From education to employment

‘Disconnected and disaffected’ young people torn between fight or flight: Youth Voice Census 2023

‘Disconnected and disaffected’ young people torn between fight or flight: Youth Voice Census 2023

Pressures including the pandemic, educational disruption and last year’s mental health crisis have left young people opting out, with a growing sense of ‘them and us’.

Over 4,000 young people aged 11-30 took part in the Youth Voice Census, an annual temperature check on how young people feel about their life, study, work and general prospects. The full report will launch 18th September 2023.

Key findings:

Young people are feeling disconnected from where they live with increasing concerns of what their futures might hold:

Where they live:

  • Only 12.4% of young people think quality opportunities are
  • available where they live
  • 4 in 10 young people do not feel safe where they live
  • 3 in 10 feel unsafe within their learning environment
  • Only 3 in 10 young people have a role model
  • Parents are 40% more likely to be the main providers of all support including specialist mental and physical healthcare.

Where they study:

  • 55.1% of young people in education said their learning had been disrupted
  • 42.9% of young people have changed their study choices in the last year

Looking for work:

  • 51.6% of young people currently in work changed their career plans and choices in the last 12 months
  • 10% of employed young people have been suffering from depression

Disconnected and disaffected

2023 saw disruption and uncertainty for young people stuck in the middle of a cost of living crisis driving fear and competition for services, support and opportunities. Disconnected from their peers, young people are either fighting for opportunities they have no confidence in their ability to get, and it is leading them to shy away from their next steps.

The challenge of over-stretched resources is being felt keenly by all young people. Nearly 90% of over 4,000 respondents said there are simply not enough opportunities for them, either where they live or further afield. Those who have transitioned out of education since Covid-19 feel overwhelmed by a perceived lack of support. Young people who are in work are struggling under more intense workloads, stress and pressure, with 1 in 10 saying they are suffering from depression.

Change and uncertainty are the new normal

The report indicates that young people don’t feel at liberty to settle into a clear path of progression. Over half of young people in work have changed their career plans in the last year, and just under half of those in education have changed their study choices.

Since the pandemic, young people have seen political, environmental and economic challenges stack up. They now appear to feel less able to make choices according to personal goals or drives. Self-belief, confidence and motivation are the skills they feel least confident in, and a worrying third of young people do not feel they have these skills at all.

Young people starved of optimism are making employment, study and training choices based on what they can get, what they can afford, what is safe to access and what is accessible – or they are opting out, with a growing sense of disenfranchisement and general mistrust.

Structured support in education and employment is well-received by young people… when it’s available.

Positive notes struck in the 2023 Census findings included a clear increase in careers and education experiences such as careers fairs, mentoring and employer school visits for young people in secondary schools. In 2023, young people were more likely to rate the support offered by their school as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

In addition, young people were more frequently hearing about apprenticeship opportunities, heading towards more parity with university discussions than previously. Young people in apprenticeships were some of the happiest at work, according to the Census. Overall, apprenticeships scored highly, and 73.6% of apprentices said they felt prepared for their next steps.

“We have to recognise where young people are, where the systems do not work for them and understand what their new normal is.

It is time for better leadership for young people. They need to hear us become their champions and fight for their rights for equality and social justice.

Just wanting it to go back to 2019 will not make it so.”

Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK

The 2023 Youth Voice Census was spearheaded by Youth Employment UK with support from Amazing Apprenticeships, Edge Foundation, and Pearson.

Download the report

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