EY -An age of uncertainty report

An age of uncertainty: young people’s views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st century Britain

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Getting into work in 21st century Britain

EY - Louise Coles “More needs to be done for young people, especially from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It is really hard to get good-quality work experience when you don’t have the connections, and even harder if you don’t know the options available to you.”
Louise Coles, aged 18

The CMI and EY Foundation share a common agenda to ensure all young people get access to the right skills, training and opportunities to enable them to have good prospects for their working lives.

We wanted to hear directly from young people about what they thought and had experienced when it came to making decisions about their careers, their workplace experiences to date, and their ambitions for the future.

Why? Because young people need to have more of a voice in debates about their future jobs and careers.

We surveyed 1,510 16-21-year-olds from across the UK in depth about their views and experiences. The results provide fresh insights and suggestions to help strengthen the connections between schools and the workplace. Views were sought before the EU referendum on June 23.

Our report is a candid snapshot of 16-21-year-olds’ experiences in the workplace, and their hopes and fears for the future in an age of uncertainty.

We found young people have high aspirations, are ambitious and want to get on in life when it comes to a job and a career.

They want to lead, manage teams and run their own businesses, and are fairly exuberant about their futures, saying that they know what jobs or careers they want to pursue. And they want more opportunities when it comes to developing leadership and management skills and having great work experiences – and for employers to play a bigger role here.

In spite of this, the young people we spoke to also say they are struggling to get the right experiences to get a job they actually want. They are suffering from a crisis of confidence when it comes to their own leadership and management skills and ability to find a job locally – many do not even know about the employers or job opportunities in their local area.

Lack of connections, a steady decline in school-secured work experience, low self-confidence, and an apparent lack of visibility of local employers – all have the potential to impact on young people’s working prospects, and especially those that are disadvantaged.

There are, of course, many employers across the country doing some great things for young people, offering inspiring work experiences and opportunities to develop essential leadership and management skills – some profiled in this report. We also know that many schools do an excellent job creating these opportunities for their students.

But these experiences are too often not available to young people. The problem seems to lie in the continued fragmentation of efforts, resulting in too many young people, across too many regions in the UK, not having the same systematic, high quality work experiences with local employers, and information about pathways into work. This is a core requirement if we want young people to have the right skills to allow them to get good jobs; and employers to have access to future leaders and managers.

We believe we need to come up with collaborative solutions that bring employers, schools, colleges and government together, linking in with parents and carers, and that young people should be directly involved in shaping, designing and testing those solutions.


by Louise Coles

I’m Louise and I have just finished studying at Sixth Form in the North East of England. I was so glad to be asked to give my views for this report and to reflect on my own experiences of work.

It’s really important that young people’s views are heard and that we can be honest about what experiences we are having when it comes to getting work and careers. This includes all of the things that can influence us – where we live, who we know, what we learn – and how this makes us feel about our futures. So when I heard that CMI and the EY Foundation were going to give 1,500 young people a voice on what to us are massive issues I was really pleased – at last these issues are being addressed.

The report reflects what I have found at my school – they often prioritise going to university. We had lots of assemblies about university, but we didn’t have any on apprenticeships or work experience opportunities.

So it’s not surprising to hear that the majority of young people say that their school provides information about going to university, while under half say they get updates on apprenticeships.

The report also shows that getting good work experience is not always about what you know, it’s about who you know, which is not that surprising. But what is surprising is that so many people get work experience through their school. For me, at school, work experience was secondary to getting good grades – I was always told that you won’t get a job if you don’t get the grades.

After Sixth Form I was planning on going to university – that is what was expected of me. Then my grandparents talked to me about how university isn’t like it was 40 years ago – I realised it doesn’t set you apart anymore. So I decided to do an apprenticeship, although I’ve secured an unconditional offer at university just in case! What I realise is that it is important to have a range of options available, and that there is not just one route into a career.

I found out about what it’s like to go to work, and the range of career options available through the EY Foundation’s Smart Futures programme. The EY Foundation provides the right information to young people like me, so we can make the right choices about the future.

More needs to be done for young people, especially from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It is really hard to get good-quality work experience when you don’t have the connections, and even harder if you don’t know the options available to you.

I believe we need to remove these barriers for all young people. We need the right information to make the right choices, more opportunities for paid work experience, and the chance to learn about different career pathways.

And we need to remove the stigma over apprenticeships – they should be recognised as equal to a degree.


EY - Maryanne Matthews

Maryanne Matthews

Chief Executive, EY Foundation