Child and youth voice research findings

Drawing the Future: Exploring the career aspirations of New Zealand children and the influences that shape them

Author: Tertiary Education Commission

This 2020 report presents findings from Drawing the Future, a research project that explores career aspirations.   Children aged 7 to 13 in every primary and intermediate school in New Zealand were invited to draw ‘what they wanted to be when they grow up’ and answer some supplementary questions. Over 7,700 responses were received, resulting in a large sample broadly representative of the New Zealand population in this age range.

The research found that:

  • New Zealand children’s aspirations include a broad range of occupations (over 100) but tend to cluster around a few most popular roles.
  • Just over a third of New Zealand children knew someone in the role they aspired to, and this person was most commonly a family member.
  • Children who did not know anyone in the role they aspired to were most likely to know about the role through media or seeing someone in person in that role.
  • Less than 1% knew about their chosen role through an in-school volunteer from the world of work.
  • Children cited enjoyment as a primary reason for why they wanted to do their chosen role, with helping others and financial motivations also given

The report identifies the following key themes:

  • Unconscious bias caused by a child’s race, gender and socio-economic status can have an early effect on career choice
  • This bias can affect the choices made later in life, such as subjects studied at secondary school and training or education pursued after graduation.
  • Children’s aspirations do not tend to map on to predicted areas of future labour market demand, suggesting an opportunity for awareness-raising activities to shape the future workforce
  • We need to engage our children in a wider range of occupations if New Zealand is to thrive, and future generations are to enjoy satisfying, lifelong careers.

Read the full report, which also includes a literature review

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