THE BLOG

Why Plumbing and History Are Not Created Equal

12/11/2014 13:07 GMT | Updated 12/01/2015 10:59 GMT

You're at school and thinking about your next step, but what should you choose?

Student loan debt is scary, but you also worry about finding a job without a degree. Then you have to factor in your parents' opinions. Mum wants you to be a doctor; dad wants you to be an engineer. And you don't want to disappoint the good people who've kept you fed and clothed all these years.

Well if it helps, I can say that you're not alone. Most young people want a guarantee that their education will lead to a good career. And as a result, many turn to their parents for advice.

So what exactly are parents advising their children to do?

Becoming employable

With the Edge Foundation, City & Guilds surveyed more than 3500 parents. We found that parents think vocational qualifications will make a young person more employable than more 'traditional' degrees.

Only 8% thought studying for a history degree at university would make a graduate 'very employable'. Now compare that to 57% for a plumbing qualification. It's a big difference. In fact, plumbing ranked higher than both a law degree (53%) and a science degree (52%).

But does it mean that parents all want their kids to be plumbers?

No, actually. Just 13% of parents want their children to gain a level 3 vocational qualification. Not surprising as 63% said they didn't know much about them.

Clearly, there's a disconnect between what parents think, and what they advise. It's partly because a lot of parents still think university is the best route to a successful career. But it's also because they don't necessarily know about the alternatives to academia.

Bringing opportunities to life

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with studying history or English. Graduates of those subjects can go on to have great careers. The problem is that many young people don't know what other options they have.

For example, this week we're involved in The Skills Show - the UK's largest skills and careers event, which runs between 13-15 November. Young people and parents will have the chance speak to colleges, training providers and employers. They can also try their hand at a load of different skills, from engineering to IT.

Ultimately, young people need to choose the route that best suits them. Parents clearly have a major role to play in that, but they don't have all the information. That's why they should help their children find out more and engage with people that can offer advice.