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Young people struggle to find quality jobs post-pandemic

While employment is booming, new research suggests that the pandemic has seriously impacted the quality of jobs available to young people.

Approximately 35% to 45% more young people reported poor working conditions compared with pre-pandemic surveys, in a range of areas such as work environment, job security, number of hours, and mental and physical health.

The study, by the Institute for Employment Studies in collaboration with the Health Foundation, found that the pandemic had a real impact on young people’s ability to find quality work. 

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Cristiana Orlando, research fellow at the Health Foundation and author of the report, told HR magazine that the post-COVID hiring boom may have contributed to their difficulties.

She said: “Many young people have had to change jobs during the pandemic, likely down-grading to lower-skilled jobs or with fewer hours, to secure an income. ONS data shows that there has been an increase in zero-hour and temporary jobs over the course of the pandemic. 

“This does suggest that the post-COVID hiring boom has created a greater number of poor-quality jobs.”

Young people’s ability and confidence in finding good-quality jobs, meanwhile, has been impacted by the two-year experience gap.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of young people felt that the pandemic had hurt their confidence and had made it harder to find decent work. 

Similarly, nearly half (46%) said that the pandemic has had a negative effect on how much they value the quality of work.

This, Orlando, added, comes down to people’s confidence in their prospects.

“Young people report not feeling confident that they will be able to access good-quality work, so they value good-quality work less – securing any job and an income becomes more important.”

Young people, Orlando said, cannot afford to take time out from the job market to find a good fit, negatively affecting their short- and long-term aspirations.

It may be this negative experience of the jobs market that has led young people to increasingly seek out vocational routes into employment.

Four in 10 (42%) said that support accessed through vocational education, such as apprenticeships, was very useful, and a third (33%) said the same for traineeships.

Orlando concluded: “Young people are increasingly valuing learning on the job.

“Their perception is that employers are not willing to hire those without existing experience, even for entry-level positions, and that as recent graduates they have very little understanding of the labour market.

“Vocational routes are viewed by many as opportunities for high quality training, learning and work experience blended into one, and a better pathway to learning relevant skills for the world of work compared to traditional higher education routes.”