Unemployment crisis for young people in London after the Covid pandemic

The capital’s youth unemployment has risen by 55 percent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic with 21 percent of young people seeking work without work, a joint survey conducted by the Evening Standard and The Independent has revealed.

The figure is five times the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent for all ages and is even higher among young women, with almost one in four of them aged 16 to 24 in London unemployed, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The situation here is by far the worst in the country, with the West Midlands the second most affected region with 15 per cent and Scotland at least nine per cent.

Most worrying is that 42 percent of unemployed youth nationwide have been unemployed for six months or more, with devastating consequences for their hopes and self-esteem.

These statistics reveal the failure of the government’s £ 2 billion Kickstart scheme, launched in September 2020 to fund employers to get under-25 people on Universal Credit into minimum wage employment, but which has resulted in only 96,700 of the targeted 250,000 roles being filled.

The scheme was hampered by poor design, which initially kept small and medium-sized businesses from participating. Delayed changes failed to generate sufficient admission, resulting in a success rate of only 40 percent, and the scheme was to be completed in March 2022.

The rise in youth unemployment comes despite vacancies rising last month to a record nearly 1.2 million nationwide, leading to both a shortage of jobs and a surplus of jobs that coexist and point to a strong mismatch.

In a five-day study of the extent of young unemployment and its cost to society, we begin by focusing on two young people who worked before the pandemic but who have been unemployed ever since.

We talk to experts who reflect on the costs to society and individuals of the mismatch between the skills and experiences that young people deliver and those that bosses demand.

4,000 job applications, 7 interviews and zero answers

Paulo was thrilled. After diligently making up to 10 job applications a day for two years, he had finally cracked a conversation for an entry-level administrative position at a finance company – and as the conversation progressed, he noticed that his hopes rose. “My answers seemed to really hit the mark,” Paulo said. “I thought, wow, after all that time, could this be it?” But as the questions rained in, Paulo became anxious and began to tumble. “I could feel the mood in the room change,” he said. “My nervousness was a little discouraging.”

The 23-year-old from Stratford, whose dream is to become a City Realtor like his father, never heard back. Not even a courtesy call. Despite estimating 4,000 job and apprenticeship applications over a two-year period prior to the pandemic, he secured only seven interviews. And no job. “Each application took me up to 90 minutes because I was always trying to shape myself for each position and think about it,” he said. “You get an automatic response thanking you for your application, and in most cases you never hear a word. The seven interviews I was never told I had been rejected. There was no feedback. I was joking. You have no idea where you are going wrong. You can not imagine how hard it is to keep trying. ”

The barren two-year race was broken in 2019 – albeit briefly – when Paulo had a breakthrough. He was hired by a restaurateur through the online job platform Coople to be a part-time waiter and bartender to work for £ 10 an hour at banquet venues across London, including the Waldorf Hotel and Twickenham Stadium. It was only two days a week, but eventually he made progress. But then Covid hit, and in August last year, the restaurateur said they had to let him go. Paulo again made job application after job application. “It destroys the soul,” he said. “Two years of trial and error after I left university, and well over a year without work since Covid has left me completely empty.”

“There was no feedback, I was joking,” Paulo says

/ Daniel Hambury / Stella Pictures Ltd

Paulo is one of 105,000 Londoners aged 16-24 who are registered as unemployed – and one of 24,000 young people who have suffered from the devastating effects of long-term unemployment.

In a week-long revelation of the problem starting today, we tell the stories of young people who have struggled to find work since the pandemic and address two critical questions: Why is the unemployment rate for young Londoners, at 21.3 percent, almost six times? higher than unemployment for 25-34 year olds? And why does it happen when vacancies have risen to a record nearly 1.2 million nationwide?

Steve Haines, spokesman for Impetus, a group that helps charities transform the lives of disadvantaged young people, said young people have borne the financial burden of the pandemic. “Young people with the least experience were the first to be fired. Later, when the vacancies opened up, they lacked the experience of putting them at the back of the queue and pointing to a competency mismatch between employers’ demands and what young people have to offer. A significant proportion of unemployed young people need support before they have the necessary skills and self-confidence. ”

Polly Hughes of City Gateway, an East London charity that supports hundreds of disadvantaged young people at work every year, said: “Young people have been caught in a perfect storm. To get a sustainable job, they need the right one. experience and competencies.It provides internships and apprenticeships, but almost 80 percent of newly started apprenticeships and internships were cut or paused due to Covid.As the labor market opened up, there has been increased competition for entry level roles with two years’ worth of “Pupils and graduates are looking. Combined with older workers returning to the labor market, the impact is being pushed further down the chain. This is affecting most people with the least experience, no matter how talented they are.”

Dr. Joe Marshall, executive director of the National Center for Universities and Business, said the unemployment statistics revealed “a mismatch between skills that stand in the way of the nation’s recovery”. It was predicted in 2019 by the Industrial Strategy Council, an independent government advisory group, which warned that “the skills mismatch is expected to worsen significantly” and that “government and individuals will all have a role to play in retraining and upgrading the existing workforce” , with math, english and digital and communication skills key.

Paulo is a good example. His problems started when he left school with below par GCSE grades in English and math that knocked out his dreams of a brokerage job. He said, “My grandmother died during my GCSEs. I missed an exam because I was so desperate. We were very close. I got Ds and Cs and below. Then I went to college to get a Btec in accounting, but I lost momentum and failed. ” He grew up in a middle-income household where they were taught that hard work was rewarded, but five years ago his father’s brokerage business collapsed, putting the family under pressure.

He said: “My father has not worked since. I would pull my weight like my siblings. I have three older brothers and sisters and they all have a decent job, but I have been the subject of constant failure.”

He added: “I go online every day and I see lots of vacancies for entry-level jobs, but they demand graduates with years of experience. Even my friends who went to uni can not get proper jobs and feel lucky to work as a barista.

For Paulo, rebuilding his confidence has become a daily struggle. He said: “I felt very depressed. I never wanted to let anyone know because I did not want to burden anyone.”

His goal is to get office-based work so he can learn transferable skills and build up, step by step, to work in the city. He said: “I have been working on myself to improve my verbal presentation and sounds more sophisticated. I have a conversation for an apprenticeship on the way. On that day I will tell myself that it will be okay but my hands will tell me it’s going to be bad. ” He laughed nervously. “I think I can do this. I so want to have a job and make my parents proud. Maybe this time.

Derry’s story

Derry arrived at our meeting and looked sharp in a suit and tie.

“I have interviews for reception work at two four-star hotels, one at the Hilton in Angel and one at the Barbican,” he declared. “My motto is be prepared.”

The 29-year-old from Hackney has been unemployed since Covid resigned from his job as a restaurant manager, and he has made about 1,500 job applications in the last year – which resulted in zero interviews – so these two interviews represented a great opportunity.

“The problem is, you never get an answer,” Derry says

/ Matt Writtle

But Covid was not the first time Derry’s world had been changed. Nine years ago, after completing a two-year plumbing course, Derry followed his passion for working in the construction industry in his father’s footsteps when he got a headache, was blacked out and woke up three days later at the National Hospital for Neurology and neurosurgery.

“I had a brain tumor. They took a biopsy and it was benign, but if it had gotten bigger, they thought it would be cancer, so I had to have radiation therapy, and the biopsy affected my balance and made me dizzy. It meant that I could no longer work on a construction site. ”

While Derry was lying in bed recovering, he watched a lot of TV, especially the Food Channel. “My dad joked, ‘You watch so many food shows you should become a chef.'”

When he was strong enough, he enrolled in a catering course at Hackney College and came out with an NVQ, where he got a job as a kitchen porter and commis chef for £ 11 an hour.

“It all went well, but because of my health history, I was told I should not work in a kitchen,” he said. “My manager moved me to a job in the back office to sort reservations. I was there for four months, but then Covid hit, and because I was designated high-risk, I had to isolate myself. I was on leave for eight months, but the restaurant stalled. I have not worked since. “

Derry is worried about whether he will ever again find an employer who is as understanding as his last.

“My balance is about 10 percent affected, so new tasks may take a little longer to get hold of, but once I know how to do something, I’m a whiz. How do I find another job where they know me? and where do I feel valued? ” Derry is looking for more than 30 jobs a week.

“The problem is, you never get an answer. After a while, you feel p ***** away. I have work experience, but I still do not cut through.

“I do not know where I’m wrong. I’m loyal and trustworthy, but until someone takes a chance on me, they do not know. My hope is that there will be two interviews. I just need someone to give give me a break so I can show them what I’m made of. ”

Since our interview, Paulo and Derry have had contrasting fortunes. Paulo has received an apprenticeship as a business administrator at Hurak Education Services. Derry did not get a receptionist job.


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