Young adults who looked up to a career-oriented role model when they were in middle or high school are more likely to say that they are satisfied with their career and finances, according to a study published jointly by Gallup and Amazon last week. They were also more likely than those without role models to say their career is fulfilling and that they are established as a professional.
However, young adults from lower-income households were significantly less likely to say they had a role model with a successful career to look up to as a student — at 28%, compared to 84% of young adults from higher-income families who said they had a successful role model growing up.
Overall, 1 in 5 working young adults said they did not have a role model when they were in middle and high school. This highlights the need for more career and technical education opportunities at schools, which could help fill that gap, the report says.
Some 3 in 5 young adults surveyed said they did not have much career education, and almost 1 in 5 said they did not have any at all.
Meanwhile, surveys show that high-schoolers' interest in CTE has increased post-pandemic. A survey released in 2022 found that 22% of teens said they were more likely to attend a CTE college, up 10 percentage points from May 2020.
In recent years, schools have also caught onto the benefits of career-focused education. According to a 2018 study, students in vocational and technical high schools had 21% higher graduation rates than peers at traditional high schools.
Low-income students in those schools also scored slightly higher on standardized tests than their peers.
During the pandemic, schools got creative to continue offering students pathways to CTE. In 2020, Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Hammocks Middle School operated student-run IT help desks remotely, giving students hands-on experience in a potential career interest. The students were also able to pursue CTE certification in high school.
Schools investing in CTE programs should forge strong partnerships with local colleges, trade schools and businesses, according to experts who spoke with K-12 Dive in 2022. Those programs should also be localized according to community labor and workforce needs.
"Numerous jobs with strong potential for growth and high pay are simply overlooked in favor of a relatively small number of familiar and, in some cases, not necessarily promising careers," wrote the authors of the Gallup and Amazon report released Thursday.