Nearly one year on from the first lockdown, and more than one in ten young people have lost their job, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment falling to a record low of 3.51m. Furthermore, 50% of students have felt their mental health decline during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This bleak reality has raised alarm amongst many senior business leaders and decision makers, who fear letting down a generation and wasting unthinkable amounts of talent if we do not do more to help immediately. They are calling on UK businesses to support young people by providing work experience opportunities to break the cycle of “no experience – no job, no job – no experience” that so many are facing. Movement to Work – a not-for-profit youth employment charity – is offering help to any organisation willing to set up such schemes.
During the pandemic, under 25s were more likely than any other age group to be furloughed. The same age group now makes up a third of universal credit claims. Millions of young people are already struggling, and the future looks even more grim, with a think tank predicting that young people are a third less likely to be in employment three years after entering than if the pandemic never happened.
Leaders from major businesses including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, BT, Accenture, BAE Systems, Barclays, Unilever have joined Movement to Work’s network of employers and have collectively delivered over 100,000 work placements for young people to date, with a large number of these resulting in permanent employment. Now , they are urging other UK businesses of all sizes to join the movement to hit 200,000 placements at pace.
Hosting a summit earlier this year, these leaders joined young people to discuss how they can help the next generation into employment. The annual event, was held virtually for the first time this year, and was a unique opportunity to talk honestly and boldly about the issues at hand, and what can be done to resolve them.
Natasha Adams, Chief People Officer, Tesco PLC said, “Tesco has always been a place to get on and we’re proud that so many of our fantastic colleagues started their careers at a young age. Movement to Work works alongside companies to nurture those who might otherwise feel excluded from the workforce. The effects of the pandemic mean it is more important than ever to support our young talent and provide the tools, support and opportunities for them to succeed in their future careers.”
Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems, said, “This is a critical time not only for young people, but for UK business as a whole. Those of us who can, must continue to support young people, providing opportunities to develop the skills and confidence they need both for their future success and the country’s economic prosperity.”
Olly Benzecry, Chairman of Accenture (UKI) and Chair of Movement to Work added, “Young people have been hardest hit as the UK unemployment rate has risen to new heights during the last year. With sectors that many young people traditionally find employment in, such as retail and hospitality, being disproportionately affected by Covid-19, the younger generation are missing out on vital experience, learning and stability that will help them fulfil their potential. UK business must play a vital role in safeguarding the workforce of the future, which is why it is our collective responsibility to make a purposeful impact.”
Sam Olsen, CEO Movement to Work said: “The moral case for helping young people right now is really clear, but the business case is stronger with each day – setting up work experience programmes generates a fantastic diverse talent pipeline for an organisation, and there’s lots of government-backed schemes like Kickstart to help make it cost effective. We understand times are tough, so Movement to Work can help you figure out the right fit for your organisation, and have a positive impact in the community as a direct result.”
Key speaker at the summit is MtW Youth Ambassador Sam Meakings, now a Youth Employability Coach at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). After years of struggling to find permanent work, he has been helping young people into jobs throughout the pandemic: “I have come full circle. I have suffered the stress and lack of confidence that comes with a long path to the world of work, but starting with the Movement to Work programme, I have spent the last few years building a career I love. Now I am a Youth Employability Coach. The work is so rewarding, but I know first-hand that our young people need willing employers more than ever.”