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Any self-respecting Dragon’s Den pitch opens with a whopper of a *market size* statement:

“…the UK fashion industry is worth an estimated £15billion…”

“…did you know? An elastic-based product is bought by 17 people every second…”

“…globally last year, ‘productivity’ mobile apps earned more revenue than Kellog’s Rice Crispies did in Scotland alone!…”

All of which conclude, of course, with the obligatory “…and if our new product could claim just 1% of that market, we’d all be miwlyonaires.”

The jump from pie-in-the-sky total market size to infinitesimally tiny business solution can seem absurd. But the Dragons know that such ‘macro’ knowledge provides a key starting point when assessing

But wiley Dragons know that such ‘macro’ knowledge provides a key starting point when assessing viability of success. Clearly, the solution has to be as good as it can be, but if there’s no market there to start with – or if that market is clearly shrinking – you may find yourself paddling upstream.

What’s The ‘Market Size’ Of Your Career Path?

I think there’s a strong case, then, for applying the same logic to careers. Why shouldn’t everyone embarking on their tumultuous start to working life know the facts about what work is out there? Where the glut of jobs are, which industries are growing or shrinking, and how educational choices might turn out in career reality?

Certainly, why shouldn’t students know the facts about what’s ahead, considering investment in higher education can now stretch to Dragon-sized sums in the £1000’s.

Instead, scores of students are gladly accepted onto educational paths which – when you look at the facts – plainly cannot lead to work for the majority. Worse, many educational institutions paint an over-inflated picture of the pot of gold at the end of their training path.

We simply can’t all be fashion designers, or journalists, or work in digital marketing – the career of all careers 😉

On the flipside, new industries are booming, yet are frustrated by dire shortages of trained and ambitious new talent. Tech, sciences, social care, education and other industries are queuing up to offer opportunities for qualified applicants.

Can’t we be a bit clearer in communicating these needs at a time when it really matters, when students are making the big important choices?

Quick Caveat: Let’s Not Treat People As Worker Bees…

OK – admittedly – there’s a definite issue here when you take the argument to its logical conclusion. In the world of Futurama, the year 3000, citizens are ‘chipped’ for life, their career trajectory assigned and irreversible.

Clearly, a bit of flex is always going to be desirable. Things change. We’re only human. If the day comes when we’re all just treated as another cog in the labour machine, things have gone a bit awry.

I’m sure, too, that our lovely Government and education system does their level best to nudge students onto high-value paths, affording financial incentives for science routes, for example, as well as running advertising campaigns and building career advice networks.

But they’ve clearly cut back drastically on career advice, with most secondary schools now offering minimal guidance services. By the time you’re at university, career advice is coming too late for many paths.

Personally, I’m a fan of making facts as plain and available as possible, and letting individuals make up their own minds based on real knowledge.

The Facts: UK Workforce Jobs By Industry

In that spirit, then, I’ve picked a few choice bits of data from the Government’s Office of National Statistics website to create the below graph. It breaks down jobs by industry, as a percentage, showing the change from 1996 – 2016:

Key trends:

  • The lion’s share of jobs in the UK are found in Wholesale & Retail and Healthcare, accounting for around 27% between them. The NHS, of course, is the country’s largest employer.
  • Professional, scientific, technical (highly specialist) and the accompanying administrative support (moderately specialist) provide a further 17% or so.
  • Education adds a further 9%, and is rising as we all learn longer and get gooder levels of tuition.
  • The most dramatic shift from 1996 to 2016 has been the seismic collapse of the UK’s manufacturing industries, almost halving in 20 years. It’s an impact that’s been felt across the country, with some areas truly blighted by resulting unemployment.
  • There are rising industries across the board, largely in medium- or high-skilled professional roles requiring higher education. These jobs cater for our increasingly comfortable lifestyles, providing: technology, social care, arts, lifestyle.
  • Aspiring quarry miners may be sorely disappointed to find a market inexorably stacked against them. (Perhaps for these lost souls, Mongolia may offer brighter futures.)

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