Youth dream big, but lack guidance

Students of Babesa Secondary School in Thimphu. Photo: UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo

Ambition. Independent. Success. Happiness. These are the aspirations of our youth. The goalpost is in sight, but scoring the perfect goal looks daunting. They are lingering and lost in the career desert.

These are some of our observations from the past one year of studying the needs of our youths. We met youths from major towns like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Wangdue. We listened to their stories through the deep learning sessions. Almost 30 youths participated in these sessions and all of them were full of zeal and desperate to speak out their concerns.

We observed that they sought support from people in their immediate network on matters related to relations, career, family, study and others. Friends, parents, elder siblings, close relatives, and teachers usually formed their guidance group. Many of the respondents felt comfortable talking to their friends. We also observed that many of the children and youth in rural areas came from broken families and they have limited role models to look up to.

What we learnt was that youths who had access to any form of guidance early on in life had a better chance of overcoming difficulties and challenges later in their lives. The so-called preferred mentors of youths had incomplete information and knowledge on job prospects, limiting children’s career choices. It was eye-opening to know that certain sections of the society are either not aware of counseling services or hesitate to reach out. Youths also find it challenging to confide in counselors due to fear of confidentiality breach.

It’s clear that our young people need proper guidance on career options. And this is exactly what the newly instituted unit for Information and Career Guidance under the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources seeks to do. Together with UNDP Bhutan Accelerator Lab, the unit is exploring the career counseling and mentorship space to set some direction and the north star.

To further validate our observations, we did a rapid survey using multiples online platforms, such as email, WhatsApp and Telegram groups. An overwhelming 2000 plus youths took part. The survey sought answers to the following key questions:

Career aspiration/choice by age (teens, >20 years, >30 years), gender, qualification

Awareness on the career guidance materials by age and qualification

Awareness on skills required/career pathways for the aspirations

List of “Go to person” by age, gender, and qualification so that we can later equip and include these persons as part of the career counselor

Type of question respondents would like to ask to the “Go to person” by qualification and age

Preference on mode of career guidance by qualification

The rapid assessment provided us with interesting insights. 95.9 percent of the respondents were teenagers. Conventional career aspirations of becoming a doctor, teacher, engineer, pilot, businessperson still exist. But there are many who are looking at moving away from the traditional career options and paths. For instance, some want to be footballer, while others are thinking of becoming chefs. Other options include gamer, YouTuber, singer, painter, astronaut, software designers, coder, bartender, animator, Zorig teacher, choreographer, DeSuup and dancer. And some want to be a happy person, good speakers, valued citizen and helpful son. They think science courses, communication and leadership skills, and hard work are key to achieving their career goals.

Similar to earlier findings, parents, teachers, siblings and friends topped the list as “go to person” for career guidance. Some of the respondents turned to internet, coaches, shop owners and seniors in their network for guidance. Respondents expect a career counselor to guide and motivate them during interviews, provide psychological support, help solve problems, provide awareness on career challenges, give constructive feedback and help locate resources, information and sources related to individual goal and aspiration. Honesty, loyalty, trust, genuine and non-judgmental were some of the qualities expected from a career counselor.

Check out survey findings here: https://datastudio.google.com/reporting/04aa06de-5745-44ae-a247-0e5dbff84043/page/DjD

What Next?

The team intends to keep the survey live to include views and opinions from recent class 10 and12 graduates. Views from job seekers attending the fifth GOWA will also be incorporated. GOWA is a platform that connects talents with the labour market. This will help in sourcing ideas from a wider audience. Insights generated from the rapid assessment will inform strategic documents.

Contributed by Kunzang Wangmo, Head of Experimentation and Sonam Choki, Youth Co-lab, UNDP Bhutan and Tshering Choki and Tshering Yangki, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

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