“Ignoring the process of career development occurring in childhood is similar to a gardener disregarding the quality of the soil in which a garden will be planted.”
The term ‘career related learning’ includes early childhood activities in primary schools designed to give children from an early age a wide range of experiences of, and exposure to, education, transitions and the world of work.
Career-related learning in primary schools is about helping children to understand who they could become and helping them to develop a healthy sense of self that will enable them to reach their full potential. Early interventions can bring a lasting impact on children’s development and perceptions of different occupations, and of the subjects enabling access to them.
In a recent article published by Education and Employers, a review of research in the past 5 years has highlighted the importance of career-related learning in primary and why it is crucial to intervene in primary but with the aim of raising aspirations and broadening horizons.
It appears that children begin to understand the world, and their roles within it, from a younger age than previously thought.. Practitioners however are often fearful of making children ‘grow up too fast’ at such a young age. Yet, many education and career development theorists highlight the formative years of childhood as integral to the overall understanding of the self (‘who am I?’) and opportunity awareness (‘what does the world of work look like?’).
Career-related learning can play an important role in shaping children’s career aspirations in the early years and primary phases. Starting career education early is important. As longitudinal studies have shown, holding biased assumptions and having narrow aspirations can influence the academic effort children exert in certain lessons, the subjects they choose to study, and the jobs they end up pursuing.
It is widely known that children start to develop career aspirations from as early as age 4. Gottfredson highlights that a child’s career thoughts and decisions from a young age involve elimination; by certain ages children begin eliminating potential careers, jobs and interests based on who they perceive themselves to be. These aspirations are then influenced, over time, by children’s experiences both at home and in school as highlighted in the research by Chambers 2018, 
Children’s exposure to jobs when they are young may reinforce gender and other stereotypes, limiting children’s career aspirations from an early age. Robust longitudinal studies have shown that having narrow occupational expectations and aspirations can, and do, go on to influence the academic effort children exert in certain lessons, the subjects they choose to study, and the jobs they end up pursuing. Research has also shown that the jobs children aspire to may be ones that their parents do, their parents’ friends do or that they see on the TV and/or social media.
Career-related learning at a primary school phase should emphasise career exploration over making concrete decisions. It should not be designed in a way that allows children to make premature choices over future careers; rather it should be a process that encourages children to broadly consider a multitude of options that are available, and to not restrict or limit possibilities for their future aspirations.
 Niles, S. G., and Harris-Bowlsbey, J. (2017). Career Development Interventions. (5th ed.). Toronto: Pearson.
Careers and enterprise company What works? Career-related learning in primary schools
 Education and Employers. (2018). Starting early – the importance of career-related learning in primary school. Available from https://www.educationandemployers.org/career-related-primary/ [accessed 30/11/2018]
 Super, D.E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. In Brown, D., and Brooks, L. (Eds.) Career Choice and Development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp.22-35.
 Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., and Pastorelli, C. (2001). Self‐efficacy beliefs as shapers of children’s aspirations and career trajectories. Child Development, 72(2), 187–206.
 Gutman, L. and Akerman, R. (2008). Determinants of Aspirations. London: Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning.
 ducation and Employers. (2018). Starting early – the importance of career-related learning in primary school. Available from https://www.educationandemployers.org/career-related-primary/ [accessed 30/11/2018]
 Gottfredson, L. S. (2002). Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription, compromise, and self creation. In Brown, D., and Brooks, L. (Eds.) Career Choice and Development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey‐Bass, pp. 85‐148.
 chambers, N., Rehill, J., Kashefpakdel, E.T., and Percy, C. (2018). Drawing the Future: Exploring the Career Aspirations of Primary School Children from Around the World. London: Education and Employers
 Kelly, P. (2004). Children’s experiences of mathematics. Research in Mathematics Education, 6(1), 37-57.
 Akerlof, G. A., and Kranton, R. E. (2000). Economics and identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(3), 715-753.
 Kashefpakdel et al., 2019.