Make Learning Choices Based on Jobs Available; the Decisions You Take in School or College Will Always Impact on Later Life. but with the Rising Cost of Higher Education and a Competitive Jobs Market, Wales' Employment and Skills Commissioner Scott Waddington Argues It Is More Important Than Ever That Youngsters Embarking on New Learning Pathways This Autumn Make Intelligent Choices

Article excerpt

THERE was a time when keeping your learning options open as long as possible was regarded as a savvy approach that meant you could cast the career net widely when you finally emerged onto the jobs market.

For example, doing a "general" degree, with no specific career in mind, wasn't seen as a particular problem because of university's inherent value in developing people and aiding their maturity.

Moreover, there was a prevailing confidence back then that any degree would establish a person's intellectual pedigree ans d, as such, was a ready passport to a worthwhile professional or managerial career. Times have changed however.

Not only has the cost of higher education multiplied many times over, but an increasingly sophisticated and competitive jobs market is demanding more specific skill sets and learning backgrounds. That places extra burdens on candidates to offer more relevant qualifications, skills and even work experience.

In other words, there is now less luxury to sit on the fence and more pressure on young people to think ahead, plan ahead and make strategic learning choices based on a clear knowledge of the sort of jobs that are likely to be available in whatever part of the country they want to work.

In more recent years, the experience of many who have pursued higher education without a particular career compass has been that they can face frustrating periods of unemployment or long spells in unfulfilling "non-graduate" jobs with no prospect of clearing their student debt any time soon.

Not only is that a poor return on their own and their family's investment, but it's bad news for an economy in need of high-level skills. This is highlighted by the latest National Skills Audit for Wales in which a quarter of employers reported that at least 50% of their staff are under-employed; in other words, not using their full skill set or qualifications for their current job.

In another study, 65% of Welsh employees complained that their talents were not being fully used in their present employment.

That illustrates why it's increasingly important for young people making educational choices to research the evolving jobs market and take careful note of which sectors and occupations are in demand now - and are likely to be in demand over the next few years.

There is more labour market intelligence and forecasting available now than ever before and this data, which can be accessed readily online, can be a big help in making informed career planning decisions. A quick search on "labour market information Wales" would be a good place to start. …