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The pandemic poses even more challenges for young aspirations

Our new Business Development Officer Olivia Fuller on the challenges facing young people trying to enter the job market during the pandemic and what we at Inspire are trying to do about it in our boroughs.

At 25 years old and with two years of relevant, in-sector experience, it took me a total of seven months, seven Universal Credit payments, 50 job applications and 18 interviews to secure my role as Business Development Officer at Inspire. Because not only are there a lot more people applying for each role, but there are significantly more over-qualified older people applying as well. The competition is immense, exhausting and mentally debilitating.

For young people just starting out in the world of work, getting your foot on the career ladder is challenge enough – let alone amidst a global pandemic. With around 600,000 young people finding themselves unemployed this year, 16-25 year-olds are more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, and those claiming unemployment related benefits have more than doubled since March. Inspire’s role in helping young people within our community to develop their skills and aspirations in preparation for the world of work has never been so important.

Hand-in-hand with the COVID-induced economic downturn has come a widening of the inequality gap. The Sutton Trust reported as early as April that it will be young people from lower-income backgrounds that will be hit the hardest. With employment opportunities becoming increasingly sparse, the opportunities left will be unofficially reserved for young people with resources and contacts. Hackney is the second most deprived local authority in the country and has an unemployment rate higher than both the national and London averages, so we know that our local young people need help to develop their employability skills early.

But no matter what their educational or vocational background, young people from every aspect of the workforce are feeling the effects of the pandemic. More firms who previously offered internships or work experience placements have postponed or cancelled them due to physical offices closing, with employers predicting that there will be a decrease in opportunities offered in the next 12 months.  Apprenticeships are being cut back, being perceived as the easiest thing to go amidst cutbacks. 70% of university graduates reported that the pandemic had negatively impacted their employment prospects.

Work Experience

But whilst we cannot change the professional landscape or predict its future trajectory, we can continue to promote fair access to those opportunities that remain, as we always have done at Inspire. We continue to work hard to ensure that young people in Hackney, Camden and Islington aren’t left behind and that society doesn’t miss out on everything they have to offer either.

We’re extremely proud of our quick response to the pandemic. We have been working with partners and employers to ensure that much of our programme is adapted and made available virtually, allowing students to access work experience and work-related learning online. And whilst our work with and in schools continues, we’re now developing ways to directly engage with young people in our community. For example, our ‘Female Futures’ programme provides 1:1 support to young women, offering guidance and support on how to take those first steps into the world of work. With women in Hackney being 20% less likely than men to be in employment, we’re tackling a clear need. Please contact Hannah.Lashley@inspire-ebp.org.uk if you’re interested in being part of this project, as either a mentor or a mentee (to be a mentee you should be age 16 -25) continuing virtually and supported by the Balcombe Charitable Trust.

We are also having in-depth discussions with our charity partners in order to gain better information into what types of skills and attributes they are looking for in young employees. This knowledge will be fed straight into our programme content and other help for young people. We are playing our part in levelling the playing field, giving every young person we work with a chance to succeed within an increasingly limited and tough job market.

We’re listening to the needs of our community, working directly with young people, schools and businesses to decipher and meet this challenge, but we need much better and stronger local ties. The approach is new, but the ultimate goal is the same, the more we can support each other and be there for young people the better, so please engage with us and get involved.

Female future session 1 to 1 mentoring

Now is the time, more than ever, for the community to come together to support Hackney’s future generations and workforce. This pandemic is at risk of breaking a generation. We urge local businesses to both continue and extend their involvement in our and other work and other work-related learning opportunities.

Please get in touch with Freddie.askham@inspire-ebp.org.uk if you are able to offer Virtual Work Experience placements to secondary students, or Chloe.Bassett@inspire-ebp.org.uk if you would like to volunteer on our Virtual Work Week programmes for primary students.

Likewise, if you are in education and want to book your school onto our virtual programmes, Secondary Schools should contact Freddie and Primary Schools should contact Chloe.

For general inquiries please contact info@inspire-ebp.org.uk

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