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Why you need to have a happy workforce

9th August 2021

Stuart Thomson: Covid-19 will hit the young hardest – especially in the world of work

There is no doubt that young people have been hit hard by Covid-19.  Unless businesses and government take immediate and decisive action then the long-term consequences will be enormous.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs recently held an inquiry into the economic impact that Covid-19 has had on young people.  It found that young people have felt the impact on their financial, emotional, and vocational wellbeing. The report highlighted the educational disruption and financial pressures alongside an impact on mental health.  Alongside this pretty bleak picture, they provided seven key recommendations including:

“Provide additional support and opportunities for young people and employers to ensure that they are “work ready” on leaving full time education, and equipped with the skills to manage, training and support new workers”.

The emphasis may often be placed on schools, colleges and ‘the government’ to help equip people but it should also apply to all types of roles across the public and private sectors. In other words, the problems are being encountered by everyone.  There are no exclusions.

Some employers may have support systems and mechanisms in place, but they are not always designed with the needs of young people or the types of damage inflicted by Covid-19. Maybe the emphasis on support for younger employers is new.  Financial support is, for instance, often more about pensions and savings and not always totally relevant to new entrants. 

The APPG report noted that some employers are delivering ‘upskilling’ so there are good examples out there.  It also says: 

“The Government should pay particular attention on how both educators and businesses can be active partners in providing opportunities for young people.”

But there is nothing to stop this sort of link-up happening at a local level as well and it may better reflect the needs of the local labour market. Too much emphasis on central government may deflect attention from more effective action. 

‘Educators’ should also include universities as well.  The higher education sector is not always viewed favourably by this government.  The 2019 Conservative Manifesto proposed plenty of changes.  If universities are looking for ways to better support their students and improve their reputation with government then the post Covid-19 environment could be ideal.

There are organisations out there providing support to employers to help rectify the impact on the young of Covid-19.  None has to go it alone which would be completely daunting especially for small businesses. Big businesses often have the teams in place but the wide range of advice and help available will be especially needed by small businesses.  And maybe they are better placed to help post Covid-19 because of the speed at which they can move?

Government has put schemes in place – traineeships, apprenticeships, and the Kickstart programme – but membership and representative bodies, recruitment consultants, and other groups have come together to help deliver and prepare for work.

But young people themselves can see where they need help and support as well.  It is not just about getting people into work, although that is critically important, but also about helping them in the workplace.

Younger employees are going to make sure they don’t lose out as organisations work out what their own new working arrangements are.  On one level it is understandable why organisations will focus on the vast majority of their more established team members.  But they are potentially undermining their futures if they ignore this key group. It would also be counter to the types of support many proclaim loudly so there is a reputation aspect they need to be aware of as well.

The competition for the best talent could become even more fierce after Covid-19, those best prepared and with the experience that will be even more sought after.  But we also need to ensure that the crisis does not allow some employers to fall back on old discredited behaviours, those of ‘who you know’ or the tendency to exploit when firms themselves are under significant cost pressures.

We all have a role in helping the young to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

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