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How do young people feel about their career preparation?

A joint collaboration between the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF) in 2021 explored the views of young people on the career guidance they had received as part of a wider study on their views on lifelong learning, inclusion, and the green transition. The information was collected through U-Report polls conducted by UNICEF in April and May 2021 with young people aged 15–24 from six countries in Europe and Central Asia, with an average of approximately 8,800 respondents participating in each poll; focus groups, and insights and analysis from previous polls and studies from 19 different countries.

Do young people have enough information and support to navigate school to-work transitions?

Notwithstanding the importance of career guidance and orientation for young people’s transition from school to working life, only a third (33.8%) of the U-Report respondents felt they had enough information to choose their future studies or careers. Participants in focus groups (15 participants (11 females, 6 males) aged 15-24 years from Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Ukraine) were almost unanimous in that schools were not preparing them sufficiently for the future. They expressed the desire for information about different types of jobs and what people do in them.



How prepared do young people feel about their future careers by their schools?

U-Report polls conducted in three countries (Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine) asked young people about the support they received from their schools in preparing them for their future careers. The majority of respondents (56.1%) said they feel their schools have prepared them only ‘a little’ or ‘not at all’ for such opportunities. 




Where do young people get information on career options?

Since most participants did not have access to information about future career options through their school, they turned to the internet. This is reflected in the poll, as the internet and social media were the most popular information source (41.8%), followed by parents/family (27.1%). Only 4.5% of respondents said that they get this information from their teachers.

Social media, including Reddit and TikTok, were valuable sources of information for focus group participants. They could interact directly with other people or institutions, such as people who had a job they were interested in, or universities that could answer questions about their programmes.

Parents and caregivers can sometimes help guide young people towards a future career, but it rarely matches what young people might want. Very few participants had a career counsellor in their school, and while school psychologists were more common, they did not provide much career counselling. Many mentioned that they never considered going to a job centre or public employment agency, as they think they are old-fashioned.



What do young people feel are the biggest obstacles to starting a career?

Focus group participants identified getting their first job as the biggest hurdle to starting a career. Most jobs require practical experience, and even though volunteering can be a way to gain this experience, this does not apply to all types of jobs, such as technical ones, nor can everyone afford to work without pay.

Participants also signalled job shortages as a significant issue in the region, where there are more young people graduating from university than there are jobs available. As a result, getting a job depends on personal or family connections, to which not everyone has access.

What other support would young people like to have?

Creating counselling centres where people can meet with others, network, exchange ideas, and learn from one another was one suggestion as to how governments could help young people. Such places could act as improved job centres where people could make the personal connections needed for a job and receive career advice.


The above is an excerpt from the regional report ‘Building a resilient generation in Europe and Central Asia: Youth views on lifelong learning, inclusion, and the green transition’ which is a joint collaboration between the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF). The full report is available on the ETF website Building a resilient generation in Central Asia and Europe | ETF (europa.eu)

This publication is a continuation of previous work presented in the joint UNICEF/ETF report, Preventing a “Lockdown Generation” in Europe and Central Asia: Building resilient societies with young people in the era of COVID-19

The research was governed by a strict ethical and child safeguarding protocol. The data collection process was fully adolescent- and youth-centred in its approach. Participatory gender- and age- appropriate activities were used in the process of formulating the U-Report questions and for the focus group discussions.