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Mums know best on careers

Mothers, not careers advisers, are the key influences on job choices, according to a study just published. One result could be that young people continue to regard some jobs as being for the boys or the girls.

The survey, by the Equal Opportunities Commission for Scotland, concluded that young Scots still stereotype manual and vocational occupations. But some of the findings have been challenged by Careers Scotland, which says it is dealing with the problem.

The EOC has none the less called on the Scottish Executive to implement a national strategy to tackle sex segregation in education, training and work.

Its research reported: "Sex stereotyping seems to have been stamped out in the professions - 88 per cent of young people thought that a doctor or headteacher could be male or female - but is in force when it comes to manual trades and vocational occupations. Eighty-two per cent thought working in construction was for men only and 61 per cent thought working in childcare was appropriate for women only."

But Careers Scotland insists it is already taking action. A spokesperson said: "It is clear that young people can make stereotypical assumptions at an early age. Last year, we carried out research to understand why gender stereotypes still exist and how careers advisers and others can use this knowledge to work more effectively with young people."

The findings of that study, said to be the largest of its kind in Scotland, covering 2,000 high school pupils, are being used as part of the "Promoting Positive Career Choice" project, she said. This aims to encourage young people to consider the widest possible range of opportunities. It is being piloted in Edinburgh and West Lothian.

The EOC research, however, which involved more than 300 young people aged 11-15 in Aberdeen, Glasgow, the Highlands and Borders, backs up findings in another of the commission's reports in Scotland, on the modern apprenticeship scheme.

That investigation found there were only four female modern apprentices in Scotland doing plumbing, 98.8 per cent of modern apprentices in construction were male, only 2.4 per cent of engineering apprentices were female and just 1.5 per cent of childcare modern apprentices were male.

The latest report suggests that some secondary pupils are failing to receive the kind of information they need from careers advisers. Rowena Arshad, EOC Scotland commissioner, said: "They revert to traditional job roles and their choice is more likely to be determined by outmoded assumptions about the kind of work men and women can do rather than unbiased, realistic advice."

The report found that 63 per cent of young people were guided in their careers by their mothers and only 5 per cent went to careers advisers.

Barely half - 52 per cent - thought there was enough information available to them about the kinds of jobs they could do when they leave school.

But while the EOC found that 5 per cent of youngsters go to a careers adviser, Careers Scotland's research showed that 44 per cent of the 2,000 S1-S3 pupils who took part had used the services of a careers adviser and 94 per cent of those found it useful.

Earlier this year, a review of Careers Scotland by Tony Watts, visiting professor of career development at Derby University, examined concerns expressed by schools and universities about the Careers Scotland "self-referral" system. Professor Watts warned there was a danger that this "may miss some pupils who are undecided, or who have a declared career goal that is based on little reflection or reality testing".

The EOC report found that girls were more likely to opt for jobs such as hairdressing and nursing. Boys were likely to opt for traditionally male occupations such as joinery, mechanics and plumbing.

Forty-two per cent of girls would go to university, against 21 per cent of boys. Money was more important for boys (68 per cent), whereas "something I enjoy" was more important to girls (66 per cent).

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