Can a podcast help young people with their career choice?

Written by Sara Rosengren, STEM Coordinator CSW Group

Deciding what career path to pursue is tough and can be a very daunting process. As a young person, I remember worrying about making the wrong choice, ending up in a job I did not enjoy and being trapped in it until I retired. I worried about wasting time, as time was of the essence. When I was 16, I viewed people at the age of 25 as old. I had a wish to be settled as an adult, with all that it entitled, by my mid-twenties so there really was no time to waste on educational detours. Like many youngsters, I was not extremely confident in my own competence and not even that sure of what my skills were. I did not have much guidance and made a career decision based on what I thoughtrather than what I knew. 

We are all limited to the knowledge we receive, or actively seek out. Young people can get career advice through an array of channels such as teachers, lessons at school, educational fairs, career advisors, and mentors. They can also pick up information through articles, web pages, career quizzes, work experience with a company and so on. However, we know that despite all knowledge received through different external channels, parents and carers are the most significant influencers on young people’s choices, both consciously and unconsciously. It is a parent’s views, experiences and own career that shape the views, experiences, and pathways of their children. In January 2021, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) asked 1,200 parents and carers who were helping their child choosing their next steps about how the process was going. They found that parents generally show unwavering support for their child, with 75% saying they would support whichever option they wanted to pursue. The only issue is the limitation of parental knowledge of career possibilities. We live in a world that is ever changing and the jobs our children will have might not even exist yet. Although someone knows exactly what one person does in their job, someone else with the same title might have a very different job description. Without access to a diversity of real-life career information countless of opportunities for young learners might be missed. 

Events such as educational fairs are valuable because they are packed with keen professionals who want to help young people make an informed career choice and everyone that attends are likely to walk out with a ton of material on different jobs and companies. However, what you rarely get on events like these are personal stories about the journey the employee took to get to the job they have today. Without the individual narrative behind the journey the gap between a young person about to make a choice of where to start off and someone who is well on their way up the career ladder can seem ginormous, even if the gap is not that big in reality. This could potentially discourage a young person before they even try. There is no explicit research on the reason why young people, especially females, are discouraged from entering STEM careers, but having access to relatable role models is likely to have a positive impact on the interest in STEM subjects. 

The South West STEM chats podcast aims to make the personal stories available. The podcast features conversations with a variety of STEM Ambassadors from the South West of England. During the conversation we chat about their career, daily work, their journey to get to where they are and if they wish they had done anything differently. In the podcast we talk to a wide variety of Ambassadors, with an equal variety of jobs and career journeys. So far, we have been speaking to a Managing Director of a Software developing Company, a mechanical Engineer travelling the world with the Royal Marine, an apprentice Nuclear Safety Engineer, and a Climate Projection Scientist to mention some. The STEM Ambassadors that have been interviewed so far have all shared relatable personal experiences about their career journey such as, they wish they would have been nicer to their younger self, they wish they had had more confidence in themselves, and they all agree that they now know that all knowledge is valuable knowledge. The idea with the podcast is to create an audible information resource on STEM careers and jobs that inspire and empower as much as they inform. With the intention of making it equally interesting and relevant for young people, teachers and parents so that the young people can make career choices based on what they know rather than what they think they know and their teachers and parents may support them along their chosen pathway, whatever that may be. 

Listen to our latest STEM chat here or or find it on Spotify or AmazonMusic searching South West STEM Chats.