With the pandemic still in the early stages, and the economic effect looking considerable,
it’s worth reflecting on what the current generation of young people starting their careers
have already lived through. Their childhoods were deeply affected by austerity after the
Global Financial Crisis of 2007, with cuts to public services that would have enriched their
lives and broadened their experiences. The promise of university education drastically
altered with the rise in tuition fees, while household disposal incomes remained stagnant –
fear of debt deterred many. So they decided to go into the workplace instead, only to be hit
by the twin factors of a confused Apprenticeship Levy rollout and Brexit uncertainty. Then,
just as some were getting a foothold on their careers, we face a terrifying prospect of a
pandemic that will not affect all equally. The history of modern pandemics is the history of
inequality: the vulnerable and marginalised always suffer most, and suffer longest.
For this unluckiest generation, the action required by central government should be
unequivocal. It should be uncompromising in its commitment to creating an education,
training and employment landscape that allows the country to build a future on the talent
of the next generation of key workers, skilled trades, innovators and entrepreneurs. LTSB is
proud to be part of the Youth Employment Group, led by Youth Employment UK, that has
been putting pressure on the Chancellor to take these steps. After yesterday’s
announcement there are grounds for hope.
The up-to-£3k incentive to hire apprentices aged 16-24 is a welcome initiative, but as Youth
Employment UK point out in their response, the real question is of quality: of experience,
and outcome. LTSB work with bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and we
know that they represent incredible value, when workplaces expect the best of them. There
is some concern that shorter, less substantial experiences will be prioritised over meaningful
work and qualifications. Any recovery that doesn’t allow young people to achieve their
potential is wasteful: of their talent, and of an increased earning and stability over a lifetime
that is a major economic positive.
With much to be finalised, these announcements nevertheless represent a hopeful vision of
a post-pandemic recovery that works from the foundations up. And to employers out there
who want to begin to recruit young people from marginalised communities, but don’t know
where to start – the third sector make great partners! Let us advocate for young people we
know, prepare and support them for the role, and ensure they are integrated and effective
from the start. Let’s start this recovery together.
Paul Evans, CEO of LTSB