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  • Nearly half of young people in the South West have ambitions to set up their own business during their working life
  • Young people from the region identify financial management skills (43%) as the #skillsthatcount to becoming an entrepreneur
  • Nearly 80% of young people in the South West expect to upskill during their working life due to the changing nature of the job market

 New research into young people’s attitudes towards their future careers has found that 42% of 16-24-year olds based in the South West have the ambition to set up their own business during their working life (compared to 43% nationally), ahead of this Thursday’s A Level results day.

The findings come from a survey of 1,001 16-24-year olds, of which 70 were based in the South West, commissioned by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), and conducted by Survation. AAT is the world’s leading professional body for accounting technicians with 130,000 members globally providing accountancy, tax and business advisory services.

When it comes to accessibility, more than half (56%) of young people in the South West feel that starting their own business is an accessible option for them as a career choice based on their social background (58% nationally).

Asked about what the most important factors are in setting up their own business, having enough money to get started is seen as a major priority (40%). When it comes to the skills required for starting a business, 43% of the young people in the South West surveyed identified financial management skills as the most important skill followed by communication/negotiation skills (35%) and leadership skills (32%).

Looking at the national level, young women in the UK are just as determined as young men to set up their own businesses one day – 42% vs 44%, while almost half (49%) of young people from a lower socio-economic background want to start their own business compared to 46% from a middle socio-economic background and 44% with a higher socio-economic background.

Adam Harper, Director of Strategy and Professional Standards, AAT said: ‘It’s great to see that young people in the South West have the ambition to start their own business irrespective of their background. Despite the prevailing barriers to social mobility, the next generation of workers have an entrepreneurial spirit that supersedes these. With the rise of the gig economy, flexible working environments, SME numbers and digital opportunities, young people are increasingly living in a world where they may view their only limitation as the scale of their own ambition.

‘It’s crucial that we support young people’s ambitions by providing them with the solid foundations and transferable skills they need to succeed in whatever career they choose, particularly when they are looking to start a business themselves. 43% of those in the region who wish to start their own business correctly identified the need for financial management skills as being of great importance. At AAT we equip thousands of people with real-world accounting qualifications which will help them in their chosen industry, from engineering to fashion to football – as every sector needs financial skills.’

Young people believe they’ll have to upskill to prepare for the future job market

Young people in the South West are also willing to consider taking significant steps in order to create the opportunity to be able to work for the brand or company they are passionate about. Nearly half (47%) said they are willing to gain a new qualification such as a degree, while 42% would be prepared to change a career and 32% would undertake an apprenticeship.

With the changing nature of the economy and the rise of automation 78% of the young people surveyed in the region expect that they would have to upskill during their working life. Furthermore 54% of young people in the South West feel it is likely that they will have to re-train over the course of their career in order to retain an advantage in the job market. When asked which skills they believe will be the most important for the future job market 49% of young people from the region believe it is communication skills followed by problem solving skills (38%) and financial management skills (33%).

Young people go against the realities of the gig economy

Surprisingly, despite continued growth in the gig economy and the rate with which individuals are changing jobs, around a third (35%) of the young people from the South West surveyed currently expect to change their job once or twice during their working lifetime, while 17% expect to change their job three times during their working lifetime. Interestingly, 9% of young people from the region believe they will never change the company they work for.

Meanwhile, when it comes to changing career, 1-in-4 expect to change careers twice during their working lifetime (25%), dropping to 12% for those that expect this to happen three times.  Around 1-in-5 (20%) believe they will change career once, with 13% not expecting to change career at all.

Adam Harper continued: ‘Switching career means that people will need to consider the transferrable skills that they have and how they can take them on a new career path. Building a portfolio of different skills, as well as new qualifications and training can help people to make the transition.”

‘A qualification in finance not only prepares young people for the future but unlocks the door to an abundance of career opportunities. Every sector out there needs core financial skills and accountancy, and you are not necessarily tied to working in the finance services industry. AAT’s members work across a broad range of industries across all sectors. For those receiving their A Level results this week, they really do have the world of opportunities at their feet.’

*AAT will be sharing various stories of success stories across all industries, including those who have set up their own business as a result of gaining AAT accounting qualifications, on social media via #skillsthatcount. To find out more about gaining finance skills to work in any industry, visit  aat.org.uk/career-in-finance

**Methodology Note: In determining the social status of the survey sample analysis was undertaken across multiple data points. The social statuses referred to are defined as follows:

  • Low socio-economic background – Education level 1 or 2, income £0-19,999, occupation DE/C2
  • Medium socio-economic background – Education level 3, income £20,000 – £39,000, occupation C1
  • High socio-economic background – Education level 3 or 4, income £40,000+, occupation AB
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