A generation of young Scots faces threat of long-term unemployment – Amelia Morgan

With Covid-19 taking a devastating toll, we need to shape solutions to ensure no young people are left behind, writes Amelia Morgan

Young people need to be able to once again see opportunities, feel hopeful and ready to re-set their plans for their future

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt heavily by young people in Scotland, especially on their future employment prospects. For those young people who were furthest away from the job market before the coronavirus crisis, inequalities are likely to get worse before they get better. A cross-sector group – the Scottish Youth Employment Group – aims to work with government to ensure that young people are not left behind in recovery.

The slowdown of key industries such as retail, hospitality and tourism has hit young people incredibly hard and there is a very real fear that employers will have to put the brakes on recruitment and postpone plans for supporting young people through work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships. This means that even after lockdown ends, work placements will be significantly harder to get.

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A report from the recently formed UK-based Youth Employment Group (YEG) found pre-lockdown in the UK, 750,000 young people were NEET (not in education, employment or training). The Resolution Foundation estimates that a further 600,000 could find themselves unemployed this year, with estimates from the Institute for Employment studies (IES) and Learning and Work Institute (LWI) that 500,000 young people will become long-term unemployed over the next 18 months.

Amelia Morgan, Venture Trust CEO and co-chair of Scottish Youth Employment Group

The YEG briefing paper also highlighted: “Young people are critical to getting the economy started quickly and safely. They are adaptable and flexible in terms of skill acquisition and ability to relocate to find employment. They are, however, more vulnerable to economic downturns and evidence shows twice as likely to have been furloughed or lost their job. In the previous recession, young people saw their unemployment rate grow three times faster than their older counterparts. In this recession, the impact on young people will be greater.”

In Scotland, the youth labour market (16-24 year olds) is already beginning to show Covid-19 impact. Scottish Youth Unemployment was 13.1 per cent at the end of April. A climb of 5.7 per cent since January. Applied to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, that is 45,000 young Scots out of work.

Experts across Scotland are predicting “a youth unemployment crisis”, “a massive rise in youth unemployment” and years of economic “scarring” due to increased job competition and potentially lower wages as the nation recovers.

Can the “potential tsunami of unemployment” be mitigated?

Considerable specialist and sustained support will be essential for young people in Scotland to overcome the new barriers that will be thrown in their path.

The formation of the Scottish Youth Employment Group led by third sector and private provider networks on employability and training, provides a clear opportunity to bring together key leaders within and around the Scottish youth employment sector. This group can support and drive collective thinking and work collaboratively with government and policy-makers to ensure that young people – especially those most disadvantaged – are best supported during recovery. It will place young people and quality of life at the centre whilst driving a wellbeing and low carbon economy.

Young people’s voices need to be at the heart of Scotland’s recovery response. The plan for the future needs to be evidence-led, draw on expertise of what works and unique, trusted relationships with young people.

Recommendations for actions now need to scale an urgent response to support young people into employment and to stay in work during recovery. In the medium-to-long term we need to ensure that Scotland’s employability and into employment system and services work for people and offer fair, inclusive and sustainable work and robust economic growth.

By working together, we will identify key issues, informed by the latest data and evidence of the changing nature of work, recovery of different sectors and locations, and the skills and roles needed by employers to shape solutions to ensure no young people are left behind. A rapid, adaptive response will be vital to ensure that young people, can once again see opportunities, feel hopeful and ready to re-set their plans for their future.

The report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery is welcome, particularly the emphasis on investing Scotland’s future for a better recovery and our long-term prospects even more so. The announcement from the UK Government’s “kickstart jobs scheme” for young people is also welcome. Tackling inequality absolutely must be the priority for recovery or we risk creating long-term divisions in our society.

At Venture Trust, we’re committed to doing this through learning and development in communities and outdoors, so people struggling with complex life circumstances and disadvantage can feel well, happier and ready to take up employment or other opportunities locally.

Amelia Morgan, Venture Trust CEO and co-chair of Scottish Youth Employment Group.

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