From May of this year, reports and articles started to appear about the looming youth unemployment crisis facing the UK bought about by coronavirus. Concerns from all corners from the Association of Colleges, Unison, Prince’s Trust and alike all forewarned that not only would it impact on those already facing unemployment but, with new school leavers and graduates coming into the market, a lack of jobs particularly in sectors that often give young people their first entry into employment were facing large redundancies and were in crisis.

Unfortunately, the predictions were true and in some cases more shocking. By August 2020, 526,00 aged 16-24 were claiming unemployment benefits – an increase of 124% claims from March 2020. 47% of all workers who were furloughed through the job retention scheme were aged between 16-24.*Common’s library

The impact of this is two-fold…

Firstly, there’s a cost to individuals and particularly their mental health. Reports by the Prince’s Trust have shown that 70% young people who are unemployed for 6 months or more often or always feel anxious. A particular sense of hopelessness and disillusionment is seeping into young people who before the pandemic would have felt ready to change the world and take on the challenges and opportunities presented to them.

Secondly, it’s the talent and succession within businesses that will be lost – the momentum, growing of skills development of the business to grow into the future without young people – if they’re not learning their skills now in entry jobs when will they be ready to provide business value. A gap in their understanding and ability to access the labour market and provide the workforce for the future could diminish.

We know that all is not fair weather for businesses either, the struggles of industries with high numbers of young employees are struggling – the live events industry, hospitality and many others but there are glimmers of hope – they may be small, they may not yet be strong and clear but harnessing and nurturing those small rays is critical.

The government’s new Kickstart scheme whilst in no way the solution, it does enable businesses and young people to begin to work together to strengthen those rays. The scheme enables businesses to develop new ideas, reach new markets, engage risk free with the talent of young people. It supports businesses to employ for 6 months a new employee – take the burden perhaps of the endless requirement for social media presence, support the ongoing growth of a new product that’s emerged through lockdown, bring new perspective and capacity into the workforce.

For young people taking in part in paid work gives them the experience of the workplace, enables them to positively contribute and break the cycle so often heard that they’re struggling to get work because they lack experience due to their age but they can’t get credible experience because they can’t get work. If this scheme can find the sweet spot between supporting business to stabilise and adjust to a ‘new normal’ and provide invaluable supportive experiences for young people we might just begin to strengthen those rays and prevent a lost generation.

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