Young people expect to change careers twice in lifetime

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HR must find more innovative ways to retain young people, as research shows many plan to switch careers or set up their own business

One in five (23%) young people expect to change careers twice during their working lifetime, according to research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Its survey, of 1,001 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK, found that more than one in 10 (14%) expect to change careers three times and 16% expect to change careers once. Just 16% said they expected to not change career at all during their working life.

However, despite the UK workforce changing jobs at an ever-increasing rate today, one in 10 (9%) young people believe they will never change the company they work for, researchers said.

The research also found that many young people aspire to be their own boss, with more than two-fifths (43%) of 16- to 24-year-olds saying they have ambitions to set up their own business during their working life.

Those from a more disadvantaged background were found to be the most ambitious, with almost half (49%) of young people from a lower socio-economic background saying they want to start their own business. This compared to 46% from a middle socio-economic background and 44% with a higher socio-economic background.

Similarly, gender doesn’t act as a barrier to entrepreneurial ambition, with the findings revealing that young women are just as determined as young men to set up their own business (42% versus 44% respectively).

When asked how prepared they feel for the future workplace, respondents predicted they will need to upskill to remain suitable for jobs. The majority (61%) expect to have to upskill during their working life and 55% believe they will have to retrain over the course of their career in order to retain an advantage in the job market. The key skills young people believe they will need in the future workplace are communication skills (42%), problem-solving skills (35%) and tech skills (31%).

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, told HR magazine he is “not surprised” that young people expect to have multiple careers.

“They are right to say they will change careers at least twice. This is partly because of new technology and AI, which is likely to deskill jobs and make them less satisfying over time,” he said.

“So young people will want to try something different and, for some, this will lead them to want to become an entrepreneur and start their own business.”

HR will need to find new, innovative ways of retaining young employees in order to compete with the lure of starting their own businesses, Cooper added.

“For HR this means if you want to retain young people – in a corporate or public sector body especially – you better make their jobs more interesting and, in a sense, let them develop a micro-entrepreneurial business within your business,” he said.

“You won’t retain them by being process driven which is what a lot of HR is now. So HR faces a challenge to break away from being process driven, to instead find ways to enable people to do something more innovative and creative. This means giving employees opportunities to have experiences both within and outside the organisation.”

Adam Harper, director of strategy and professional standards at AAT, added that businesses need to focus on supporting young people entering employment today. “It’s crucial that we support young people’s ambitions by providing them with the solid foundations and transferable skills they need to succeed in whatever career they choose, particularly when they are looking to start a business themselves,” he said.

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