Young people hardest hit by COVID around job options

·3 min read
Reports of poorer work environments and work security increased by 47%. Photo: Getty Images
Reports of poorer work environments and work security increased by 47%. Photo: Getty Images

Young people, among one of the groups hit hardest by the pandemic, have said the crisis has made it difficult for them to find jobs that they value, new data revealed.

The Institute for Employment Studies spoke to 1,345 young people across the country and found that they want jobs which are stimulating, look after their wellbeing, and allow them to grow.

More than half of respondents (53%) said they want work to be interesting and fulfilling, while many want it to be secure and fairly rewarded, with clear career prospects.

They want inclusive and diverse environments where they feel respected, and where good mental health is supported.

The pandemic has meant many young people have lost out on education and work, with strong negative impacts on their wellbeing, aspirations and prospects.

Around 62% said the pandemic had affected confidence and reports of poorer work environments and work security increased by 47%. 

They cited lack of support, lack of experience and employer attitudes as key barriers to accessing good quality work.

Read more: 'Employment inequality' is adding to UK's dire labour shortage

The report also showed young people do not believe an even playing field exists, as competition in the job market is fierce, qualification requirements have become more stringent, and employers have unrealistic expectations of the extent of experience they can bring, while also treating them as easily replaceable resources.

The country’s youth also feel let down by the quality of careers support they receive. Issues include careers advisers pushing students towards certain educational paths (particularly university) or industry sectors, and providing advice that is too generic.

The report recommends that the government and employers focus on mentorship and employability programmes, school-employer engagement, and tailored careers support.

Giving staff the feeling that they are valued and supported, and that the employer genuinely cares about their wellbeing, is key to whether young people have good experiences of work, the report said.

Another area of concern is mental health. The majority of young people said they often or sometimes experience stress, anxiety, low mood, a lack of motivation and confidence, concerns about income and problems with sleep.

A notable minority sometimes or often experience discrimination, bullying, or harassment.

On the plus side many report of the positive impacts of the pandemic, including prioritising having good work-life balance and placing more value on being paid and treated fairly. 

The pandemic also convinced many to stay in education, either for fear of delaying their learning or to avoid facing the risk of unemployment during lockdowns. They instead have gained qualifications which would give them a head start once they enter work.

There is also a small increase in those reporting good conditions following the pandemic around feeling valued, making good use of skills, having opportunities to progress, and pay.

The report recommends employers work on creating good quality training and work opportunities. It also said improving the quality of careers guidance and support and building systematic education-business engagement will help.

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