Press release

Why occupations are not chosen

BIBB study emphasises the significance of social recognition

11/2019 | Bonn, 25.03.2019

Why occupations are not chosen

Even if an occupation reflects the activities in which they are interested, many young people will still tend to drop it during the career choice process if insufficient social recognition appears to be on offer. Unfavourable general conditions during training or poor working conditions may be further reasons for excluding occupations which are nonetheless perceived as interesting. This is the main outcome to emerge from a study conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) as part of its “Training orientations” research project. Results are based on a written questionnaire of Year Nine and Year Ten pupils at general secondary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The reason for the study was the problem that many young people face of being left without a training place at the end of the year despite a constant annual rise in the number of places remaining vacant. Vocational orientation provision aimed at expanding the career choice spectrum has achieved only limited success thus far. Occupations in which it is difficult to recruit trainees, such as in the hotel and restaurant sector, in some areas of the craft trades or in nursing, are simply disregarded by many young people.

The BIBB study therefore focused much more on why occupations are not chosen rather than looking in detail at what motivates young people to enter a certain occupation (so-called “attraction factors”). There are clear indications that the non-selection of occupations is directed by different logical processes than those which apply to their selection. Expectation of a lack of social matching is revealed to be a particularly relevant factor in bringing about exclusion of an occupation from the field of possible career options (“aversion factor”). If young people are of the view that a certain occupation will not be well received within their social environment, especially by their parents and circle of friends, then they will dismiss this occupation from their career options. This takes place even in circumstances where the tasks of the occupation correspond to their own professional interests.

Alongside poor social matching and general conditions during training and work which are perceived as being unfavourable—including potential earnings and opportunities for advancement—there are also further reasons why young people will turn their backs on occupations. These include the expectation that it will be difficult to find a training place and an absence of certainty with regard to arriving at a clear assessment of what an occupation will involve.

One of the central inferences of the BIBB study is that vocational orientation services should help young people making career choices to systematically reflect on the esteem and social status afforded by occupations and should take particular account of factors that may lead to rejection rather than merely concentrating on aspects which make occupations attractive.

A consideration of the results leads BIBB President Friedrich Hubert Esser to arrive at the following conclusion with regard to the career finding process and the choice of occupations with recruitment problems. “The BIBB study makes it clear that it is not enough for vocational orientation to try and get across to young people just how interesting the work in these occupations may be by providing them with information on tasks in the various occupations. Young people want more! They use occupations as business cards in their social environment and wish to use their occupation to gain recognition. If occupations fail to deliver this from the point of view of the young people, then this is an alarm signal which constitutes a challenge for us all. If our future aim is to attract young people into occupations with recruitment problems, then we must improve the general conditions and prospects in these occupations.” Professor Esser concluded by stating that there needed to be a simultaneous focus in vocational orientation on strengthening the training market competence of young people. Such an approach would enable them to avoid errors when evaluating their own chances of obtaining a training place.

Further information on the study, which was prepared by Stephanie Matthes as a doctoral thesis.

  • Stephanie Matthes: „Warum werden Berufe nicht gewählt? Die Relevanz von Attraktions- und Aversionsfaktoren in der Berufsfindung“ [Why are occupations not chosen? The relevance of attraction and aversion factors in the career choice process], 2019.  https://www.bibb.de/veroeffentlichungen/de/publication/show/9795“ (German only).

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