Students need to get back to Work Experience
How Mental Health issues in youth are linked to the current uncertainty and the cancellation of work experiences?
In our upended world of office closures and job insecurity, it is easy to be consumed by our own worries. But in a week where the focus on Mental Health Awareness opens with the mantra “Kindness”, let’s turn our focus for a minute to our younger cohorts and the ways in which we, the business community, can support them.
Lack of access to resources ahead?
This digital savvy generation, often accused of being wedded to their smart phones, is thought well able to cope with isolation, unlike older generations who are often found grappling with new technologies to replace their decades of face to face social interaction.
But that could not be further from the truth. Their current world has been pulled out from underneath them. Their future world is nowhere in sight. According to UNESCO, in 188 countries schools have been suspended nationwide. As of April 8th, over 1.5 billion young people worldwide are out of education. And UNICEF reports that 700 million days of education could be lost this school year in the UK alone.
For young people this means a lack of access to the resources they would normally have at school and for those with increasing mental wellness and heath needs, this can be devastating.
What do numbers say?
According to Murphy and Fonagy 2012* over half of all mental ill-health starts by the age of 14 years, and 75% of mental health problems start by the age of 18.
Even more current research from The Prince’s Trust and YouGov during the pandemic shows that young people (age16 to 25) have seen a 43% increase in levels of anxiety whilst living during lockdown with 32% “overwhelmed” by feelings of panic and anxiety on a daily basis.
Increased time in family settings can exacerbate these problems. Vivian, a 17 year old student at Ada College for Digital Skills explains: “Not all home environments are supportive”, she says. “They can be toxic and at school you can escape from poor situations and avoid home.”
* Murphy and Fonagy 2012, Mental health problems in children and young people, In: Annual report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012, London, Department of Health
Where to they turn for help in the digital world?
One thing the digital generation knows well is how to make digital friends out of people they have never met. Adolescents are increasingly turning to apps such as Monkey.cool to speak to strangers and offload their problems.
“People are desperately wanting new friends”, confirms Vivian. “It is often easier and far more comfortable to talk to strangers than your own friends or family.”
Data from children’s mental health app, ThinkNinja by Healios, supports this view. The app focuses on mental health and emotional wellbeing, equipping young people with self-management skills and interactive content that is easy to apply to their daily lives. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the team has seen a sharp increase in daily usage of 168% over just 5 days, and as a result has made the app fully available to young people across the UK during this time.
Vivian has used the app TikTok to learn new tasks, such as programming languages for her apprenticeship or cooking as a hobby. But many students have lost the only motivation they had to continue with learning; exam grades.
What happens with the cancellation of work experiences and apprenticeships?
Studying to achieve grades in order to take the next step in their school and work careers, cancelling exams also cancelled out career direction. Given that many apprenticeships and work experiences have also been called off, this leaves many students in limbo; 29% of young people felt their future career prospects had been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, and 46% felt it would be "impossible" to find a job now (The Prince’s Trust with YouGov research).
Even if students in the UK return to school in the next two weeks, their school and extra curricular learning has taken an extraordinary hit, and they are faced with moving into an unprecedented and possibly one of the worst recessions in history. Is it any wonder so many are floundering?
How can we all help?
But we, the business community can step in. No matter how difficult these times are, we can help keep young people motivated, hopeful and engaged, alongside reducing the uncertainty, stress and anxiety, often the precursors to mental health problems. We can empower them by providing new connections, knowledge and practical experience they can use in the future. And by sharing our career experience with them, we are also helping cultivate the next generation of talent.
How can we implement this? By offering work experience. Career days may not be taking place in physical offices or factories around the world but offering a day or two of on-line career engagement will help show the future of talent, that a future can exist, raising their aspirations once again and giving purpose to learning beyond that of simply passing exams.
Through our free CSR initiative, Next Tech Girls, we help create the next generation of female tech professionals and are committed to providing meaningful work experience placements across industry sectors. We feel that during unprecedented times like these, it is ours and the business community’s duty to support our younger cohorts, whilst also introducing businesses to their future talent.
As Vivian says, “Work experience is an eye-opener. It helps shape ideas. It gives real-time pictures of what life can look like after school.”
Sharing your time, your experience and your world, perfectly fits the mantra of “Kindness” and really makes a difference.
Are you with us?
If you are interested in having positive impact on young people’s mental health as well as future while being introduced to your future talent, we would love to hear from you.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org, T: 02035974466
Simply provide us your contact details and we will be in touch
Empiric is a dynamic technology and transformation recruitment agency specialising in data, digital, cloud, security and transformation. We supply technology and change recruitment services to businesses looking for both contract and permanent professionals.
Next Tech Girls has been created by Empiric and delivers a free CSR initiative by partnering with companies to deliver tech-focused work experiences in the UK, providing school girls (years 10-12) with insights into tech careers and the numerous opportunities available to them. Not only does this inspire young students, but it helps raise awareness of the gender imbalance in the industry and promotes a culture of inclusivity.
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