‘It’s confidence-shattering’ - Young people’s battle to find jobs amid pandemic
PUBLISHED: 09:04 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:04 14 September 2020
Young people in Norfolk have described the “confidence shattering” process of job hunting during the coronavirus pandemic amid fears over a lack of future opportunities.
Figures released by the Institute for Public Policy Research predict that over one million under-25s will be unemployed in the UK by the end of the year - the highest number on record.
Meanwhile, a national survey carried out by Hays between July 8 and July 21 garnered 780 responses from employers and job-seekers in the East of England.
The results show that 70pc of employees born after 1995 think job security has become more important since lockdown, but that only 21pc of employers in the region are recruiting graduates, trainees or apprentices.
And of the under-25 respondents, 53pc described their career prospects as average or poor.
One of those young people is Daniel Baksi, 24, who lives in Norwich.
He said: “I haven’t been able to find consistent work since I was made redundant at the end of February.
“I’ve been living off my savings to pay my rent - but they’re fast approaching their end.
“I applied for Universal Credit in April, but because I live with my girlfriend, I receive just £180 a month. It’s a help, but nowhere near enough to break even.
“Since March, I’ve applied for jobs constantly - often writing four of five cover letters in one day.
“Competition for jobs is so high because of coronavirus, and it’s confidence-shattering when you get rejection after rejection. I’m essentially relying on luck.”
Zoe Moore, 20, from Cantley, said job hunting was “even more of an impossible task” for her as she suffers from partial short-sightedness and epilepsy.
She said: “I’ve had a job coach since graduating from college last June, but I’ve not been able to find any jobs in the sector I want to work in, which is child care.
“So far, every interview I’ve had has ended in rejection.
“Most of the jobs I’ve seen require you to have a driving licence or a car - which means half the opportunities advertised become immediately inaccessible to a lot of young people.
“And when employers hear the word epilepsy, they just get so scared.”
Matthew, 22, who did not want to give his last name, lives in Norwich - and moved here from King’s Lynn in 2018. He has been looking for work since before Christmas.
He said: “The whole thing is horrible. I’m applying for retail jobs, food jobs, cleaning jobs. Anything that will take me on.
“I feel so down about it, and have resorted to selling a lot of my things to make money. Not having a job has crippled my mental health and taken away my social life.”
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What are the options for young people?
But it isn’t all doom and gloom for under-25s, even if you don’t have much experience to hand.
Jane Donnelly, regional managing director of Hays recruitment agency, said: “If you have picked up any new skills over lockdown, I would recommend highlighting these on your CV or in an interview.
“Even if the skills you’ve learned aren’t directly relevant to the role, you will still demonstrate your commitment to independent learning and initative in terms of using free time productively.
“With remote working looking set to stay for some time, these qualities are very much valued by employers.”
She added: “Although most young job-seekers will be digital natives, it’s still worth taking the time to become familiar with the required technology.
“Practice using software like Skype and Microsoft Teams in case you are called up for a virtual interview - and get comfortable looking into a camera and speaking into a microphone.
“I’d also advise young job seekers to try something new. The pandemic has caused surges in demand.
“Considering the current circumstances, your job search might not go in the direction you expect it might, but being flexible and open to new opportunities could really pay off.”
What about the Kickstart Scheme?
One option for young people is the government’s new £2bn Kickstart Scheme, offering six-month placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Businesses which sign up for the scheme will be given £1,500 to help set up the training course.
MORE: What you need to know about the £2bn Kickstart scheme and how to apply
As of July there were almost 538,000 young people aged 24 and under on Universal Credit, a rise of around 250,000 from March.
Young people will be referred into the new roles through their Jobcentre Plus work coach with the first Kickstarts expected to begin at the start of November.
But of the people we interviewed, only Mr Baksi was aware of the scheme.
He said: “I saw a few Kickstart roles on LinkedIn. I’m hoping to get one when the scheme is rolled out in November.”
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