The number of young people not currently in education, training or employment has risen staggeringly in 2020. This is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aspire4u sat down with Josh Adcock, an employee at Youth Employment UK, to talk about COVID-19, mental health, and the mounting youth unemployment crisis.
Tell me about Youth Employment UK and your role within the organisation.
Youth Employment UK is a not-for-profit social enterprise aiming to improve the number of young people in education, employment, or training. We were founded in 2012, after the previous economic crisis. Since then we have positioned ourselves as experts in the field of youth employment, acting as advisors to the government and employers.
We conduct research, including our annual Youth Voice Census, which we then share with various stakeholders. This is such an important part of our work as it allows us to represent the views of thousands of young people that might not have otherwise been heard. We also provide young people with the tools they need to progress into the workplace. For example, our skills and careers hub available on our website. We are a small organisation, so we all do a bit of everything, but I am mostly involved with the research and policy side.
Aspire4u is a mindset-led organisation. How would you describe the mindset of YEUK?
There are two main pillars of our work: a) listening to the youth voice,which means directly speaking with young people from all types of backgrounds and b) ensuring everything we do is evidence-based, meaning we can add value to the conversation and make impactful change, rather than ‘adding to the noise’.
How has the pandemic influenced youth employment?
It is a dark time for many young people. Before I explain, I would like to mention that youth unemployment was still a huge issue pre-pandemic. Although lockdown and the preceding months have worsened the situation, this is not a new problem.
Firstly, 18 to 24-year-olds were the age bracket most likely to be furloughed or made redundant. Secondly, there is now more competition for fewer job roles. For example, the number of graduate opportunities advertised online fell by 60% in the first half of 2020. Third, the impact on education has meant all those leaving school, college, and university have not received the usual careers support from their institution. Consequently, over half a million young people in the UK are now unemployed. This is an increase of 125% from March to September 2020.
How do you think we can best support the mental health of young people who are currently unemployed or struggling to find work that fulfils them?
It is a good question because there is no quick fix. I think we need to empower young people so they can help themselves. When times are hard, that little extra support can go a long way in showing a young person their capabilities and building their resilience. What does that look like? I am not sure, but it is imperative we keep the conversation going.
I also think we need to provide more work experience support to those under 16. This has been mentioned in our youth census many times. Young people are not taught how to get work experience or why it is important. So, by the time they reach 18, many do not have anything to write on a C.V.
Finally, we need to improve the mental health support within the workplace. Over a quarter of young people suffer from a mental health problem. They should not have to hide this from their employer. Contracted mental health days could be one method of ensuring young people feel accepted.
What has the reaction to the new Kickstart government scheme been like at Youth Employment UK?
We think it is a great start. I cannot say more than that because we do not have all the details yet, and we need to see the scheme in action before we make any judgements. However, I can say that
YEUK will be working with the government to provide evidenced-based feedback about the scheme. We will also listen closely to the opinions of young people and employers taking part to improve the scheme in the future.
If you had one piece of advice to give to a young person struggling with unemployment, what would you say?
I would say, do not take anything too personally. It is so easy to take every rejection to heart – especially when you are young because your self-esteem is likely to be lower. But you must remember that being rejected is not an attack on your personality. If you reframe rejection as an opportunity – to reflect, learn and grow – you are more likely to be successful in your job search.
I would also say, please do not give up. You must accept that getting a job involves being rejected. Once you have the ability to pick yourself back up after each rejection, the process will be more manageable. You have to stay positive!
Our conversation with Josh highlights the many ways our society should be supporting young people to reach their potential. At Aspire4u, we are proud to be a gateway organisation for the Kickstarter campaign. If your organisation is interested in supporting a young person through a government-funded work placement for 6 months, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Additionally, our free counselling programme for 14 – 25-year-olds, HealHub, has spaces available for young people struggling to cope with life during the pandemic and lockdown. To find out more or refer a young person, please visit our website.
You can find out more about Youth Employment UK here.
Written by Alison Fulop
For Aspire4u CIC,
The Mindset-led Organisation.
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