As the UK unemployment rate rises to its highest level for two years, Llamau Head of Learning, Training and Employment, Mark Willmore, discusses how Covid-19 is likely to affect the employment prospects of people we support.

“With new data from the Office for National Statistics showing that people aged 16 to 24 are suffering the biggest drop in employment as a result of Covid-19, this is undoubtedly a deeply worrying time for many young people across the UK. It is especially worrying for those who are already disadvantaged and facing barriers to employment, education and training.

At Llamau, we support those furthest away from the labour market to overcome barriers and to achieve their potential. In my role as Head of Learning, Training and Employment at Llamau, I have seen first-hand the incredible things that the young people we support can achieve when they are given support to access enhanced opportunities to develop their career ideas.

The young people we support at Llamau have the same hopes and aspirations as any young person, but often, through no fault of their own, it has not been possible for them to maintain in mainstream education, and they have left school with limited qualifications and experience.

As a result of their experiences, young people we support face significant barriers to education, employment and training, which already places them substantially further away from the labour market than their peers. These barriers, compounded with the increasingly competitive market place created by Covid-19, means that, without the right support and opportunities, many young people we support face an incredibly uncertain future. 

For young people with underlying barriers, Covid-19 has exacerbated issues such as anxiety and motivation. The move to delivering support via digital channels also presents challenges for young people with low level literacy. Our Learning 4 Life team must now support young people through a more intense pre-employability programme in order to get young people to a position in which they feel ready for the application process. We are supporting young people with Targeted Careers and Labour Market Sessions in partnership with Careers Wales, and delivering specific workshops aimed at preparing young people for interviews and application.

Whilst it is encouraging to see short term solutions, such as the UK Government’s Kickstart project, that are aimed at improving employment prospects for unemployed young people, it is essential that these initiatives do not further disadvantage those young people who are furthest away from the labour market. We know from experience that similar initiatives that have been run in the past have focussed their attentions on those young people who employers might see as ‘easier to manage’. We want to encourage employers to work alongside organisations such as Llamau to develop a supportive and structured approach that caters for the needs of the most disadvantaged young people. We know that has to include intensive support to make any placement a success, both for the young person and for the employer.

In the medium to long term, uncertainty around the replacement for the European Social Fund, which funds projects such as our Symud Ymlaen Moving Forward project that support young people furthest away from employment, is a major concern – particularly when set against a backdrop of growing demand for support, and the uncertain economic future created by Covid-19.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that young people have the right support to develop the skills and confidence they need to enter the labour market, and the opportunities that will allow them to build an independent future for themselves.”

If you are an employer or professional and are interested in giving the most disadvantaged young people an opportunity to fulfil their potential, contact us to find out more about our work placements, and how your business can play an essential role in creating a world without homelessness.

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