Gen Z Career Aspirations & the Future of Work

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What do Gen Z aspire to be when they grow up? Social researcher Eliane Miles was recently asked to unpack the latest findings from the Australian Institute on Family Studies on ABC The Drum.

Gender-based career preferences

The research identified there are significant gender differences among Gen Zs aged 14 and 15 when they think about their possible futures. Boys gravitate most towards engineering (14% of those who stated an occupation), information technology (10%), construction (9%), automotive (8%), or sports (6%), while the top five occupations chosen by girls were medical professionals (13%), education professionals (11%), legal (11%), personal services (7%), and performance arts (7%). Just three occupations (health, design, and performance arts) overlapped among both genders when looking at the top ten list.

Girls need more inspiration to move towards STEM

While are naturally career preferences that appeal to each gender (with Eliane’s commentary highlighting that this is strongly linked to parental influence, as shown in our work with the Career Industry Council of Australia), there are challenges that may emerge for women in future-proofing their careers.

We know that Australia’s workforce is at the cusp of significant change. In 2030, the majority of the jobs that we will do (85%, according to Dell Technologies) are not yet invented. Yet 75% of the fastest growing careers require STEM skills – qualifications and skills in science, technology, engineering and maths. As we look across Australia’s educational landscape, just 16% of STEM graduates in our nation are female, highlighting the continuing need to lift the profile of STEM careers for female school-leavers among parents, educators, and media personalities.

Fantasies or a new work order?

There were a disproportionate number of ‘fantasy-type’ occupations listed in the AIFS study, things like ICT (‘games developer’, ‘YouTuber’, and ‘blogger’), sports (professional AFL player), and performing arts (actor, ballet dancer). And, not surprisingly, 41% of young people aged 14 and 15 didn’t have a clue as to what they want to do when they are older.

This uncertainty of the future is to be expected, and not only among Gen Z. In an era of multiple careers, lifelong learning, the gig-economy, in which digital disruption is bringing whole sectors to an end, and new jobs are emerging each year (nanotechnology, virtual reality engineers, user-experience managers, data designers etc.), what will the future of work look like?

Our average length of job tenure is now less than three years, and three in ten workers now work casually or contractually (up from one in ten three decades ago). Today’s school leaver will have multiple jobs (17) across many (5+) careers, and part of their reality on the job is that they will constantly be learning. We all will be. By 2030, workers will be spending at least 30% more time on the job learning.

As the workforce shifts (with 32% of our workforce comprised of Gen Z in a decade’s time), so will our mindsets in regards to careers and the future of work. Yes, Gen Zs will bring idealism and self-assuredness, but they will also bring a new wave of entrepreneurialism that might just be what we need to face disruption and manage change. They, and we all, will need to increase our level of critical thinking, problem solving, and digital skills as we move towards this new reality.

About Eliane Miles

Eliane Miles is a social researcher, business strategist and Director of Research at the internationally recognised McCrindle. From the key demographic transformations such as population growth and the ageing workforce to social trends such as changing household structures and emerging lifestyle expectations, from generational change to the impact of technology, Eliane delivers research based presentations dealing with the big global and national trends. 

If you would like to have Eliane Miles speak at your next event, please feel free to get in touch. 

Download Eliane's full speakers pack here and view her show reel video below.

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