We don’t believe we can succeed, say British young people

A new international study has found that, while young people in the UK are more ambitious than many of their European counterparts, they need a boost to their self-belief and determination to turn that ambition into success.

30 March 2011

Posted in Financial results

by Jennifer Chilcott (see media contact)

A new £200,000 awards scheme for 11-18 year olds Ambition AXA Awards is launched today to reward UK talent and achievement in Enterprise, Science, Community, Sport and The Arts.

British youngsters are less competitive than those in other major European countries according to the results of a new international study from AXA.

The Germans and the Spanish show a more ruthless focus on winning, with two thirds of 11-18 years olds there saying they 'like to win', and 'try harder' if they don't. French and Italian youngsters also show a more competitive edge than their British counterparts.

The AXA report highlights a worrying fact that just four in 10 young British people believe they will actually achieve their ambition, even though six in 10 describe themselves as ambitious or very ambitious. Other nationalities surveyed give more optimistic responses about their chances of actually succeeding (France 54 per cent, Germany 53 per cent, Italy 52 per cent and Spain 45 per cent).

A quarter of British youngsters also say they don't care about winning or being the best. One in 20 doesn't feel 'anyone in my life encourages me to be ambitious', but more than two thirds say that parents provide the most important factor in supporting their ambition.
With comparable levels of spending on education and facilities for young people across the five countries, the major difference is in their self-belief and determination to succeed, showing more encouragement and support is needed to turn British children's ambitions into reality.

Sir Alan Steer, a leading behavioural education expert, board director of Ofsted and chairman of theAmbition AXA Awards judging panel comments: "As a nation, we are the best in the world in many areas of the arts, science, enterprise and sport and we are more actively engaged in our communities. We need to boost our young people's self-belief and determination, encourage and reward their talent and potential. Young people in this country are brilliant and we need to fire them up to succeed."

The study was commissioned by AXA UK to mark the launch of the Ambition AXA Awards in which five talented young people could each win a bespoke mentoring prize worth up to £40,000 (a total prize fund of £200,000) in five categories: Enterprise, Science, Community, Sport and The Arts. The winners will be announced on 30 November 2011, after which the judging panel will help the winners to create a development package that will help them to achieve their goals.

Paul Evans, group CEO of AXA UK, commented: "Recognising and rewarding talent is important for UK PLC and something we put great emphasis on at AXA. The Ambition AXA Awards offer an incredible opportunity for five young people to win the chance to change their lives forever and showcase the amazing talents of 11-18 year olds across the country. They will get exactly the kind of guidance and mentoring that could lead to fulfilling their ambitions."

Other key survey findings relating to young people in the UK are:

  • Seven in 10 don't feel it would be important to be rich.
  • Almost half (48 per cent) expect to be more successful than their parents, but this lags the proportions in Spain (75 per cent), Italy (55 per cent) and France (51 per cent). Only 37 of the Germans, however, expect this.
  • Lack of money is a concern for young people, with 53 per cent saying it is the biggest obstacle to achieving their ambitions. Lack of jobs is also seen as a problem.
  • Young people in Britain are leaving it late to decide on a career path - some 39 per cent of 17 -18 year olds say they still don't know what career they want.
  • But having a successful career is the top ambition for more young people in the UK than any other country (16 per cent in the UK, 13 per cent in both Germany and Italy, nine per cent in France and five per cent in Spain).
  • Starting a business is joint-top career choice for 11- 18 year olds in the UK, along with becoming a teacher or world-class sportsperson. One in 10 young people in each case chose these from a long list of possible professions. The next highest choice (one in 20) was to become a top businessman/woman. But just one per cent of UK young people aspire to be the Chief Executive of a major company (the same number as those who want to be Prime Minister). This compares with five per cent of German youngsters, four per cent in France, three per cent in Italy and two per cent in Spain.
  • The biggest ambition for UK children is to be happy - 65 per cent chose happiness as their first or second priority. The figures elsewhere in Europe were: 57 per cent in Spain; 52 per cent in Italy; 51 in France and 48 per cent in Germany.

Sir Alan Steer concluded: "I'm thrilled that AXA is launching these awards and I am proud to be chairman of a panel comprising some of Britain's highest achievers. I ask anyone who knows a young person with outstanding ability and ambition to encourage them to participate in these awards."