It is no secret that the class of 2020 will be the worst hit by this impending economic crisis that faces us.
According to a study, conducted by the Resolution Foundation, it is expected that youth unemployment will rise by over 640,000 this year, taking the total to over 1 million.
Trying to get your foot on the job ladder can be tough enough as it is,but having to contend with the fall out of a worldwide pandemic on top of that, makes matters appear even more insurmountable.
Often, your late teens and early twenties can be a time clouded with uncertainty. It is a time where you are trying to forge your independence and make decisions regarding your future. And in all honesty, it can be hard. But if you throw a pandemic and an economic recession into the mix, the outcome is overwhelming.
Kathleen Henehan, Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution foundation, said: “The ‘corona class of 2020’ could face years of reduced pay and limited job prospects, long after the current economic storm has passed, unless additional support is provided fast.”
Niamh, 24 from Manchester, has already experienced the immediate repercussion of this economic storm. During lockdown she was made redundant from her first graduate position as Events Co-ordinator at a Premier League football club.
She said: “My role within the commercial team would be deemed bottom of the hierarchy. I believe I was made redundant as my role would have been seen the least important and the easiest to replace in the future. I think if I was older and been at the company longer it would have been different.”
The mentality of last one in first one out is prevalent, as entry level jobs like Niamh’s are being treated as dispensable. Countless internships and apprenticeships have also been put on hold for the foreseeable future, meaning young people are struggling to even get a look in, let alone a foot in the door.
With 1 in 3 18-24-year olds either being made redundant or put on furlough during the pandemic, Niamh is not alone. She described looking for a new job in the current climate as “unbearable.”
She added: “Firstly, there are no jobs. Secondly, I’m applying for low level jobs which on Linkedin tells me 600 people have applied for. I applied for a receptionist role in Manchester and there was an article in the local newspaper saying they expected 30 applicants and they received over 700. I think my age will play a factor in getting a new job as surely in 700 people there will be applicants a lot older and therefore more experienced than me.”
The CEO of Youth Employment UK (YEUK), Laura Jane Rawlings, has witnessed how young people have unfairly taken the brunt of another economic crisis back in 2008. Then, youth unemployment reached it’s peak 3 years later in 2011, with around 1 million young people not in education or training. (NEETs)
She said: “I was really horrified how the world treated our young people. YEUK was started because I wanted to create a platform where young people could have a voice, they could become empowered to understand how to navigate the world around them. It is really hard, and no one tells you how to do that, and I don’t know why nobody tells them how to navigate and use the system.”
Often job hunting in the UK can prove more about who you know as opposed to what you know. One of the YEUK youth ambassadors said: “In 2020 it shouldn’t be about luck and fortune. That shouldn’t be how people progress in the world.”
YEUK has been involved in lobbying for the government to level the playing field, resulting in a recent £2 billion pledge to help youth unemployment. They have described Rishi Sunak as making some “big strides.” Yet, Rawlings still acknowledges the difficulties which are facing young people today.
She added: “In April there were 8 unemployed people for every 1 job. It doesn’t matter how good government investment is if there aren’t enough jobs. Young people get left behind. Young people are 2.5x more likely to work in a sector at risk. Where do they go if there are no other jobs? It’s a double whammy. Not only will more young people lose their jobs but there won’t be as much opportunity for young people to cut their teeth. It is really going to be tough, there is no doubt.”
Despite all this doom and gloom, YEUK assures me that not all hope is not loss. Writer, Jess Amy Dixon, who covers youth employability issues for YEUK, advises “to be patient, be very kind to yourself, and keep putting yourself out there. Getting rejected doesn’t mean anything bad about you, it just means the competition is ridiculous and the job market is tough right now. Keep trying.”
She also mentions some positives, proactive steps young people can take to help weather this finical storm:
“Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Get some feedback on your CV, cover letter and other application materials to make sure they really show off your skills and experience in the best light. Tailor your application for every job and directly reference the person specification and job description – just doing this puts you in the top 50% of applicants easily. Get some interview practice if you can (especially if you’ll be doing virtual interviews and they’re a new experience for you.) And know that you might not get your dream job straight away, but being employed puts you in a stronger position to take a step up when the job market has settled. Don’t hold out for perfect if you’re offered a job that is good enough.”
Niamh has also come to the same conclusion. She added: “At first I was a bit embarrassed to be made redundant and be looking for retail roles after studying at university and working for 18 months, however I’ve realised young people can’t be picky and due to the lack of jobs and their lack of experience we have to take any job we can.”
Not only are redundancies and unemployment tough on finances, but it can also be psychologically draining. There is a lot documented about scarring impact and studies which suggest real long-term effects on people’s mental health and long-term earnings. They show you’re less likely to earn as much if you suffer a redundancy early on in your career.
Despite such setbacks, Rawlings insists “there is an ‘art to job hunting” and young people need “to get smart about the art of job hunting.” Life balance, putting yourself out there, and keeping busy is key, but don’t necessarily occupy yourself with job applications after job application.
She added: “it is understanding that art which is the most important thing you can spend your time doing. You can spend your time sending off 200 jobs applications and that is a waste of time, but if you learn how to tailor that how to make yourself stand out and only send 2 or 3 you’re probably going to have more success.”
YEUK run a free program called the young professional. Here you can get free access to a network of employers, as well as advice and insight into the art of job hunting.
Rawlings concluded: “We have got to do better for young people In our country, when you have a program like ours which is freely available, nationally available my god shouldn’t every young person be told about that so if they don’t have networks there is something as a back stop for them.”