How much have career prospects for the young been affected by the Covid-19 crisis?
Data from the International Labour Organisation found that young people across the world were much more likely to be made unemployed. In 2020 employment for those under 25 fell by 8.7% compared with 3.7% for those 25 or more. The differential impact was more severe in lower income countries.
Further data from the City and Guilds Group found well over half of 17-19 year-olds across the UK had changed their decisions on post-education work or training. UCAS has been reporting very high university applications.
In all, 311,000 18-year-olds applied for higher education places by the end of June compared to the previous record last year of 281,000. An increase in so-called ‘panic masters’ has also emerged as more graduates choose to apply for a post-graduate course rather than take their chances in the labour market.
In Scotland the youth unemployment rate stood at 9%, double the unemployment rate for all ages but down slightly on the figure just before the pandemic struck. That may partly be due to young people deciding to stay longer in education, partly because of the job retention scheme and partly because of measures taken by the UK and Scottish governments to try to keep youth unemployment down.
Glasgow Chamber has welcomed programmes designed to help young people get the work experience they need to get a job. Whether it is the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme or the Scottish Government’s Youth Guarantee, which in our local market has helped fund Glasgow City Council’s Step Up programme, we have devoted staff and resources to help make the measures work. We don’t care where funding is coming from or which government is claiming credit.
To date we have helped place more than 270 young people in work experience roles, with 250 through Kickstart and 20 through Step Up, which got going a little later. There are plenty more roles to be filled. Whilst we have persistently highlighted the problems facing businesses struggling with the severe financial impact of the crisis, we have not found it difficult to get employers to respond. Over 200 businesses have offered places.
Yesterday we promoted the annual national #nowrongpath campaign, now in its fifth year. With the aim of describing the sheer variety of routes open to school pupils as they make decisions on their steps towards the world of work. Many of Scotland’s most high-profile personalities in business, media, politics and academia have helped explain their often-circuitous journey to find success. The campaign could hardly be more relevant as pupils wrestle with the extra challenges coronavirus has created for them.
We have invested in connecting business and education since 2014 with Developing the Young Workforce in Glasgow. To date we have successfully engaged with over 500 businesses to support young people with sector knowledge and employment opportunities. And we are now working on a new project via our DYW team in advance of COP26 to help the next generation plan for getting jobs directly involved in tackling climate change. This will launch in September.
We are keen to make sure that the Scottish Government’s enthusiasm for home working does not make it even more difficult for young people to learn, find mentors in the workplace and elsewhere and build their careers.
Glasgow has worked very hard to transform its economy over the past 40 years. By far the most important task has been to make sure young people get a strong start in education and in a job. It is even more important today.
Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce