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I work in two distinct careers settings. One is with high-achieving students at the University of London and the other is with clients who often have few qualifications (if any) at a small job club where I volunteer in the evenings.
At the job club we try hard to engage with NEETs (those Not in Education, Employment or Training). We have limited success. The biggest issue I have found with this group is not their low economic status nor lack of decent qualifications, but a major lack of aspiration.
There have been quite a few studies into the link between achievement and aspiration. One of the latest has come from researchers at Queen Mary University of London (Rothon et al., 2011) and it demonstrates a clear association between aspiration and achievement.
educational aspirations had a strong association with actual achievement, remaining associated even after controlling for a number of other variables, including prior achievement