Young people less confident in career prospects because of pandemic, research finds

Report reveals Covid crisis has forced two-fifths of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK to put their job or education plans on hold

Young people are more confused about their career path than ever, with more than two-fifths pausing their career or education plans because of the pandemic, a poll has found.

The survey of 2,000 young people aged between 16 and 24, commissioned by BAE Systems, found that 21 per cent were more confused about their career path than before the outbreak, with 43 per cent choosing to put career or education plans on hold while they waited for the pandemic to be over.

Similarly, one in five (20 per cent) said coronavirus had deeply impacted the industry they wanted to work in.

Commenting on the findings, Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at CIPD, said it was concerning how many young people felt lost regarding their career plans. “We know from the last recession that these types of things, particularly spells of unemployment, are very damaging to young people’s future earnings and mental health,” she said. 

“Many sectors in which a lot of young people might have got their first foot into the job market, such as hospitality and retail, have been hugely affected by the pandemic. It’s likely we’re heading into a considerable recession, so things will remain tough for quite a long time.” 

Crowley said government action was urgently needed to prevent a ‘lost generation’ of young people. “There’s a critical need for high-quality information, advice and guidance to inform choice,” she said. “If a young person is thinking about a career in particular, they can get a clear understanding of the entry requirements, and what can they do now in terms of skills development, to put them in a good position for when we come out of lockdown and more opportunities become available.”

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While the pandemic had created confusion for young people in some areas, it had also solidified other priorities. In the survey half of young people (51 per cent) said they placed more importance on their career since the start of the outbreak, while earning a good salary topped the list of priorities – cited by 41 per cent of respondents – followed by continuous learning, stability and the opportunity to make a difference to the world.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents said they have considered or would consider an apprenticeship.

The survey comes just weeks after the Prince’s Trust’s Youth Index report, in which three in five (60 per cent) young people said getting a new job felt "impossible" now because there was so much competition, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) said they didn’t feel confident about their future career.

Tom Neil, senior adviser at Acas, said the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the economy and jobs market, with young people and those entering the world of work for the first time among the most affected. “Trying to find a job can be a daunting experience at the best of times, and with the added pressure of a smaller economy and seemingly fewer opportunities it’s important to be flexible and diverse in approach,” he said.

Neil said apprenticeships were a way for young people to learn valuable skills while earning. “This can be a great way to get experience of the world of work while developing skills and finding out more about what types of work are available and suitable for you personally,” he said.

There are many ways employers can support young people at the moment, Crowley added, including offering work experience and building relationships with local schools and colleges. She urged employers to consider the diversity of routes through which people enter into their sectors.