Covid: Pandemic job hunt putting young lives 'on pause'

By Ione Wells
BBC Wales Westminster correspondent

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Media caption, "It's a case of applying for literally everything I can find"

The Covid-19 pandemic has "magnified" barriers facing young people getting into work, a charity has said.

A survey for the Prince's Trust, which helps get young people into jobs, education and training, found 44% of 16 to 25-year-olds questioned said their aspirations were now lower.

Half of those from poorer backgrounds said their future goals now seemed "impossible" to achieve.

One 25-year-old said she was applying for any role after losing her job.

Ariane Brumwell was furloughed from a local newspaper in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, in March.

She was then told in August the newspaper was "no longer viable" and she was being made redundant.

"I have no doubt in my mind that had it not been for Covid that I would still be in work and still reporting," she said.

"I started off applying for the roles I was interested in, so journalism, PR, social media-based roles.

"But it's got to a point now where because I've got outgoings, and I'm very aware Christmas is around the corner as well, it's a case of applying for literally anything I can find."

Ms Brumwell said there were so many people in the same position as her that she often does not get feedback from job rejections or has been told she is "overqualified" for positions.

"In terms of my career aspirations, it's destroyed my motivation to an extent because I worked so hard in university and to find a journalism job years ago in the first place," she added.

Under the UK government's Job Support Scheme, a replacement for the furlough scheme, the government will subsidise wages of employees who can work at least a third of their usual hours.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the new scheme would "support only viable jobs" - but some people say their jobs were viable if it were not for the pandemic.

The most recent data showed the unemployment rate in Wales was 3.1%, lower than the overall UK rate of 4.1%.

But unemployment among young people has risen faster, reaching 13.4% of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK.

Using data on the uptake of universal credit and jobseeker's allowance, BBC analysis found the proportion of young people on the benefits had doubled between March and June.

Image source, Caitlyn Morgan
Image caption, The retail job Caitlyn Morgan was expecting disappeared because of the pandemic

Caitlyn Morgan, 20, from Caerphilly, said her life was "on pause".

Before lockdown, she was on a retail training programme in Cardiff, at a business that said it would have offered her a job to stay on if the virus had not hit.

"You see how many people are now unemployed, not just young people," Ms Morgan said.

"I haven't got as much experience as some people do in the workplace. I'm less likely to get a job.

"It just puts your life on pause and you just feel like you're stuck and there's no way of getting out," she said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Unemployment has risen in Wales, but remains lower than the UK rate

Philip Jones, director of Prince's Trust Cymru, said the pandemic had "magnified" issues among young people including "low aspirations", "low self-confidence" and "low self-esteem".

"To think that over half of young people think that their life goals are not just going to be difficult, not just going to be challenging, not just going to be laden with multiple hurdles but 'impossible' is something we need to stand up and have a good look at," Mr Jones said.

He said some young people in Wales felt a "geographic dislocation" between where they live and "where the opportunity is" as well as feeling "the mere notion of success is something they don't feel attached to".

Programmes run by groups like the Prince's Trust have helped people like Lauren Hughes build confidence.

The 20-year-old acting student from Rhondda Cynon Taf has been made redundant from two student jobs.

Image source, Lauren Hughes
Image caption, Lauren Hughes says young people fear unemployment and are questioning their futures

"Obviously the world of theatre looks very different to what it did before the start of the pandemic," she said.

"I'm not going to stop myself following my dreams to become an actress. My opinion has changed about how I'm going to get into it, how hard it's going to be.

"I think a lot of young people like myself are questioning our futures, and there are a lot of young people who say 'I'm scared about my future, I think I'm going to be unemployed'.

"I think we need a lot more support from the government."

A UK Treasury spokesman said: "The Job Support Scheme is designed to protect jobs in businesses facing lower demand over the winter due to Covid, and is just one form of support on offer to employers during this difficult period."

He also said it was "continuing to innovate in supporting incomes and employment through our Plan for Jobs, announced in July, helping employees get back to work through a £1,000 retention bonus and creating new roles for young people with our Kickstart Scheme".

You can see more on this story on Politics Wales on BBC One Wales at 13:15 BST on Sunday 4 October, and on the BBC iPlayer.

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