How does mental ill health impact young people’s access to the labour market and good quality work?

Digital Innovators responds to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Employment’s recent report.

The APPG for Youth Employment recently published a report on the impact of mental ill health on young people accessing the labour market and good quality work.

Young people’s mental health has long been recognised an area of concern. However, the effects of COVID-19, periods of national and local lockdowns and economic instability have all exacerbated the challenges faced by young people regarding their mental health and access to employment opportunities.

Digital Innovators not only welcomes this report, but is proud to have contributed to its findings, which highlight the growing concern around the rising numbers of young people that are trapped in a cycle of being impacted by mental ill health and being unable to transition into employment.

Our founder’s perspective

Our experience working with young people, primarily aged between 16-19, illustrates that the challenges acknowledged in the report are particularly prevalent among young people for whom the traditional education pathway up until age 16 has not worked – or for whom the transition from school to post-16 has been problematic or disrupted. 

Amongst the mental health issues experienced by young people, such as anxiety and depression, there is an overwhelming lack of self-belief. This has been exacerbated by a lack of opportunities and a lack of work experience available to them.

The same challenges are found among young people aged 11-13 as well as those aged 21 and over – which falls at the within other critical periods of transition in personal, academic, and career development.

Digital Innovators fully endorses the report’s suggestion that there needs to be “proactive and preventative support in schools which addresses young people’s mental health needs and ensures they are fully prepared to make positive transitions from education or training into good quality work.”

We need to provide support at key transition points to ensure young people feel able to move confidently throughout their education, training and early careers. These transition points need to re-enforce previous learning through practical applications, assist with figuring out future career paths and develop learners’ individual strengths.

Small changes, big impact

The report rightly focuses on mental ill health as being at the root of hindering access to the labour market, with many of the recommendations aligned to providing additional support and guidance for young people in education and during transitional periods. I would, however, suggest that there are a few fundamental competencies that can be addressed which would mitigate the impact of mental ill health in this area.

Skills such as resilience and communication are key to succeeding in one’s professional career, as well as other areas of life. For a young person, being able to develop these skills alongside their studies, as well as gaining the confidence to demonstrate these skills effectively, would serve as a bridge in their transition between education and employment.

The report highlights that particular groups of young people are more at risk than others and are disproportionally impacted by mental health challenges. Young people with protected characteristics, those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, young carers, and care-experienced young people were all found to be more vulnerable to suffering with mental ill health, compounding the existing disadvantages and barriers to employment they already face.

Digital Innovators’ experience with young people shows that many of these groups are in pursuit of their future career through the further education system but are low in self-belief and lack a sense of direction. The result of this is a lack in confidence when seeking employment, and the knock-on effect of this low confidence meaning they do not secure employment opportunities.

A shared perspective

Our experience working with businesses demonstrates that employers are also struggling as a result of mental ill health in young people. Employers have high expectations of young people, even in entry level roles. Businesses complain that they are unable to employ young people with the skills and confidence needed to transition effectively into their workforce – and that the strain on resources means they are unable to provide the level of support required to nurture these young people into the new careers.

In response to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s economic speech, David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said that further education colleges are key to delivering “the bulk of the training and skills needed to boost the economy,” but that there’s need to be sufficient investment to be able to do so after 12 years of declining funding.

Post-16 education funding is way behind what is needed to boost economic growth… It is colleges where the half of the population who do not hold higher level qualifications and the nine million adults who struggle with their basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills will get the support and skills they need to be competitive in the labour market” Hughes continues.

With businesses and colleges struggling under the pressure of insufficient efforts and lack of funding in skills and personal development in young people, how can we expect to improve access to employment opportunities and mitigate the impact of mental ill health in young people?

DI Recommends

We believe there should be an increased focus on supporting young people between the ages of 16-19 whilst they remain in the further education system. Alongside their formal studies, there should be the provision of non-formal, flexible, learning and enrichment activities that builds confidence, professional and social networks, and employability competencies combined with the application of technical skills.

An example of this non-formal provision is the Digital Innovators Skills Programme, which integrates skills development with work experience opportunities and is a vehicle for providing industry placements needed for T Levels. This programme serves to eliminate the three barriers impacting young people’s mental health and career progression: lack of confidence, lack of opportunities and lack of work experience.

This is a replicable, accessible model which thrives on a community of collaboration between businesses, education providers, community organisations, and local government and we believe is essential to inspire young people amid this mental health crisis.

Find out more

Read the APPG for Youth Employment’s report in full to learn more about the impact of rising mental ill health on young people seeking to enter the labour market and the potential long-term consequences that mental ill health may have on future labour market outcomes for young people.

To understand more about the steps Digital Innovators is taking to support young people with their transition from education to employment, please get in touch.

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