Khulisa Spotlight: The Impact on the Next Generation of Workers

Adarsh Ramchurn

My name is Adarsh Ramchurn and I am 19 years old. I am currently completing a degree apprenticeship in Business Management with Social Change. I study at Queen Mary University and Work at The Royal Society of Arts. My passions include football, increasing BAME diversity and tackling knife crime.
I am writing this blog because the last few months have been challenging for many young people, including myself. I hope to inspire young people with this blog that, although this is a challenging time for them and their families, it can be a time where young people can enhance and better themselves for the future, and make a positive change in this challenging world.

Covid-19 has had dreadful and detrimental impacts on almost every aspect of the economy; with many people struggling to cope with this ‘new normal’. The pandemic we are currently living in will shape the way we live our lives for the future, and especially for the next generation of politicians, policymakers, changemakers, researchers, lawyers, doctors, scientists, directors, managers, CEOs, and more. This next-generation, the ‘lockdown’ generation, could be severely at risk.

Young People, from teenagers in secondary school to young employees entering the labour market for the first time, have been negatively, unfairly and disproportionately impacted by the virus and its consequences. A lot of the support for people’s jobs for example in this country has been for those in current employment, with the introduction of the Furlough Scheme that has enabled almost 8.4 million workers to remain in their jobs.

However, according to the International Labour Organisation, more than one in six young people have been forced to stop working due to the pandemic; a disproportionate and disappointing impact. And with the temporary closure of schools, universities and even graduate opportunities (1/3 have been deferred due to coronavirus), this next generation, our current young people are facing extremely uncertain futures.

Nick Hellman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, noted that it was a ‘terrible time’ to be a young person. This may be true in some aspect; we are living in truly terrible and difficult times with the year 2020 being difficult for many. But it is never and should never be a terrible time to be a young person.

This blog aims to highlight to young people the difficulties they are facing and may face in the future with employment, university and opportunities due to Covid-19, but also give hope and inspiration through highlighting how these can be resolved, and how young people can continue to better their prospects, even in this ‘terrible time’.

As we all know, the closure of schools and universities for young people will no doubt have a damaging bearing on their education and prospects. The influence of schools, teachers, lectures and learning in these environments adds to the potential, talent and possibility for each and every young person. But with these closing, and the shift to digital learning, it has unfairly impacted the education of children and young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not have access to efficient technologies such as laptops or a strong Wi-Fi connection.

In fact, the Education Endowment Foundation writes that the perverse impacts of Covid-19 on education means that the progress made in narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers over the last decade could be ‘wiped out’ or worsened.  

Key skills for young people, particularly in English and Maths, could be at serious risk; young people could lose up to 30% of their usual progress in reading, and potentially 50% in Maths.
Additionally, the issue particularly harms those going into crucial exam years; GCSEs and A-Levels. Home-Learning for these extremely important exams may not be the same, and although one-to-one time has been introduced where Year 10 and 12 pupils can meet their teachers at school to discuss their work, the reduced school learning and environment is bound to have impacted their revision practices and engagement with subjects.

Yet, this can be deemed worse for those who were meant to sit exams this year but couldn’t due to the pandemic. Particularly with those sitting A-Levels. Being graded based on previous work and mocks as opposed to the actual exam is likely to not give a true picture of a student’s capabilities, effort and talent. Not sitting the exams has deterred their prospects and progression into higher education, through no fault of their own. As a result, we are seeing high levels of uncertainty amongst young people because of the pandemic; in fact, almost 48% of A-Level Students applying to university feel that Covid-19 will negatively impact their chances of getting into their first-choice university.

High uncertainty corresponds also to those already in university as well. The future of employment for young people is in jeopardy as Covid-19 has caused youth unemployment prospects ‘crumbling’. During this crisis, it is found that 1 in 3 undergraduate students have had their jobs negatively affected by the crisis and that 34% of students report that they have lost a job, had reduced hours, or not been paid for work completed, which is another sign proving that the pandemic has had a disproportionate and disappointing impact on young people especially.

In addition, popular graduate employers such as the Big 4 Accounting Firms (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG & EY) and Banks such as Lloyds & Santander have had to cancel their summer internship schemes, as well as Graduate opportunities, which will prevent final year university students from getting their first professional jobs and experiences. The value of these schemes cannot be underestimated; they provide a strong transitioning platform for young people finishing university and moving into the competitive and fast-paced nature of the world of work.

Hence, the removal of graduate schemes will prohibit many budding young employees, enthusiastic about entering the labour market, from getting the necessary and crucial work experience and exposure required to develop and kick-start their careers. Consequently, the impacts of this are dire; we could see the next generation of our work force being less skilled, less educated and with less experience across a range of industries.

This needs to be addressed.

But how can we, as employers, schools, universities and youth organisations, combat the problems caused by Covid-19 on the ‘lockdown generation’?

  • Extra Resources & Funding for Education once Lockdown is fully eased: The Government has already stepped in with a £1 bn Coronavirus Schools ‘Catch Up’ package, which aims to fund the missed education of pupils during this time, as well as fund tuition for particular students. This is a great start and an initiative that can tackle the gaps in education that Covid-19 has created, but more can be done too. Simple school initiatives to aid and coach students about going through education during this time could be an idea and may involve increased student to teacher meetings in schools, in order to ensure students are well supported in both their education and their mental/physical health.
  • Increasing the availability of other higher education pathways, such as Degree Apprenticeships & Online Internships: These programmes can help young people get into more secure employment, through earning and learning at the same time, and have been growing in popularity and success in the years prior to this pandemic. Offering and funding alternative routes for students that could also guide them to successful careers will enable the labour market to welcome the next generation of workers.
  • Youth Organisations offering greater volunteering roles and opportunities: Youth Organisations, with support from other charities, local councils and government, can provide teaching and learning in key skill areas such as finance, marketing, blog writing or video production. This could be through Youth Organisations providing resources and personnel such as a laptop and a mentor, could help to engage young people with a way of being engaged in an educational manner.

For many young people out there confused, perplexed, worried or stressed about what the future holds, there are ways that you can go about improving yourself and others and being productively busy during the pandemic.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Volunteering; there are various volunteering opportunities available where young people can get involved in helping out their communities, especially given the current circumstances
  • Online Courses; completing these are likely to create a sense of fulfilment and provide an engaging challenge and learning experience for many young people
  • Creative Writing; this is a personal suggestion, but I find creative writing a way of easing stress and anxiety. Creative writing improves well-being and also sparks new ideas and thoughts. Writing Poems or short stories is another method of creative writing that could be useful.
  • Starting new Ventures/Projects at Home; this could be through working on creating art or a business idea. The world is in need for new ideas and positive change, so this be a great time to start.

These are links to resources on Khulisa that can are also useful: