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Employers stepping up to support young people #LearninginLockdown

John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company

Over the last three years, employers have supported young people’s careers aspirations in greater levels than ever before.

It was only two months ago that we reported that eighty percent of secondary schools and colleges pupils now benefit from engaging with employers at least once a year. Two thirds are gaining from regular work experience.

Through a concerted effort of schools, colleges and employers, the gap in making sure every single young person benefited from experiences with employers fell from 1.2 million to 700,000 young people in just eighteen months.

This still highlighted a lot of work to do. But with the trajectory clear, there was an expectation amongst employers and educators alike that this would be met in the next couple of years.

Turning to the recovery

We released that report in January, which now seems like an age ago. The effects of Covid-19 are so all consuming that at times, it feels irresponsible to focus on anything but the preservation of life. However, whilst we are still firmly in the grip of the battle with the virus, those who can should cast some attention to the recovery efforts.

This is our concern. The perspective of young people must not be lost within this. The education debate has understandably focused heavily upon the pressing concerns regarding qualifications in the absence of examinations, safeguarding and home-schooling arrangements.

But we must also make the transitions that young people were intending to make into further and higher education, employment or apprenticeships a priority. Young people will take these steps in perhaps the most difficult labour market conditions in living memory.

Impacts last for 20 years

Evidence from previous recessions shows that the impact can last for years. Research in the US shows that graduates who enter the jobs market in a recession earn less for more than a decade. And UK evidence shows young people who experiencing prolonged unemployment are still feeling the affect in their wage packet 20 years later.

It is more critical than ever that these young people benefit from the regular support from employers that they were starting to enjoy before the lock-down.

We’ve been amazed at the impressive response of the employers that we work closely with. Two-hundred major businesses – our ‘Cornerstone employers’ – are focused in geographical areas of need. And three thousand individual volunteer Enterprise Advisers support schools and colleges with the development of their careers programmes.

Virtual activity is thriving

Virtual meetings have continued at pace, with strong attendance and continual offers of support. At short notice, our Cornerstone Employers have successfully converted to the virtual world – whether that is construction firms like Morgan Sindall and Willmott Dixon taking part in #learninginlockdown to offer virtual work experience placements, or Rolls Royce and the Scouts creating STEM themed ‘The Great Indoors’ to promote physical and emotional well-being.

Our Cornerstones in Ipswich – including BT, Ipswich Town FC, Suffolk County Council, the Ipswich Building Society – are offering virtual tours of their workplaces for young people.

And our ‘Work It’ series of short films, starting this week, showcase the experiences of new entrants to the workplace, to inspire the next generation. We continue to recruit new Enterprise Advisers, assisting schools and colleges to improve their careers support.

And it’s positive to see that – while no one doubts providers are facing huge challenges – 80% of apprentices are continue to receive training despite the lockdown. The speed with which providers switched to virtual provision almost overnight has to be admired.

A profound challenge

We know that the task to close the gap so all young people to benefit from this approach is now going to be more profound than ever. We understand the challenges that UK plc is facing and will continue to face in the months ahead.

Enabling significantly increased numbers of young people to see the workplaces of their futures, particularly in areas of disadvantage, has been one of the great developments in talent pipeline management in years.

This must continue for the sake of the rebuild efforts. As an organisation, we will support employers and make it as easy as possible for them to connect with education to enable this critical work to continue.

John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company

John was previously chief executive at Futures Management Group, and director of economic development and skills and learning at Nottingham City Council.

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