Careers Advice for Young People Needs Our Attention

02/09/2015 16:29 BST | Updated 31/08/2016 10:59 BST

Over the past few weeks we have seen a continuous stream of media coverage about the success of young people in this country - record numbers have secured places at universities and more sixteen year olds have passed their GCSEs than ever before. If education results are a barometer of the future potential of the UK's economic development then we are in a strong position. However, alongside these positive results was news from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development demonstrating that over 58% of recent graduates are in jobs deemed to be for non-graduates. For those entering university or starting their careers this summer it is an extremely nerve wracking time - academic success is no longer the guarantee it once was.

Anxiety about future career prospects is unfortunately increasingly common in young people. I was recently at a school in south London, talking to a group of 16-18 year old girls about their futures. After only a few minutes it became apparent that, although excited for the future, the fear of making wrong decisions was of huge concern.

I was also surprised by the low awareness level of the career opportunities available to them. Most were considering traditional degrees which would lead to roles directly related to the subjects they're taking at GSCE level, i.e. medicine, teaching, law, etc; and the majority had limited understanding of other routes they could explore. It struck me that a lack of knowledge about the numerous career opportunities available was, in part, contributing to their anxiety. The fear of failing was made all the greater by the fact they felt they only had a handful of career opportunities.

We cannot afford to ignore this very real gap in young people's knowledge about the wide variety of career opportunities that are available. We need them to know that a psychology degree doesn't just lead to clinical psychology, but opens doors to talent management, risk analysis, client handling, and business consultancy to name just a few. An important aspect of my role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch is exploring how we secure the best talent for the future development of our business. The world of work is constantly evolving and new technologies are changing the way we do business and the very structures of our economies. Anticipating the requirements of our future workforce is therefore incredibly important to our resilience as a business.

Looking at Financial Services in particular, challenges I'm constantly faced with when talking to young people are the stereotypes and preconceptions around careers in this sector. It is inconceivable for many that you can work for a bank without studying maths for example. Yet the vast majority of our employees do not have a mathematical background. In fact, we proactively target people from different backgrounds - from the arts and humanities, to those who are perhaps seeking a new direction or sector such as ex-military personnel or mums returning after a career break. As such, there is a need for us to focus our recruitment and talent development strategy on informing and educating from a young age on the variety of roles companies such as ours can offer.

We recognise that if we want to keep ahead, we need to demystify the preconceptions that surround the world of work. And as responsible employees, it is our duty to help inspire and educate the next generation, so that they can make informed decisions about their futures.