‘Levelling up’, ‘building back better’, and ‘post-Covid recovery’ have become everyday terms, and it’s not hard to see why: the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on almost every area of our lives and has widened existing inequalities.
Young people – particularly those we support at Career Ready – have always faced hurdles, but Covid presents new challenges and an increased urgency to overcome them.
We cannot overestimate the impact of the pandemic on young people and what it means for their futures. Indeed, as our new research shows, only 33% of people think that the future of work is positive for young people in the UK.
A critical time to #InvestInYoungTalent
We have an entire generation of young people – the Covid Generation – who will require targeted, sustained interventions to succeed in education and employment. And now is the time to invest in them. We cannot risk an entire generation whose talents remain undiscovered and unfulfilled.
It’s reassuring to know that people recognise now as a critical time to support young people, with 69% thinking that investing in young people should be an important part of the UK’s post-Covid recovery.
How we can support young talent
Finding the right way to invest in young people doesn’t require in-depth introspection or grand strategies. The evidence and experience is already out there.
First, Government and businesses should embrace paid internships as a cost-effective way to give young people key workplace skills and experience. Our research and experience show that paid internships are rocket fuel for social mobility and an effective way for employers to future-proof their business.
Second, support SMEs in their ambitions to engage with young talent, especially in coastal and market towns where they are the backbones of the local economies. SMEs can be drivers of localised social mobility opportunities, yet they are often unable to provide paid opportunities due to limited resources, especially post-Covid.
One solution is to enhance the power of Local Enterprise Partnerships to give SMEs the financial support they need to provide paid opportunities for young people. A further initiative is Internship Investment Partnerships which would see two businesses split the cost and time of the paid internship.
And, finally, employers should take positive action to ensure vacancies and promotions are equally accessible to all. This could include offering more routes that do not require a degree, such as apprenticeships and school leaver schemes, as well as using blind recruitment processes such as hiding applicants’ names, educational institutions, or other personal details.
The answers are out there. They are simple and achievable. We now need action from employers, educators, and policymakers coming together to invest in young talent.