The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the UK economy and employment prospects, particularly for the young people we support. With youth unemployment at its highest level since 2016 and 124,000 more young people out of work*, they face an uncertain future.
Before the crisis, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to be long-term NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) than their better off peers1. Those with the lowest household incomes have faced even greater challenges, with many losing jobs in industries such as retail which have suffered the most from restrictions and lockdowns. Black and Minority Ethnic young people are 58% more likely to be unemployed2 and twice as likely to have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced during the pandemic3.
For those entering the job market, the climate is equally bleak. Young people face the ‘perfect storm’ of a Covid-related economic downturn and increasing competition over available jobs, with those leaving education lacking qualifications or work experience at particular risk4. Department of Education figures show that March – June 2020 saw the number of apprenticeship starts halve compared to the previous year.
Education, training and access to job opportunities for the most disadvantaged young people in society is more important than ever before.
But a shocking lack of social mobility is hindering progress towards this goal. High status, highly paid jobs continue to be dominated by those from advantaged backgrounds. The London School of Economics (LSE) and the Economic and Social Research Council suggest that Covid-19 has deepened these issues, warning that young people risk being pushed into a ‘dark age’ of declining social mobility due to increasing inequalities caused by the pandemic5.
How we are responding
At MyBigCareer we’re bringing together schools, businesses and an army of skilled volunteers to provide the mentoring, connections and access to job opportunities young people so desperately need.
Our work has never been so vital. In the last 10 years career support has reduced in 8 out of 10 of secondary schools and suffered further during the pandemic, with almost half of school and college learners spending less time on careers guidance than usual6.
Our model of support focusses on careers guidance – in line with The Gatsby Foundation’s research – because it’s proven to stimulate social mobility, breaking down stereotypes related to gender and ethnicity, and is particularly important in a labour market which is changing rapidly.
We’re also playing an important role in supporting young people’s mental health which has been affected more by the Covid-19 pandemic than any other age group. 1:1 sessions are proven to boost students’ wellbeing and motivation levels, raising aspiration which in turn improves achievement levels7.
MyBigCareer believes that every individual should have the opportunity to pursue their educational or employment aspirations, regardless of their background or the barriers the pandemic has put in their path. We’re working hard to help the most disadvantaged young people overcome those barriers but we can’t do it alone.
1 Research Briefing 6: The long-term NEET population, Sept 2019
2 Race Inequality in the Workforce, Feb 2020
3 The Health Foundation, Generation COVID-19, Aug 2020
4 Youth Futures Foundation, Youth Employment Covid-19 Response, May 2020
5 Centre for Economic Performance, Covid-19 and social mobility, May 2020
6 Secondary School and College leadership views on the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Careers Guidance, Aug 2020
7 Career Development Institute, The impact of career guidance on the mental well-being of young people, Jan 2019
* ONS Aug-Oct 2020 vs Aug-Oct 2019