By Daniel Hunter

Ahead of the publication of this year’s GCSE results, a survey of pupils studying for — and waiting for — GCSE results shows that many are entrepreneurial, ambitious and driven by a desire to be financially successful.

KPMG questioned nearly 300 14-16 year olds and, when asked about their plans for working life, 70% of respondents confirmed that they have already decided on a career path, with over one in four (27%) stating that they would prefer to run their own company.

However, in a warning to employers, the desire for success at work comes with conditions. For example, for today’s GCSE pupils, obtaining a competitive salary is a post-school priority. Respondents were twice as likely to prioritise good salaries (66%) over helping others (35%) when choosing a career.

Yet this is tempered by a keen understanding that pursuing a career should not come to the detriment of spending time with family and friends. 62% would only pick a career which could accommodate a good work-life balance. Echoing these findings, 14-16 year olds also expect greater employer flexibility, as two thirds stated that the option of working from home or working different hours would determine their choice of employer.

A collegiate atmosphere in the workplace was also singled out as important — but a good relationship with peers is regarded as more essential than one with bosses. 75% asserted that getting on with their colleagues would influence whether they’d stay in a job, yet only 35% said having a good relationship with their managers mattered when working for a company.

The survey suggests that future school leavers are motivated by success rather than society when picking an employer, with just 35% seeming to care that the company they would work for is socially responsible. The top concern of the majority of respondents (77%) is that they should work for the best company for their particular career.

“Differences between the motivations of those from younger generations and those currently working tend to be exaggerated; competitive remuneration continues to matter most," Robert Bolton, partner and co-lead of KPMG’s HR global centre of excellence, commented.

"However, unless employers recognise key differences, such as a rising entrepreneurial energy, they will fail to effectively engage their future employees. In order to attract and retain some of the most talented and ambitious youngsters, employers must harness this entrepreneurial impulse in the workplace by financially rewarding new ideas and explicitly recognising it from a performance management perspective.”

When asked to envisage what the future workforce would look like, teenagers suggest that, while technology will continue to transform the workplace, tech skills will not necessarily be in higher demand. Half (47%) believe that every form of work will be undertaken online yet they think that soft skills, such as communication (44%) and creativity (23%), will be more important than IT skills (20%) in the future workplace.

Worryingly, given ongoing concerns echoed by business groups, today’s school children continue to require convincing that analytical and numerical skills will matter in the future, with only 7% agreeing that these skill sets will be needed by employers in thirty years’ time.

In terms of how technological trends will affect the workplace of the future, teens foresee the end of the dominance of e-mail in the workplace, with 40% thinking that it will disappear within 30 years. In contrast, they believe that video messaging will become more prevalent at work, with two thirds (62%) thinking that services such as Skype will continue to expand. Interestingly, almost half (46%) of the respondents only want to work for a company that has the latest technology, something that may come as a warning to businesses.

“A disconnect between prevailing economic trends and the skills that school leavers believe are in demand continues to persist. 14-16 year olds need help to align their interests and ambitions with economic realities, something they cannot be expected to do on their own," Robert Bolton concluded.

"Schools need to be more proactive in providing students with practical advice, while employers can’t shy away from developing the skills of new joiners, something that require substantial investment and forethought even with the most prepared and mature school leaver.”

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