Blog post

Securing young people’s futures in a Covid-disrupted world

Our virtual event ‘Securing young people’s futures in a Covid-disrupted world’ threw up plenty of themes and ideas between panellist and guests, as we discussed how to ensure young people’s employment prospects are not lost to the economic fall out of the pandemic.

The event was opened and closed by our CEO Ashley McCaul and expertly moderated by Rosa Morgan-Baker, director of development at Skills Builder.

The heavyweight panel included Baroness Barran MBE, Minister for Civil Society at DCMS, Tony Wilson, director at the Institute for Employment Studies, Chloe Thorogood, a ThinkForward alumna and project worker at Leap Confronting Conflict, Alex Norris, MP for Nottingham North, Rebekah Kofo-Kasumu, associate director and finance business partner at ICG (and one of our business mentors) and Jill Baker, former executive principal at George Green’s School in east London and a ThinkForward trustee.

Panellists were joined by more than 100 guests from the education, employment and youth sectors. Everyone was in agreement that the situation facing young people is a serious crisis, with the potential to affect their immediate and long-term outcomes. A young person who struggles to find any or well-paid employment now, is at risk of also harming their career and pay prospects in the future.

Tony Wilson from the Institute for Employment Studies who partnered with us to host the event, stressed the importance of not permanently losing young people to the damage caused by Covid to the labour market. But there was also acknowledgement that it’s not always easy for employers to navigate the myriad of schemes that are available to them to support young people, and the role the sector has to play in supporting employers to take up these opportunities.  Alex Norris, MP for Nottingham North also added: ‘I think local authorities are well-placed to “host” the liaison between business, young people and schools, creating a single point of access.’

Our alumna Chloe spoke about the importance of young people developing a personal brand that works both on and offline and her own appreciation of being an apprentice. She said: ‘I was so lucky to have an apprenticeship with ThinkForward, it really propelled me into the working world. I was only 16 and didn’t realise how important it was going to be.’

Baroness Barran pointed out that apprenticeships spend is £2.5bn, double what it was ten years ago and that the government’s ambition is to triple the number of traineeships. She said: ‘They are helpful planks in the strategy to support young people into employment.’

Baroness Barran also spoke about the importance of new KickStart Scheme: ‘It’s really important because it gives young people great experience over six months, and takes the risk away from employers, making it very easy for them to do the right thing.’

There was recognition for the work ThinkForward does preparing young people for employment. Jill Baker who has first-hand experience of ThinkForward’s work as the former head of a school we work in, and who is now a trustee said: ‘I would like to see a ThinkForward-type coach for all our disadvantaged children.’

Job Centre Plus work with large numbers of young people, making it hard for them to really get to know a young person and personalise their advice. DWP’s Youth Hubs however, were identified as a great opportunity to work directly in communities and reach the right young people.

Providing mentoring and access to the workplace for young people was widely agreed to be vital. Chloe spoke passionately about the positive impact mentoring had on her and Rebekah from ICG, who mentors ThinkForward students at an alternative provision school in east London, spoke about the value of opening doors to young people:  ‘When I was at school I had no idea about financial services but I’m a chartered accountant now. We need to bring young people into businesses so they can see what is out there.’

Alex Norris, agreed and had a call to action for businesses: ‘I want employers to be proactive and to offer placements/mentoring/shadowing to young people that would not get to access them otherwise.’

There was widespread understanding that the situation is different across the country. We need regional knowledge to fully understand the labour market and barriers (ie poor public transport), but also local opportunities.

Going forward, young people’s lack of access to technology, which was brought to the fore during lockdown, is recognised as still being a critical issue to be resolved. If schools do have to close again we will still have young people unable to learn effectively because they don’t have the IT resources they need. In addition, to look for work and to work remotely, every young person needs to have the right technology in place. Without it they cannot compete in the jobs market on a level playing field.

ThinkForward continues to help young people on the programme to access grants so that technology is not a barrier to their progress.

You can watch the opening film from our event here:

You can view the closing film here: