65% of 15-year-olds worry about what job they will do as adults

Future First polling shows 75% of 15 year olds feel it would be useful to hear from alumni in working life.

Research by the national education charity Future First has revealed the extent to which young people in Britain worry about their future career with 65% of 15-year-olds saying they ever worry about what job they will do as an adult.

A YouGov online poll for Future First shows even younger children were concerned about their working future with 46% of 11-year-olds answering ‘yes’ when asked, ‘do you ever worry about what job you will get when you are an adult?’ and more than a quarter, 26%, of seven-year-olds answering ‘yes.’1

When asked if ‘people like you’ will be successful in life, the research showed children become increasingly worried about their future success as they progress through the school system with less than half of 15-year-olds, 47%, agreeing ‘people like you’ will be successful compared with 71% of 11-year-olds and 74% of six-year-olds.

The polling also showed that 75% of 15-year-olds, the age many sit GCSEs, 77% of 11-year-olds and 69% of six-year-olds felt it would be helpful to meet former students who could talk about their jobs and career pathways after school help broaden young people’s jobs horizons.

However separate research carried out by Future First through Teacher Tapp looking at how schools engage alumni and the extent to which they did so showed stark differences in alumni engagement between independent and state schools. State school teachers are far less likely to harness the talents of alumni to motivate and inspire current students with 77% of independent secondary school teachers using alumni as relatable role models for current students compared with just 47% of state secondary school teachers. While 67% of independent secondary school teachers used alumni to offer students access to careers and world of work opportunities, only 26% of state secondaries did so.2

The difference was particularly marked when taking into account students’ socio-economic background. Only 28% of teachers based in schools with a high number of Free School Meals students engaged alumni, compared with 49% of teachers in state schools with a lower number of Free School Meal students. Alumni engagement in schools with lower numbers of Free School Meals students still fell short of independent schools where 84% engaged alumni. `

The difference between independent and state secondary school alumni engagement was replicated in primary schools. 81% of primary state school teachers do not engage their alumni compared with a third of independent schools, with only 2% using alumni to offer students access to world of work opportunities compared with 17% of independent primaries.

Future First has worked in more than a thousand state schools and colleges across Britain enabling them to harness the talents and experience of former students to support the current generation with future pathways and career choices and develop the skills needed to succeed in work.

The polling supports Future First’s alumni audit which was circulated to their network of 240,000 volunteers in which 72% of respondents said they would have liked to have met alumni whilst at school or college and agreed it would have benefitted them. One alumnus said, ‘This would have been a good opportunity to ask questions regarding the course I was studying and also potential education and career pathways that could have been available to me.’

Beth Goddard, Director of Programmes at Future First, said, ‘The result of this survey reveals the extent of concerns young people have for their working future, and the lack of relatable role models available for students most in need. There is enormous untapped potential for state schools to harness the support of alumni volunteers to act as mentors and provide access to the world of work. Future First is helping state schools to realise this potential, so that every young person, regardless of their background, is able to access alumni role models to boost aspiration, confidence and motivation.’


1YouGov poll . Total sample size was 1136 children. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 26th June 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children (aged 6 – 15)
2Teacher Tapp. 21 05 2019 . Total sample size was 2,787 teachers and 1,136 young people between 6 and 15.. The survey was carried out online.