Column: Sexy v sensible that's the career choices our young people face

Fantastic, I thought when I saw the news that Siemens would be building trains just half an hour up the road from central Doncaster.

Thursday, 8th March 2018, 9:00 am
Doncaster Free Press round Table on Education System Sam Debbage, deputy director of education DRI, David Kessen, Gwyn ap Harri XP School CEO, Clair Mowbray Chief Executive National College High Speed Rail and Kathryn Dixon, Head of Health and Well Being at Doncaster College

The Goole site will create 700 jobs for skilled railway engineers; we’ve the skilled people here and the National Rail College is training the skilled workforce of the future. Siemens - along with a couple of other welcome developemts in the rail industry, the iPort at Rossington (5,000 jobs) and the Hitachi plant (250 jobs) - should be a real boost, not least of all for our youngsters.

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Railway engineering - and warehousing and logistics - is an area where there are real opportunities to earn a decent living in Doncaster, but are young people aware - and, actually, are they bothered?

I say this because lack of proper careers advice was one of the things that young people flagged up in the Doncaster Opportunity Area 2017-2020 report which looks to increase social mobility through education. That may well be an issue and schools probably aren’t resourced to provide detailed advice to every teen,but it could just as well be that typical teenagers don’t want to hear about the “sensible” options, but would rather aim for the “sexy” dream career. So if you pitch dull old railway engineering against, say video games design or fashion styling the outcome is predictable. It was always the case of course; I fancied a glam career as an air hostess - fear of flying notwithstanding - but common sense eventually kicked in. Now, young people are bombarded by “follow your dream” messages on social media backed up by the stream of (carefully curated) idyllic job/lifestyle images. Teachers - and parents - are faced with the dilemma - this often translates to “battle” - of encouraging young people to develop and use their talents and to have aspiration against having realistic goals based on talent, ability or aptitude. It’s a fine line. Sometimes some honesty or tough love is required; I’m forever grateful to the science teacher who disabused me of the notion that physics would be a good A level choice for me, very definitely a non-scientist. Teachers didn’t pussy foot around in those days, I was disappointed but I don’t recall feeling that I was being denied my chance to shine. Sadly, what we have now is youngsters who are constantly chasing the unattainable, whose perceived failure to “live the dream” leads to poor mental health. We need to be realistic with our young people. We need to make sure that bright kids from challenging backgrounds understand that they can be a doctor - and make sure they get the support to get there. We need to spell out the realistic chances of making a living as a lifestyle vlogger. And we need let kids know how they can forge a real future in a “boring” industry.