skills and the fast-changing world of work.

“We need to create more opportunities for young people to gain exposure to and first-hand experience of the world of work. We all must work hard to reduce skills mismatch and ensure young people see the relevance of their learning and have greater connectivity to employers and high quality careers support services on a lifelong basis.”

Ulster University, in partnership with the Department for the Economy, forecasts that by 2026 there may not be enough well qualified people coming out of education to fill the projected job vacancies, particularly in the skilled sectors.

Meanwhile, factors such as Brexit could impact on the workforce supply if migration controls are put in place, leading to increased pressure on schools and colleges to produce more well educated young people to fill the employment gap.

The conclusion of the Skills Barometer is that the Northern Ireland economy currently has total employment levels of approximately 840,000 people, which is forecast to increase to almost 924,000 people by 2026. Furthermore, it is estimated that over the next 10-year period around 80,000 job opportunities will become available each year (annual average gross demand). However, most of those job opportunities (52,000) will be filled by people already in the labour market (i.e. people moving from one job to another), but the additional 29,000 roles must be filled from the education system.

The Skills NI Exhibition will feature some of the most prestigious employers, universities and colleges from Great Britain and Northern Ireland who will be showcasing education, apprenticeships and employment opportunities at the two-day event.

The exhibition will feature interactive and inspiring activities, giving advice on everything from job sectors with the most growth to the most relevant areas of study, and most importantly, talking about the ‘soft skills’ required by employers as well as qualifications.

School-leavers can find out about everything from a career in artificial intelligence (AI) to being part of an award-winning team at a five-star hotel or working with some of the province’s biggest employers.

And for those seeking higher or further education or apprenticeships – colleges, universities and professional bodies both here and in Great Britain will be on hand to talk through their many courses, putting young people en route to achieving skills in business or a chosen industry.

Skills Northern Ireland, sponsored by NIE Networks, will take place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on 7th and 8th November from 9.30am – 3pm.

To book a free ticket to visit please visit