Youth career choices: a comparative analysis of the aspirations of secondary school students and dancers in training
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This paper presents the findings of the first phase of a broader study into the career aspirations of young people and the attraction and retention drivers for early career employees. Attraction and retention of staff are critical issues globally, and the participation of younger people in employment is a significant area of focus – economically, politically and socially – for Australia. The Australian Government’s 2010 Intergenerational Report highlighted Australia’s declining labour force participation and population ageing as critical issues for the economy. The proportion of the population aged 5 to 24 years has also decreased from 37% in 1970 to an estimated 26% in 2010, placing increasing pressure on workforce participation rates (2010). A qualitative, comparative methodology was utilised to gain a comprehensive and rich insight into the views and career expectations of young people. Focus groups were conducted with two cohorts of young people between the ages of 14-17 years of age: those in full-time secondary schooling and those enrolled in full-time dance training (ballet) undertaking their secondary studies via distance education/remote schooling. A study of young ballet dancers in training provides an excellent background and context for a comparative study into the relationship between career choice and intrinsic rewards. The key areas of enquiry in this phase included the critical career attraction drivers and career choices of this Generation (Generation Z); the reasons for those choices; concerns they have about their career of choice; and their attitudes toward work/life balance in the future.The study findings suggest that whilst there is a difference in the specific foci of commitment (to the career they have chosen) there are similarities regarding their consideration of future work/life balance and the implications for future career choices. It is clear from both cohorts that young people are far more flexible in their career choices and even more fatalistic than their baby boomer counterparts. There is also a strong theme running through all of the focus groups – irrespective of gender, school and educational choice - of wanting to follow their passion. Their desire to follow their passion continued to their thoughts and discussions on career retention levers – as long as they were enjoying their work they would stay. The findings also clearly supported a strong linkage between intrinsic factors and the choice and sustainability of a career. Whilst money was clearly identified as a factor in career choice amongst a number of male respondents in the school based cohort, job satisfaction, feedback and promotion outweighed this in terms of importance. The impact of these findings on employers, and their attraction and reward strategies, are significant. It is also clear that the lack of risk aversion young people have to changing their careers to achieve better work life balance poses challenges for employers to ensure that the significant investment they make in their young employees is returned. A greater insight into the impact of the role of peers, recognition of changing career drivers and needs, as well as igniting that passion for their work, will all lead to a better and more strategic linkage between HR recruitment, selection, work design and development strategies and processes.
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