Two separate surveys have found that young people lack confidence and feel pessimistic about their future opportunities as a result of disruption to their education during the pandemic
“The pandemic is still having a debilitating impact on young people’s plans, confidence and hopes for a positive future. The significant disruption to their education during this period has left these young people worried about their skills and qualifications, and lacking confidence in their ability to secure a job or achieve their future career goals.” Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive, Prince’s Trust
The Covid pandemic has had far-reaching effects on the physical and mental health of young people, according to two new pieces of research.
The Covid Social Mobility and Opportunities (Cosmo) study, conducted by the Sutton Trust and University College London, involved 13,000 respondents. It found that almost half of young people said they had not caught up with learning they had missed during the pandemic. The figure ranged from 43% of those who had not had Covid to 59% who had long Covid.
Almost one in five respondents said their GCSE grades were worse than they expected, rising to one-third of those who had long Covid. Half of those who had not had Covid said they felt less motivated, rising to 57% of those with long Covid.
Four in 10 respondents said the pandemic had left them unprepared to take their next steps in education and training. This figure was higher for those who had had severe long Covid, with half saying they felt unprepared.
As a result of the learning and confidence they had lost because of the pandemic, two-thirds said they had changed their education and career plans for the future.
Sir Peter Lampl, the founder and chair of the Sutton Trust, said of his charity’s study: “While many see the pandemic as being over, the after-effects are far from over for our country’s youngsters, particularly those from less well-off households. It’s abundantly clear that the pandemic is continuing to deeply affect the lives of young people.”
The other study, conducted by the Prince’s Trust, spoke to 2,025 young people aged 16 to 25, and found that almost half felt hopeless about the future. It was the lowest outcome in the 14 years the trust has been running its NatWest youth index. Half also said they were worried they had been left with permanent knowledge and skill gaps that would prevent them from getting jobs in the future. More than a quarter of respondents from poorer backgrounds were planning to finish their education early so they could start earning money, compared with 15% of young people overall, the survey found.
Jonathan Townsend, the UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: “The pandemic is still having a debilitating impact on young people’s plans, confidence and hopes for a positive future. The significant disruption to their education during this period has left these young people worried about their skills and qualifications, and lacking confidence in their ability to secure a job or achieve their future career goals.”
Responding to the findings, Ndidi Okezie, the chief executive of the charity UK Youth, said: “Today’s young people are facing a series of immense challenges that cannot be underestimated. The lingering effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are having a profound impact on young people’s education, mental wellbeing, their financial security and indeed their confidence in the future.”
These two studies add weight to data showing that young people’s mental health concerns have risen since the pandemic. The combination of lost schooling and rising inflation means that many feel insecure and pessimistic about their future. Yet as older people leave the workforce, the country is facing a shortage of skilled employees. We would like to see government specifically address the problems facing young people by focusing on opportunities to acquire skills and training that would equip them for secure and sustainable employment.