Risk of lost pandemic generation as young people hardest hit by coronavirus crisis

One million young people could be locked out of education, employment and training as a result of the pandemic, compounding previous shortfalls in education and employment support, a new Learning and Work Institute report finds.


23 12 2020


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The new research lays bare how unequal young people’s life chances are. Fewer young people get the equivalent of A levels than other countries, with less investment in technical education and the number of apprenticeships for young people falling in recent years too.

The pandemic has set things back further and increased inequalities as young people face a double whammy of a disrupted education and weak labour market. As a result, the number of young people out of work for 12 months or more could surge to 290,000, higher than in the last two recessions.

Unleashing talent: Levelling up opportunity for young people

Youth Commission report 6

The report is the final output of the institute’s Youth Commission, which has been looking at how to improve education and employment opportunities for England’s six million 16-24 year olds. It sets out a blueprint for change, arguing for a ten year strategy focused on:

  • World leading education, with three quarters of young people gaining A level equivalent qualifications by age 25, up from fewer than two thirds today
  • Tackling the youth employment crisis, through introducing a Youth Guarantee that all young people are offered a job, training place or apprenticeship
  • Reversing the decline in apprenticeships, aiming for one in three young people to take part in an apprenticeship and for this to galvanise action in the same way the 50% target for higher education did
  • Supporting young people to combine work and study through a new Youth Allowance in Universal Credit
  • Improving living standards by increasing the minimum wage and introducing a double lock so benefits rise by the fastest of growth in earnings or prices

These reforms would cost an extra £4.6 billion per year, focusing on investing more in technical education and employment opportunities. Before the pandemic, half of the £20 billion spent each year on education and employment went on higher education.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute
Young people have been hard hit by the pandemic and to avoid a lost generation we need to tackle underlying weaknesses in education and employment support. That includes investing in technical education, a renaissance in apprenticeships, and urgent action to respond to the youth employment crisis. The cost of inaction is high, and extra investment will more than pay for itself. Let’s make the 2020s a decade or recovery and renewal.
Welcoming the report Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Kate Green MP, said:
With youth unemployment now rising at an alarming rate, harnessing the potential of young people has never been more important. Action is urgently needed if we are to avoid the next generation suffering long-term damage to their labour market prospects. This important report is a major contribution to the debate on how the Government could build back better from the coronavirus pandemic by creating good quality jobs and training programmes for young people with clear plans for their progression, which would benefit employers, employees and the wider economy. Without action now, a generation of young people will be condemned to insecure, low paid and unfulfilling work which wastes individuals’ talents and economic potential. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Maggie Galliers, Youth Commissioner and Chair of Learning and Work Institute
This report highlights why we need to act urgently and decisively to ensure that we do not lose a generation of talent. Our recommendations for better learning and work opportunities for young people couldn’t be more timely in the context of the pandemic. By avoiding damaging individual life chances of young people we will not only enrich their lives but make an immensely positive impact on our future economy and wider society.
Jo Maher, Youth Commissioner and Principal and CEO of Loughborough College
Young people need to be at the heart of the training, skills and education offer that will help to boost their job prospects, enhance social mobility and stimulate the economy to build back better. In order to deliver this crucial task, and to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, further education needs investment to deliver the reforms and address the imbalances in the education system.