Recently released figures from ONS show rapidly deteriorating labour market conditions for young people. Young people have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic, they are more likely to have been furloughed, youth unemployment is increasing significantly while employment has fallen and the numbers on work-related benefits have soared.

Figures for July-September 2020, compared to pre-pandemic quarter (December 2019 to February 2020), show for 16-24-year olds:

  • Rising youth unemployment rates – 602,000 young people are now unemployed, representing 14.6% of the economically active population, up from a pre-pandemic figure of 11.8%.
  • Falling employment – the number of young people in work has fallen by 306,000 a decline of 8%.

The number of young people on unemployment related benefits has also rapidly grown. As of October 2020, there are now 516,000 young people on work related benefits an increase of 281,000 (+120%) since March 2020. Young people have also been disproportionately affected by the lockdown, as they are more likely to work in sectors that have been shut down. Between April to August, almost 1.9 million young people were furloughed at some point, representing 47% of eligible jobs compared to 29% of jobs held by those aged 25 or over.

UK Government scheme

In recognition rising youth unemployment, and it’s damaging long-term consequences, in July the Government announced a series of measures aimed at boosting youth employment; these included incentives for providing traineeships and hiring apprentices, and the Kickstart Scheme.

Of these measures, the Kickstart Scheme is by far the most generous, amounting to £2 billion of funding to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people (aged 16–24) on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. The funding covers a six-month job placement at 100% of the National Minimum Wage for a minimum of 25 hours a week, with employers able to top up wages.  Employers will also receive a £1,500 payment per participant to support set up costs, support and training.

Employers who are prepared to offer six-month placements are required to set out how they will help the participants to develop their skills and experience, including, how they will support to look for long-term work, including career advice and setting goals, support with CV and interview preparations, supporting the participant with basic skills, such as attendance, timekeeping and teamwork. To support young people build these essential skills in a structured way during their Kickstart placement CIPD has produced some joint guidance with the Skills Builder Partnership and BITC.

While only time will tell if these interventions will be enough to stem the tide of rising youth unemployment, and we will be releasing a report soon which considers the potential impact of the incentives and the Kickstart Scheme.

The HR community is also stepping up

The HR community will be critical to the success of the Kickstart Scheme and ensuring that the placements work not just for young people involved but also, importantly, for the business. This means understanding how it fits into workforce planning strategies, addresses recruitment and skills challenges, as well as ensuring supportive work force practices, such as mentoring and effective line management, are in place so that young people and the business get the most out of the work placement.

Yet, even if organisations can’t engage, there are other ways the profession can support young people during this challenging time and help them to navigate the increasingly complex world of work and find jobs and fulfilling careers.

The CIPD's scheme

In response to worsening youth labour market conditions, CIPD relaunched Steps Ahead Mentoring last month. The Steps Ahead Mentoring programme aims to help young people find work by matching them with a CIPD member, who will act as a mentor. Mentors provide practical advice on CVs, applications, interviews and job searching, as well as helping young people improve their confidence, build professional networks, and identify and establish career goals.

Launched initially because of high youth unemployment in the last recession, thousands of CIPD members have given up their time to provide mentoring support to young jobseekers, as well as parent returners, via our Steps Ahead Mentoring scheme, helping hundreds of young people fulfil their potential and find work.

With high and rising youth unemployment on the horizon it’s never been more important to come together, to bridge the gap between education and the workplace, and to ensure that everyone is equipped with the skills they need to enter and progress in work.

About the author

Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills

Lizzie is a policy and research professional with over 13 years’ experience in the employment and skills arena, having worked with both the public and private sector to develop high-quality research to inform organisational practice, public policy and shape the public debate.

Prior to joining the CIPD Lizzie led The Work Foundation's research and policy development on the youth labour market – and has published a number of influential reports on youth unemployment. She has regularly appeared on national and regional TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC the One Show, the Today Programme and Channel 4 news. Lizzie graduated in Sociology and has a master's degree in Social Science Research Methods, both from the University of Glasgow.

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