Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The COVID generation needs our help. According to the Covid-19 and Social Mobility report by the London School of Economics, Centre for Economic Performance, young Britons are predicted to enter a ‘dark age’ of social mobility decline.
The report cites that there are serious concerns that young people aged under 25 are going to be hit disproportionally by long term economic and social damage, compared to their older counterparts, when it comes to future career prospects.
It concludes that young people are less likely to do better than past generations, climb the income ladder and fulfil their potential, regardless of their background. Yet those from a lower social stratum are still significantly more disadvantaged.
Before the pandemic, young people were already facing declining mobility, underpinned by a fall in wages, fewer career opportunities, declining or stagnant living standards and a decline in mobility.
One of the contributing factors to this decline in social mobility - aided by employers - is a lack of paid internships, which is particuarly paramount within sectors such as the creative industries and not for profit sector.
Many employers are still advertising for unpaid virtual internships amidst the pandemic which inevitably encourages fewer equal opportunities for those who cannot afford to gain work experience for free.
According to a 2018 report by The Sutton Trust, an organisation dedicated to increasing social mobility through educational opportunities, over 40% of young people undertaking internships have done ‘at least one of them unpaid’.
The report also shows that around one in four graduates (27%) have done an unpaid internship in order to “get a foot in the door” in pursuit of their career goals.
In addition to this, there are now even less part-time work opportunities available due to the pandemic which have added to student stresses for those returning to their studies this year.
These factors significantly impact those from low social mobility backgrounds who, in turn, may be less likely to enrol in university and undergo unpaid opportunities to gain further experience than those with higher social mobility.
Results from a July cross-sectional survey by Hype Collective of 70 students across the UK showed that approximately 40% of students somewhat or strongly agreed that finding part-time work would be harder.
In response to the large and looming threat of unemployability in the economy, the UK government have provided a new Kickstart scheme for young people.
Overall, the scheme will provide £2 billion in aid of creating ‘hundreds of thousands of “high quality” 6-month work placements’ aimed at 16-24-year-olds who are at risk of long-term employment and those on Universal Credit.
As well as this, the government pledge to provide an additional ‘£111 million for traineeships in England this year to fund high quality work placements and training for 16-24-year olds’, at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.
The government will also introduce a new payment of ‘£2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021’.
Yet it's not just up to the government to make change. This is something we as a society and nation have to get behind. We must learn and adapt.
Employers and universities need to focus on how to best equip themselves to tackle the inequalities faced by young people today in order to give them the best chance possible to succeed in their future career prospects.
Many great examples of outreach have been demonstrated, but again, we must also look to retention and progression of young people, so they not only thrive at university but also progress at the same rate as their privileged counterparts at work.
How we can help
At TG Consulting, we are passionate about breaking down barriers. By increasing social mobility and developing young people's future career prospects we can make a difference to young people's lives.
We recognise that education can be the gateway to social mobility and a core tool in breaking the disadvantage cycle. However, evidence still shows that the employability skills gap remains problematic as top graduate jobs are still being dominated by those from advantaged backgrounds.
We have expertise in developing and scaling initiatives to support your widening participation students to really close the employability skills gap and level the playing field.
The team have working knowledge of the UK social mobility landscape and can support you to identify opportunities to increase engagement with hard to reach students, break down barriers and create real world opportunities for your students.
We have also demonstrated the impact of our work with our clients, aiding them to develop a strategy to not only advance social mobility but progress graduate outcomes.
By Katie Watson, TG Consulting Intern