Let’s Get Them into Work and Make 16 Sweet Again!
This year RMS celebrates its 16th Birthday, and this led us to think about the significance of a 16th Birthday in a person’s life. There is no doubt that turning 16 is a monumental occasion. While not technically an adult, it is the age when one has to start making important decisions about their future. It is when one can leave school and enrol in further education, and/or begin working a proper job. It is the age when one begins to have autonomy over their own life, and can start forging their own place in the world.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned what should be an exciting time of a young person’s life upside down. Instead of looking forward to the best years of their life, they are now faced with an uncertain future due to the current economic crisis, where the UK is suffering from its biggest drop in economic output in 300 years.
The Short End of the Stick
Young people have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s disruption to the job market. Under-25s saw the biggest rise in unemployment during lockdown, and some graduate or entry level roles attracted thousands more applications than normal. The competition to gain employment in this climate is fierce, with many young people desperate to secure jobs that they are over-qualified for. They are also up against older applicants who prospective employers consider to be better hires due to the fact that they have had more work experience. It’s the same old story again: young people apply for roles but are told they need experience, but to gain the experience they would need to be given a chance to do the job in the first place. They cannot be expected to gain that experience without earning a wage either, so it’s a catch-22 situation.
In addition, the 16-24 age group were most likely to be furloughed than any other age group, which screams “expendable”. In the first 3 months of the pandemic, half of eligible 16–24-year-olds were furloughed, compared to 25% of 45-year-olds. They were also the age group most likely to lose their jobs. This was exacerbated by the fact that many young people were employed in hospitality and retail, two sectors hit hardest in the last year.
Out of Options
Looking for a job straight after graduating from University has become much tougher, as the number of graduate jobs advertised fell by 35.5% in the first half of 2020. Companies as a whole have taken on fewer apprenticeships, which only serves to add to this worrying situation. It seems that right now, young people are running out of options when it comes to finding employment.
It is unfair that young people have been disproportionately affected by the economic situation, and it is alarming – not just for them, but for the entire nation.
They are the future.
It is vital that they are offered job opportunities because they need the experience. There will come a time in the not-too-distant future where Generation Z will comprise the majority of our nation’s workforce, so it essential that they get back into work as soon as possible. Otherwise, an alternative scenario will take place, one where we are left with a lack of skilled people and no one with the experience to do the jobs that need doing. There is a real fear that this next generation will struggle to gain the skills that are needed in a post-pandemic labour market. An additional concern is that people who have lost their jobs are moving onto trajectories heading to long-term unemployment, which will result in substantial costs and a ‘useless’ class of non-workers.
"We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future".
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
What Can We Do?
The first thing is to recognise how important Generation Z is to the future of our society, and then do everything in our power to get them into work, whether for the first time ever, or returning to the job market after being made redundant due to COVID-19.
Here at RMS, we are doing our very best to support young people. We have introduced an apprenticeship scheme which provides a great training opportunity for those working in the retail sector. A couple dozen of applicants have already enrolled, and hundreds more have shown interest in both the level 2 and level 3 schemes; they are currently being processed through the application stage. We also encourage job applications from anybody, and are constantly striving to get more people into work in the retail sector. Finally, we continue to support the DofE Wales who do incredible things for young people. The DofE Wales is one of our chosen charities who we have supported for several years with fundraising activities. Most recently we participated in their employability week which helped to get young people into work.
If you are in a position to help a young person gain valuable work experience, we encourage you to give them a chance. The world needs to invest in today’s young people to ensure that they can contribute to their communities and nations tomorrow. It’s an undeniable fact that these amazing people are the future, and they need support now more than ever.