From education to employment

Two thirds of young people say Covid-19 has made it harder to find decent jobs with three quarters struggling with stress at work

Largest independent, UK-wide survey of the impacts of Covid-19 on youth employment finds that despite falls in unemployment, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen significant deteriorations in working conditions, access to training and mental health for young people

New research published today (24 Nov) by the Institute for Employment Studies details the struggle that young jobseekers are facing in the post-lockdown labour market.  

Young people were among the hardest hit groups in the Covid-19 crisis, seeing the largest falls in employment, disruption to education and continued negative impacts on their mental health, aspirations and future prospects.

Key findings include:

  • Three quarters of young people are struggling with stress at work, 57 per cent agree that their mental health has had an impact on their ability to access good quality work and over a third, 36 per cent, reference their physical health having a similar impact on their ability to access good work.
  • There are many more young people (approximately +35 to +45 per cent) reporting poor working conditions after the pandemic compared to before Covid-19 in respect of their work environment, job security, number of hours, impact on mental and physical health, and work-life balance.
  • 62 per cent of young people feel that the pandemic has had a negative effect on their confidence and made it harder to find decent work. 46 per cent say it has negatively affected how they value the quality of work.
  • Nearly a quarter of young people reported experiences of discrimination at work (22 per cent), with 18 per cent experiencing bullying and 16 per cent experiencing harassment.
  • Young people expressed that health conditions as well as disabilities were barriers both in terms of confidence and motivation, and in terms of employer attitudes.
  • Young people felt careers services were often under-resourced, with a single adviser for a large number of students or short sessions which felt rushed and could not address the specific needs of students.
  • There is a keen interest to learn more about vocational routes – over a third of young people thought support accessed through vocational routes such as apprenticeships (42 per cent) and traineeships (33 per cent) was very useful.

The report, ‘Not just any jobs, good jobs!’ forms part of the forthcoming Health Foundation’s ‘Young People’s Future Health Inquiry’ and draws together findings from interviews with 1,345 young people across the four UK nations.

It takes a youth-centred approach to explore young people’s perspectives on what good quality work and support mean to them, the enablers and barriers they encounter, the quality of their experiences in work, and the impact of the pandemic on their perceptions and experiences of work.

Report author Cristiana Orlando said:

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is essential that the recovery has good and fair work for young people at its heart.

“Two thirds of young people feel less confident about accessing good quality work, around half now place less value on the quality of work and they are also reporting worsened working conditions after Covid.

“This sits alongside findings showing over half feel their mental health impacts their ability to access good quality work, and a third say so about their physical health.

“These findings highlight a real risk that the pre-pandemic trend of the worsening quality of youth employment and challenges in accessing good jobs will become further entrenched; and it is the duty of those supporting them, from government, to education, employers, and support services to provide it.”

Cara Leavey, Policy and Programme Officer, The Health Foundation said:

“Today’s new report from the Institute for Employment Studies presents a concerning picture of young people’s experiences in the labour market, with many of the long-term challenges experienced by young people exacerbated by the pandemic.

“With 57% of young people agreeing that their mental health has had an impact on their ability to access good quality work, it’s clear that their health must be considered as part of any policy solution for a fairer, more equitable labour market.

“The Health Foundation is pleased to support this work as part of its Young people’s future health inquiry, and to support the Institute for Employment Studies in putting young people at the heart of the policymaking agenda.”

The report sets out five key areas for government, education, employers and employment services to support young people’s jobs and skills. These include:

Creating good quality training and work opportunities needs to be prioritised

Young people from all backgrounds and in all sectors of work have a right to good quality work. This can be achieved thorough strengthening employment regulation, investing in good quality jobs (including through levelling up and net zero transition plans), supporting a culture shift among employers and making ‘best practice’ central to partnership approaches.

Young people deserve better support to enter the world of work

All young people should have the right to high quality, individualised support, tailored to their needs and aspirations, and to accessible information. There are five areas for action to support this: Improving the quality of careers guidance and support, investing in enhanced forms of support, extending eligibility for the DWP Youth Offer, repurposing and promoting national careers service offers and building systematic education-business engagement.

Increasing support for the 16-18 age group

Young people in this age group face challenges both in accessing good quality work and good quality support, and particularly those aged 17 and 18 still show a relatively high propensity to leave education without securing a high-quality destination. There are three areas of action to support this: Developing an enhanced 16-18 support offer, improving access to vocational routes and increasing young people’s awareness of their rights and responsibilities.

Investment in place-based approaches needs to be scaled up

Local areas are best placed to understand the socio-economic, labour market, educational, and partnership context in the places where young people live – and can provide tailored and individualised support as a result. They should therefore play a key role in developing strategies for better access to good quality youth employment.  There are three areas of action to support this: Supporting local businesses to employ young people, supporting young people to enter local businesses and investing in local transport and digital infrastructure.

Improving mental health support and literacy

It is imperative that those supporting young people, from schools to employers, are equipped with the knowledge, tools and resources to help them look after their mental health. There are four areas of action to support this:  Supporting young people to build confidence and resilience, supporting employers to develop mental health literacy, developing robust support pathways and normalising mental health.

Methodology: The survey was with a representative sample of over 1,345 people aged 16-24, making it the largest representative survey of young people and employment since the onset of the Covid pandemic.  The survey was conducted over two waves either side of the summer, with two thirds of the respondents in September, since the restrictions eased and employment started to recover.

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