CEO of Young Enterprise Sharon Davies on supporting young people during lockdown

An estimated 757,000 young people were not in education, employment or training between July to September, OFS statistics show

CEO of Young Enterprise Sharon Davies on supporting young people during lockdown

We must support our youths now more than ever: Sharon Davies CEO of Young Enterprise, insists government must cultivate skills and talent in the youth to create a strong post-lockdown workforce

An estimated 757,000 young people were not in education, employment or training between July to September, OFS statistics show

As the pandemic continues to sweep across the UK, dozens of work experience schemes and prospective job opportunities have come to a screeching halt, leaving thousands of youths scratching their heads on their next career move. Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise, has urged the government’s “crucial” role in providing more work-related opportunities for young people to allow them to succeed and prosper during this difficult time. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 757,000 young people were not in education, employment or training between July to September – the lowest recorded level of since 2001. Not to mention, cancelled exams, disruption around education and loss of social interaction has resulted in increased feelings of isolation among the youth. A recent report by Princes Trust that surveyed 2,180 16- to 25-year-olds across the UK, suggests that more young people are feeling anxious. More than half of young people (56 per cent) “always” or “often” feel anxious. 

Young Enterprise is a UK charity committed to helping the youth achieve their fullest potential and succeed in a changing workforce by equipping them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle new challenges. Sharon Davies was appointed CEO of Young Enterprise in 2019 and has committed her time to help shape the youth of the future. Now, Ms Davies has emphasised the urgent need to provide youths with the right support to build on their skills and nurture raw talent, in a time when they inherently need it the most. “We need to learn from the 2008 financial crisis when young people were disproportionately impacted by unemployment, which then went onto have a ‘scarring’ effect on young people’s futures for up to 10 years after that period of unemployment,” Ms Davies tells me.

“The common theme is a reduction of opportunities. We need to do more to ensure that in the current environment, more opportunities are provided to mitigate that impact. We have also seen first-hand young people being resourceful and adaptable in the face of the current environment, but they must be given the right support to continue to build on the skills that they possess inherently as a starting point, in order to then nurture them and build on them.” 

Ms Davies insisted the government has a “crucial” role in providing the youth with more opportunities to gain work and can do this by developing partnerships between businesses and education institutions. “The government has a crucial role in developing productive partnerships between business and education in order to provide more work-related opportunities for young people,” she said. “Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke at one of our recent events and agreed with me that it’s essential that solutions to successfully connecting young people in to the jobs market come from all aspects of society – government, business, third sector, schools and civil society. Even just one visit to a school from a local employer or entrepreneur can be hugely inspirational for young people in the classroom. We need to make it as easy as possible for local employers to come to schools and talk to young people about their work, and also to help young people to grow their build work-related skills.” 

In 2020, Young Enterprise has helped over 195,000 youths develop skills and navigate their way through the job market. Ms Davies emphasised the need for educational institutions to broaden their curriculum and encourage enterprise education to help youths adapt to a changing workforce. Even with the government’s Kickstart scheme in place, Ms Davies believes youths can benefit from a wider range of services available to them while they are still at school and still learning. “Whilst we welcome initiatives such as Kickstart as opportunities for young people to build the skills, confidence and experience they need to find work after completing the scheme, we think opportunities can be found in a much wider range of business, education and enterprise partnerships while students are still at school,” she said. 

“Sometimes just a few weeks of work experience can open up a whole new world for a young person with limited professional experience. It is of critical importance to help young people build out their professional networks, including access to relatable role models. Individuals who can identify with the challenges they are facing, share their own journeys on overcoming barriers and support them in building the skills and confidence to do that. Providing a young person has access to digital assets, this is easier to do in a digital setting, as people don’t need to physically travel.” 

During a Young Enterprise’s Enterprising Mindsets on November 4, Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also commented on the urgent need to help the youth: “We’ve got to do something bigger than the Kickstart Scheme which has been introduced by the government. We’ve got to promise work experience, we’ve got to promise proper training, we’ve got to promise help with job searches, like help with writing your job applications, and we’ve got to give employers an incentive to take people on. We’ve got to help people, to show their entrepreneurial skills and give people a chance to develop them.” 

Everything begins with a mindset, and cultivating an enterprising mindset is a sure-fire way to flourish talent and prepare for challenges in the job market. “An enterprising mindset is an incredibly valuable asset for young people to adopt,” Ms Davies said. “It enables young people to navigate their way through the challenges that the modern workplace presents and assess where opportunity might emerge from. Being able to turn around a setback and to creatively see a way around or through a perceived roadblock is something that can come naturally to some entrepreneurs but it’s a mindset that is crucially important too for young people, in fact for everyone. 

It is important that the government, employers, schools and charities collectively merge efforts to provide the youth with skills and attributes to deploy in the workforce in a post-pandemic world and equip them with the confidence to succeed despite uncertainty ahead. “We have an opportunity now as we slowly work our way through the challenges of lockdown and beyond to really engage Government, employers, schools, and charities in a collective focus of ensuring that young people emerge from this Covid pandemic with a range of skills and attributes that they can deploy to find a place in the workforce post-education,” Ms Davies said. “Clearly the academics are important, but they need to be accompanied by meaningful opportunities for young people, to equip them with the confidence and skills to get a job and be successful in it.” 

The Young Enterprise offers free online programmes that are suitable for remote learning or in-school delivery once institutions are allowed to re-open to all students. They also have a range of services for teachers and parents and carers to support students. Details of these programmes and services are available on:

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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