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New research from the Learning & Work Institute into the impact of moving to online delivery of employability support during Covid 19 has found that a hybrid model is the most effective for employers and young people.

Commissioned by the EY Foundation within weeks of moving to online delivery during lockdown, the findings are an important reference for employers and training providers as they plan their post pandemic business strategy - one which may involve fewer bums on office seats, due to the expected long-term shift to increased remote working. More clicks, less bricks, to borrow a phrase from the retail industry. 

But digital exclusion continues to pose a risk, leaving people without devices, connectivity or the necessary skills excluded from an increasingly digital world.

51% of young people polled said a hybrid model was most effective, compared to 10% who said completely online and 29% completely face-to-face. 

Acting Chief Executive of the EY Foundation, Lynne Peabody, says: 

‘We pride ourselves on being an evidence based organisation and want to ensure we are achieving measurable impact in support of young people. This drove our desire to quickly understand how to deliver virtually in the most effective way - and then help other organisations by sharing our findings.’

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Identify when face-to-face matters and schedule opportunities to meet up in person.
  • Use online delivery to improve inclusivity for participants who may struggle to attend in person.
  • Remove barriers to online delivery, for example by providing technology and a quiet place to work.
  • Avoid using terms like ‘real life’ versus digital. Digital relationships are an integral part of modern working practices.
  • Encourage but don’t enforce camera use. 

Levelling Up

Importantly, the hybrid model also contributes to an essential ‘levelling up’ of opportunity - something all employers must consider as part of their diversity and inclusion targets and values. 

Researchers concluded that the virtual model introduced by EY Foundation during the pandemic as a necessity - actually became a lifeline for some as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, or who live further away from city centres, were able to access more opportunities.

Learning & Work Institute Chief Executive Stephen Evans says:

‘Young people faced disproportionately high levels of unemployment during the pandemic, which is why it’s essential that youth employment programmes are delivering high-quality support. It is particularly important for groups of young people who are often left behind to have the right digital skills and access, including through hybrid delivery.’

Employer partnerships

It’s a win-win for employers too, as the talent pool is deeper, wider and more diverse as a result, and It’s proven that organisations with more inclusive, diverse workforces outperform their competitors by nearly 35%.

Over the last year, the EY Foundation has worked with 272 employers and launched a range of new, sector specific programmes, targeting fast-growing sectors of the economy. These include Tech Futures, Secure Futures and a partnership with the Chartered Banker Institute.

Marcus is from Lewisham in south-east London and took part in the virtual Tech Futures programme:

‘For young people starting out on their journey from school to work, the last year has been tough.  We’ve been affected by schools closing, remote learning, work experience being cancelled and rising youth unemployment. The last year has also increased awareness of racial inequality facing many young people.

‘I would have really regretted not pouncing on this opportunity if I had missed it. There are three major things I took out of the experience. The first is you can do anything if you commit to it. The second is the importance of self-reflection, as it aids personal development. Lastly, but certainly not least, the ‘Dragons Den’ challenge showed me that together we can achieve great things.’

EY Foundation 2020/2021:

  • Young people supported: 2,440
  • Young people supported on the flagship Smart Futures and Our Future programmes: 570
  • Young people qualifying for free school meals: 100%
  • Young people for whom English is not their first language at home: 50% - Based on 308 young people on the Smart Futures and Our Future programme who completed both a pre and post programme survey.


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