Primary students targeted in new Government approach for growing NZ’s workforce

The Tertiary Education Commission's launched a new approach to growing the country's workforce by targeting primary students through the Inspiring the Future Aotearoa campaign.

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A new career event is hoping to broaden narrow job aspirations of young people. Source: 1 NEWS

The official launch event was held at Avalon Intermediate in Lower Hutt, with a builder, occupational therapist, cyber security consultant and marine geologist volunteering to talk about their careers.

"I want to encourage my own community - I'm Māori and Pasifika by descent," occupational therapist Karen Williams-Below told 1 News.

The event was created to broaden the narrow job aspirations of young people and to break down gender and societal stereotypes surrounding career choices.

"The research demonstrates very clearly that what kids think about and dream about at the age of seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 is actually highly predictive of what they do in subject choices in high school and in terms of what they might study at tertiary education," Tertiary Education Commission chief executive Tim Fowler said.

The campaign was inspired by Education Minister Chris Hipkins witnessing a similar event overseas.

"We need farmers in schools, we need IT professionals in schools, we need engineers in schools... get in front of kids and start talking about the cool things that you do," Mr Fowler said.

Avalon Intermediate Student Viela Tupou said she wanted to be an orthodontist after watching videos on social media platform TikTok.

"My teeth is really bad and I just wanna fix other people's teeth as well,' Miss Tupou said.

The Tertiary Education Commission carried out a survey of more than 7000 primary students in 2019 which revealed more than half of them saw their chosen career as one of just nine jobs.

At the top of the list was sportsperson, with 17.6 per cent of respondents' choosing the role, in second place was being a vet at 6.3 per cent and being a police officer was the third most popular career at 5.3 per cent.

Being a teacher was voted the fourth most preferred job, just ahead of being a social media influencer.

The commission states that children's hopes don't match what jobs will be available in the future and the results also show an unconscious gender bias.

Boys are nine times more likely than girls to want to work in a trade, and four times more likely to aspire to be an engineer, the commission wrote.

Children in lower decile schools were less likely to want jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths.

The research also showed young people are influenced in their job prospects by the people they know, media and observing others.

Less than one per cent of students heard about the job they were aspiring to do from someone visiting their school to talk about their career.

"We want every school, every primary school and intermediate to be involved in this over a few years," Tertiary Education Commission chief executive Tim Fowler said.

Around 600 adults have signed up to be volunteers that talk about their careers in schools in their city, but thousands more are needed as the programme starts in the rest of the country from term three, Mr Fowler said.