By Clare Wiley
Many young people think they wouldn’t be able to secure a job in science, new research has revealed.
A survey of 2,500 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK has found that science is considered the most interesting subject area – but six in 10 students feel they don’t have the support to pursue a career in science or medicine.
The survey also showed that young people have altruistic ambitions, with more than half saying they hope to find a job that contributes positively to society.
Science, medicine and medical discovery were ranked in the top five careers that contribute the most to society (alongside teaching, emergency services and allied health professions), But disappointingly, 57% of respondents had never been encouraged to take higher studies or pursue a career in science or medicine.
And despite generation Z being referred to as the ‘selfie generation’, the research also showed that young people would rather find a cure for cancer than become famous. Yet 1 in 5 said they don’t have confidence in their abilities to succeed.
The findings have prompted calls for the industry to do more to support young people, particularly in STEM.
Richard Erwin, UK general manager at medical biotech firm Roche, said: “With heightened post-Brexit anxieties and the shortage of skills in the life sciences sector, it is even more critical that we support the next generation of home-grown talent to ensure that British science remains world class – the future of UK healthcare innovation depends on it.
“We’re excited that young people are passionate about science, share our goal to cure cancer and make a meaningful difference to society. The industry has a duty to address the gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) uptake, including the misconception that you need to have a particular set of skills to pursue a career in this industry.”
The research was announced at the annual GenerationeXt science fair, opened by anthropologist and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, in collaboration with Roche.
Professor Roberts said: “Careers in science and technology are so varied, so creative and offer so much potential to really make a difference to people’s lives. It’s a great shame if young people are turned off by misconceptions about what is really a gloriously diverse range of different subjects and disciplines, by negative stereotypes, and by ideas that science ‘isn’t for them’.”
Reasons for not pursuing a career in science or medicine included feeling that it’s too complicated (31%), not feeling clever enough (22%), not choosing the right core subjects early on (22%) and being told by others that it doesn’t suit their skill set (26%).
The research also revealed the pressures and anxieties felt by young people: a massive 80% of 17-year-olds worry about finding a job in the future. 60% worrying about too much competition and 31% worrying about the impact of the current economic and political climate on their prospects.
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