As hundreds of thousands of students across the UK receive their GCSE results this week, many will still be considering what their options are when it comes to building the skills and experience they will need to enter the workplace and find a job. At the moment this isn’t always an easy question for them to answer.
While the full impact of Covid-19 is still unclear, it is evident that the jobs market in the UK has been significantly damaged because of it already, with as many as four million working age people expected to be unemployed by the end of the year and sectors such as retail, hospitality and travel reeling from the impact of the pandemic and shedding thousands of jobs each week. These are sectors that have traditionally employed young people making their first steps into the world of work, which has created a particularly competitive jobs market for many young people leaving education.
In addition, there are several other factors at play with potential to radically reshape both our jobs market and labour force in the coming years. We will be leaving the EU, which will undoubtedly restrict the flow of workers into certain industries and may create greater demand for homegrown skills in some industries. Also, the rapid introduction of Artificial Intelligence into the workplace means that jobs are changing at an incredibly fast rate, with some careers expected to totally disappear, others will be done very differently and some brand-new jobs will be created.
We are clearly going to be entering a period of great uncertainty and against this backdrop, it has never been more important to make sure that young people are armed with current reliable sources of information about the labour market when making choices about their futures.
Making sure young people know their options
More young people than ever have opted to take undergraduate degrees this year. This is despite the fact that, according to the CIPD, only 52% of graduates ended up in a graduate position. This is only expected to worsen in the coming year owing to the pandemic with 27% of employers stating that they will offer fewer graduate positions in the coming year.
In 2017, the Baker Clause came into force, requiring schools to allow colleges and training providers access to students to discuss non-academic routes available to them. However, concerns remain over whether schools are complying with the regulations.
Failing to give young people the ability to make informed choices about their future could have serious consequences not only for them, but for the country as a whole, with employers in some sectors, such as Health and Social Care, still struggling to source the skills they need.
We saw a 60% decrease in apprenticeships starts in May owing to the pandemic but there are still options available in growth sectors – it will be essential that young people and their parents and schools are made aware of the opportunities that still are available to them.
We expect that the Government’s national infrastructure strategy will stimulate a boom in opportunities with £600bn of investment expected across the rail, highways and energy sectors, among others, with the number of skilled tradespeople required expected to far exceed the available supply.
Outside of infrastructure, health and social care is expected to grow rapidly over the next ten years, as investment rises in line with the aging population. This growth is expected to lead to 223,000 new jobs in the sector compared to 2016, many of which will be well suited to those with vocational training in the field. Meanwhile manufacturing, previously considered an industry in decline, is expected to see 40,000 new jobs over the same period.
While the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to become clear, government plans demonstrate that young people who choose to pursue apprenticeships in these growth fields will be well placed to adapt and thrive in what may be challenging circumstances.
Helping young people make the right choice
The UK faces a challenging period of recovery in the wake of Covid-19, but it is also clear that opportunities will be available. Young people are entering the job market facing hurdles that are unprecedented within living memory, when traditional “safe choices” may not offer the security they once did.
We owe it to young people to give them the freedom to make the most informed choices they can, so they can be assured that their studies will open up the doors to great careers that many are expecting.
David Phillips, MD City & Guilds and ILM
 According to the Institute of Student Employers