Insights for employers

Back to articles

Young people value the importance of connections to get ahead

9 November, 2020

Three quarters of teenagers believe that knowing the right people is crucial for getting on in life, according to new research by The Sutton Trust.

Ahead of A-level results day The Sutton Trust polled 2,000 11-16 year-olds to understand their priorities as they move into further or higher education and towards their career.

When asked about the factors that are important to help people do well and get on in life, 75% named knowing the right people  – ahead of 65% who named going to university.

Bright Network’s own research among 5,000 undergraduate and graduates echoes this to some extent. When we asked our members what they most need to learn or upskill before entering their career, networking skills came out on top – named as most important by 47%. Another question asked: ‘what’s the biggest barrier to pursuing any career path you wish?’ We found that 19% of our members named a lack of network or contacts as the second biggest barrier, behind a lack of experience. This figure rises to 20% for state-educated students and those from a BAME background.

The Sutton Trust research reveals that university is still considered important by almost two thirds of young people, although this has fallen from a high of 86% in 2013. Some of the shift could be down to concerns about the cost associated with university, although only 40% of the 11-16 year olds polled said they’re worried about this. In fact more than half of our student and graduate members say their time at university is good value for money.

The research also highlights a key social mobility challenge, as it reveals marked differences in attitude between young people with different socio-economic backgrounds. Those from the least affluent families are less likely to go into higher education, less likely to think attending university is important and are more likely to be put off by the cost.

The rise of apprenticeships as an option may also play a contributing factor. 47% of the 11-16 group polled say their school has provided information about apprenticeships, compared to 41% of the slightly older group surveyed in our own research.

Peter Lampl said:

“Young people face a dilemma. If they go on to university, they incur debts and in many cases will end up with degrees that don’t get them into graduate jobs. Young people need better advice and guidance on where different degrees and apprenticeships could lead them, so they can make the right decision regarding their future.”

Bright Network CEO and Founder James Uffindell said:

“It’s true that personal and professional connections can have an impact on one’s career. I started Bright Network to give young people – regardless of their background, parents’ careers or family connections – access to the network, insights and help to discover the best career route. Whether university is the right option for you or not, having all the tools to make an informed choice is key and should be open to every young person.

As well as providing our members access to great opportunities and tailored advice,  we encourage them to network both with their peers and potential employers. You never know where a contact will take you in your career journey.”