Hotelier. Launderette Attendant. Taxi Driver. Short Order Chef. Bank Manager. Tour Operator. Provider of boundless love… and Careers advisor.

In addition to all their other roles parents have a responsibility as respected information providers. Perhaps more than ever before, It seems they are major influencers of the educational and career options considered by their children as they approach adulthood.

But do they really know what they are talking about?

Two recent studies show that parents have an increasing amount of influence over their offspring’s further education and career choices and that, in the majority of cases, their involvement and advice is welcomed.

This may come as a shock. Particularly if your own formative years were coloured by a popular culture which saw rejection of everything parents stood for as a fundamental element of the rite of passage, and essential to build that ‘brave new world’.

However, many parents are simply not aware of the various alternatives to going to university. Neither have they taken on board that there has been a significant shift amongst employers in their attitudes towards, and provision of, school leaver programmes and apprenticeships, which in some instances may prove a better option.

Data taken from the studies can be found below, but for those who prefer the ‘at-a-glance’ approach, here are the main take-outs:

• Parents are ill-equipped to give meaningful advice about alternatives to university – they don’t know what is available and they don’t know where to find it
• More than half of those who do look for alternatives get their advice and insights from teachers at school or employers’ careers events
• A high percentage are narrow-minded and focussed on university as the main (only) route forward…
• Those with children at independent schools are more likely to recommend going to university…
• … as are parents who have a higher educational qualification themselves
• Many who strongly advise going to university NEVER consider alternatives
• Neither school leaver or apprenticeship programmes feature in discussions with the majority of parents regardless of their own education background

What we think:
• Given that there is a real concern over the quality and availability of careers advice in schools, there has to be a better way of ensuring an appropriate flow of information to parents rather than relying on an already overloaded system.

• The newly-established, employer-led careers and enterprise company will hopefully breathe new life into school age careers advice.

• But surely there is a significant opportunity here for employers, whether individually or in sector clusters, to provide factual information and to promote the benefits of their respective schemes. This will not only aid their recruitment effort, but their CSR standing as well.

The surveys and what they tell us

1. Parental influence on children’s academic and employment choices
GTI; December 2014
3,383 participants, comprising:
Undergraduates; recent graduates; parents; employers; careers advisers and related university staff

• Only 7% of the students surveyed felt that their parents had no influence on their key education and careers choices.

• 66% thought that it was the right thing for their parents to do; only 7% thought it was wrong.

• Just 2% said they took no notice of their parents’ wishes when choosing a university, and only 5% when choosing a career or an employer.

• 76% of students were strongly advised to go to university by their parents but in 73% of cases, parents never discussed alternatives to university, such as school leaver programmes or apprenticeships, with them.

• The level of parental encouragement to go to university was higher amongst those being independently educated rather than those attending state schools (82% v 70%).

• Parental influence to go to university was also stronger from those who had themselves gained a higher qualification.

• Just 25% of parents ventured an opinion on, or information about alternatives to university – regardless of whether or not they had a degree themselves.

• 76% of parents don’t know where to look for information and 6% simply Google it

• 63% of parents find out about the alternatives to university from teachers/careers advisors or employer-led careers events.

2. Trendence School Leaver Barometer 2014
7,000 participants, comprising:
Students in years 10-13 from both state and independent schools across England.

• 69% of participants stated that their family had the most influence on their decision about whether to go to university or straight into a job.

• 25% stated that their teachers had been the greatest influence.

Where do they go first for careers advice?
• 76% of respondents to their families
• 46% teachers
• 25% friends
• 16% employers

Regarding advice on university selection…
• 65% looked to their family
• 57% to teachers
• 28% to friends
• 12% to employers.

For apprenticeships – a big change in where the influences come from:
• 48% turned to friends
• 40% to teachers
• 34% to employers
• 14% to family

For advice on jobs – another shift:
• 72% ask teachers
• 34% family
• 28% employers
• 23% friends

Further reading

Parental influence in children’s academic and employment choices
Prepared by Chris Phillips and Emma Newton, GTI Media Research, December 2014

Trendence School Leaver Barometer 2014
Conducted by GTI Media and CASCAID with analysis by trendence UK