How occupation names influence choice of training

When searching for training, young people largely focus on the most common jobs. Yet jobs which are less well known or sound unattractive to begin with, may well also be appropriate. But how do you find these occupations?

Wellness, fitness, healthy diet – on Instagram and Youtube, these are hugely popular topics which a lot of young people are interested in. So, how about these as areas for employment?

The name of the appropriate vocational education and training which covers precisely these aspects is "Dietitian". This often sounds less appealing to young people.

But how much do such names really influence the choice of occupation – and is that really so bad? "My experience from working in career guidance is that young people really have very little idea about many occupations," explains Sarah Müller, careers advisor at the Federal Employment Agency in Bremen.

Many therefore tend to go by why what they know from their family, what they've already heard of, or what they can explain themselves. This creates a recurring pattern: "Girls still want to work in commercial occupations," explains Müller. Training as a medical or dental assistant or in the occupational field of nursing also fall into this pattern.

She explains that boys also opt for commercial occupations, but mainly something in the skilled trades, like motor vehicle mechatronics technician or joiner.

Don't miss out on opportunities when selecting an occupation

Very few are aware that by doing this they may be missing out on a chance to apply their potential in less familiar occupations. "Occupations which young people have very little idea about or which sound unattractive are often ruled out in advance or no longer considered," explains Monika Hackel from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), adding that this applies even when the activities involved would be right for them. The advertising role played by the occupation name when choosing an occupation should not be underestimated.

Careers guidance free from stereotypes

This presents a problem for many employers. Some sectors are responding with more targeted communication and major campaigns aimed at new recruits. At the Central Association of the Electrical Engineering and Electronics Industry (ZVEI), André John is the spokesperson, for example, for the occupation of IT system electronics technician – which has always been a male-dominated occupation. John makes the case in general for more careers guidance in schools. Engineering occupations are not even considered by many women. However, if engineering were to feature in classroom teaching, then they may well feel more drawn to this.

But wouldn't it help to give some training courses names which were more attractive or clearer? This is being considered in some professional associations. For example, even at the end of the 1990s, BIBB identified that significantly more women would have applied for the positions of "Media designer for images and sound; Media designer of digital and print media" than for the predecessor occupations of typesetter and typescript editor.

André John, however, warns against naming an occupation for marketing purposes only. "Everything must be right for the system as a whole and must mean something."

Seeing career pathways in their context, and questioning these

So, essentially, for young people it really comes down to finding out what training exists in the first place, and what really lies behind the descriptions.

Careers advisor Sarah Müller recommends that young people pay more attention, day to day, to what people in their environments do professionally, and actively try to discuss this with family, friends and acquaintances. "Young people might question: what did my parents train in or study, and what work are they doing today? What work does my aunt, my cousin and my neighbour do?"

Also actively observing the occupational groups you come into contact with on a daily basis – such as sales assistants, bank employees, tram drivers, doctor's staff – might open your eyes to new or unfamiliar occupational fields.

"After observing more closely, many young people may at least be able to name occupation areas which they find interesting," explains Müller. Placements, girls' and boys' days or trade fair visits, for example, would then be ideal for finding out more about occupations and the work they involve.

Source: (German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau), revised by iMOVE, August 2021