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Teens 'wildly inaccurate' at guessing potential earnings, research suggests

Teenagers are “wildly inaccurate” when predicting how much they could earn working in certain sectors, according to a new study.

Research commissioned by the Edge Foundation reveals that young people miscalculate actual earnings by up to 38 per cent, underestimating potential earnings in practical and skills careers while significantly overestimating more "glamorous" industries such as the arts and entertainment.

In 2014, the sector with the highest annual earnings was "electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply". Only one in six teenagers guessed it was even in the top three.

What’s more, they thought average earnings would be around £23,000, nearly £15,000 below the true median figure of £37,922.

At the other end of the spectrum, nearly one in five teenagers (18.6 per cent) thought they could earn big money in the arts, entertainment and recreation. In fact, this was among the worst-paid sectors, with average full-time earnings of £21,603 in 2014.

Parents didn’t fare much better in the research, despite the fact that 44 per cent of teenagers said they were the single biggest influence on their education and future career choices.

The research also reveals that future salaries are now more important than ever to the next generation of workers, with 60 per cent of young people making important career decisions based on their future earning potential.

Jan Hodges, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said: “With the cost of education at an all-time high, future salaries are more important than ever to the majority of teens. But our research highlights a worrying gap in both theirs and their parents’ understanding around earnings.

“A skilled workforce is essential to the UK economy and high-quality vocational routes need to be encouraged – not just for the personal fulfilment they bring but also the lucrative financial opportunities they offer.”

Richard Atkins, president of the Association of Colleges, said it was not surprising that there was a lack of understanding of typical salaries, as young people were being failed by careers advice and guidance.

“It is imperative that young people receive independent high-quality careers advice to help them make some of the most important decisions of their life in choosing a future career path,” he said.

“If we are going to increase the number of young people opting for professional and technical education and choosing apprenticeships then we must improve careers education in schools.”

The research was published to coincide with the opening of nominations for the 2015 VQ Awards, which celebrate vocational achievement.

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Parents showing greater knowledge of vocational routes, survey finds – October 2014

A-level results 2014: Parents not equipped to advise students on next steps – August 2014

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