By Sharon Davies, CEO, Young Enterprise
Young people have been among the worst affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with one in seven young people in the UK now unemployed, and under-35s making up 80% of jobs lost during the pandemic, according to ONS. With job losses, a depressed jobs market and cancelled exams, the damage to young people’s future prospects has been severe.
Even a short period of unemployment can have a huge impact on young people’s future careers, their mental health and finances. In terms of lost employment prospects and lost earnings, the damage to young people entering the labour market in 2021 is forecast to be around £14.4 billion over the next seven years.
But while it is important for us to be aware of the negative impact of COVID on generation Z, we must be careful not to enforce a negative narrative about young people’s futures. To do this risks creating a fixed mindset of young people when we could be supporting resourcefulness and innovation.
Mindset has become essential for young people throughout COVID, in both how they respond to uncertainty and change, but also how they frame their response to those challenges. Young people have shown immense resourcefulness and resilience over the past year, with research by nfpSynergy reporting an increase in volunteering among this age group since the start of the pandemic.
While jobs might be scarce in the short-term, mindset can be incredibly powerful in shaping futures and encouraging young people to succeed and think beyond the immediate challenge. It is our duty to encourage young people to develop their curiosity, look for opportunities, learn from what works and what doesn’t, and adapt their approach to fast changing environments. We should also support them in developing transferable skills that will be crucial to them securing career opportunities.
We have seen first hand the ways that young people have stepped up and demonstrated a positive and enterprising mindset throughout the COVID crisis. One of our trustees, Mina Karshala, set up a digital print company Cutesy Place during lockdown to occupy her time, whilst also building her enterprise experience in the process. Young people have shown us that ambition and innovation can grow from adversity. Helping young people understand how they have developed and utilised their skills and mindset throughout the pandemic can help them transfer these skills into future settings.
Not just for becoming an entreprepreneur, an enterprising mindset applied to employment can encourage young people to consider new and burgeoning sectors that have grown through the pandemic.
The digital sector for example has experienced a massive boom since the pandemic with over 10% of job vacancies in the UK now in the tech industry. This can be in a range of different roles within a tech a focussed organisation from creative to more practical such as with network security roles with salaries increasing by 69% last year alone.
They can’t do it alone though – we all have a responsibility to make sure that the next generation who embark on their careers have the support and opportunity they need. Talent is not the challenge requiring a response here. Inequality of access to opportunity is. This is why we are urging businesses to partner with civil society, schools and government to build a more supportive ecosystem for young people. From providing work experience, to networking opportunities and mentors in the real world of work, the rewards could be so powerful.
In the past 15 months, young people have shown themselves to be resourceful, entrepreneurial and full of promise. It is now up to all of us to step up and support them over the next 15 months to ensure they have everything they need to develop and grow. Just as we must all do what we can to build forward rather than back, in a new and reimagined way. We can’t afford not to invest in the futures of our next generation.