Let’s help close our children’s aspiration gap

The aspiration gap is sometimes described as ‘the gap between the world in which we would like to live, and the world we create through our actions’.

Approximately 6 months into the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK, The Prince’s Trust produced a report highlighting an ‘aspiration gap’ as the pandemic in the UK impacted and continues to impact young people’s ambitions and aspirations.

[1] The information the Prince’s Trust provided is based on research using a sample size of 2000 16-25-year-olds where the figures were weighted and are representative of all 16 to 25-years-old in the UK. The fieldwork has been undertaken very recently, between the 4th and 14th  of September 2020, so we will be interested to see if further similar research is carried out and how this might compare. But right now…

The Prime Minister announced the Lifetime Skills Guarantee [2] on the 29th September as a way of supplying much needed skills via access to vocational working, and he stated that ‘The problem is one of supply – and somehow our post-18 educational system is not working in such a way as to endow people with those skills.’

This guarantee should be welcomed with open arms in the context of this new Prince’s Trust research because it shows that 41% of young people believe that, as a result of the pandemic, their future goals now seem ‘impossible to achieve’ [3]. For children from poorer backgrounds, this rose to 50%. This startling evidence is a real risk to skills improvement because narrow aspirations from learners and lack of information can lead them to make uninformed educational choices, so essentially they gamble with their future.

Importantly though, the inference that post-18 education is the place to start with endowing these skills to our young people is a misnomer because it ignores well-documented evidence that those decisions and aspirations around employment are formed at a much earlier stage and they persist into adulthood. So, essentially we have not yet heard anything about broadening and raising aspirations; we have simply been promised improved intervention.

Abandonment of aspirations for the year ahead stands at 39% according to this latest Prince’s trust research, with a significant increase in that figure to 44% from respondents who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Other findings include:

  • 45% say they will have to take a lower paid job just to ‘make ends meet’.
  • 44% of 16 to 25-year-olds say their aspirations for the future are now lower as a result of the pandemic.
  • 43% of young people say “I expect I’ll never have a job I really love”, and this increases to more than half (55%) for those from poorer backgrounds.
  • 38% feel they will ‘never succeed in life’, and this increases to almost half (48%) of those surveyed from poorer homes.
  • More than one in three young people (35%) believe they will have to give up their dream job ‘for any job’.
  • More than a quarter of young people (28%) believe they will have to ‘take any job I can get’.
  • More than one in ten (11%) say the job or training they were about to start has been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Beyond the need to significantly improve careers advice and guidance services in school and colleges is the need to expose a young person to relatable role models, with whom children can identify socially and whose stories produce vicarious experience, through which emotions strong enough to spur them on to make changes and aim high are produced. Raising aspirations as early as primary school and carrying this into adolescence and beyond can be achieved by providing interventions for children via initiatives such as the Automotive 30% Club Inspiration for Innovation Network. Through such initiatives, the power of identifying with a ‘real model’ professional in the classroom, workplace or online (as is the current situation), is a magnetic force for unleashing the motivational power of aspiration, which in turn will lead to improved routes to success for those young people.

Yes, the figures above are quite disturbing, and as forward-thinking adults, we should be asking how we can I help our children look beyond the pandemic at the opportunities that will exist for them in future and where they can get the support they need to pull them through, what is for this age group, a tumultuous time enough without the added pressures of Covid-19. If you want to step up and be involved with that, we can support a school that you may have connections with by providing our Inspiration for Innovation activities into the classroom virtually. We can bring motivational personal stories, essential skills information and more, delivered for free with the kind support of our Patron member and Inspiration for Innovation sponsor CDK Global and our partner MEPC Silverstone Park. Simply email Danielle@automotive30%club with the school name and I’ll get back to you asap. 


Article by – Danielle Humphreys, Inspiration for Innovation Network Manager


[1] https://www.educationandemployers.org/research/the-aspiration-gap/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-skills-speech-29-september-2020

[3] https://www.educationandemployers.org/research/the-lifetime-skills-guarantee-choosing-or-gambling/

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