Stewart Segal, Chair, Youth Employment UK

Youth Employment Group - Supporting Young People Through the C-19 Crisis 

I think it is now accepted that the group who is most likely to see the impact of Coronavirus is young people who are already in work or now looking for their first or new employment.

Many people will suffer from the downturn in the market, so it is difficult to ask for preferential treatment for some.

However, if we do as much as we can to help those that are most vulnerable the whole of the employment market will benefit so I feel no reticence in hoping that the government will work with employers and sector experts to take early action to avoid the worst of the impact of the downturn on young people.

There are lessons we can learn from how the world has dealt with the virus itself - early detection, recognition of ‘at risk’ groups and fast preventative action.   

Organisations supporting young people recognised that this was a group that often takes the brunt of corrections and downturns in employment markets.

A number of the organisations quickly pooled their knowledge and commitment and created a group called the Youth Employment Group created by groups including Youth Employment UK, Impetus, Princes Trust, Youth Futures and the Institute for Employment Studies.

This group now has tremendous support from many more individuals and organisations within the sector and is opening-up discussions with key decision makers.  The feature of these groups is that they are all committed to reflect the important voice of young people who are the ones that have the real perspective of what this means to them. 

I see the support for young people in three stages:

1. Establish the key issues

The first is to establish the key issues and the real evidence that young people are likely to be affected more than most in this downturn. 

The speed at which the Youth Employment Group has supported a range of research papers is very impressive and there is now a large source of excellent research that shows that young people are working in sectors like hospitality and retail which will be impacted, as well as in entry jobs that may well be the first to be reduced and last to be recruited.

It will be key that any future actions are evidence based and this work will be very important. 

2. Engage with decision makers

The second phase will be engaging with the decision makers in government and employers to establish a range of actions that will prevent the worst impact of the changes rather than waiting for the worst to happen and trying to repair the damage later.

That would be a very expensive solution so investment up front in prevention and early intervention will be a much more effective and financially sensible way forward.  YEUK in conjunction with the C-19 YEG are now reviewing the ways to support young people by involving sector experts and young people themselves who have the direct experience of the impact of C-19. 

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Ideas will no doubt include practical, short and long-term solutions such as: 

  • Government contract flexibilities and funding to encourage apprentices to remain in training and in their jobs 
  • more flexibilities in existing programmes like Traineeships where work experience is difficult to deliver 
  • investment in a range of personal support for young people at or looking for work.   

We hope that organisations like the Departments for Work and Pensions and Education will engage in discussions so that we learn the lessons from the past by co-ordinating and enhancing existing provision rather than create shiny, new programmes that may confuse the already complex system. 

3. Support the delivery of programmes that work

The third stage for YEUK will be supporting the delivery of the programmes that we know can work as long as there is a coordinated approach by the government linked with targeted financial support.

We know the volumes of unemployed young people are inevitably going to rise and we need a real commitment by the government to work closely with the sector with the experience of working through market downturns before. 

What we do know from that experience is that young people will be more likely than the rest of the population to be out of work and for longer unless we really focus on the programmes that work. 

I know that the team and its young ambassadors at Youth Employment UK will be working with the C-19 YEG, its employer partners, government and others to ensure we learn the lessons of the current crisis:

  1. Detect the issue early
  2. Establish ‘at risk’ groups, and
  3. Take preventative action early

Stewart Segal, Chair, Youth Employment UK 

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