Why a people-first approach is key to getting younger workers back on their feet

Nov 2, 2020

There are almost 170,000 charities registered in the UK and many have had a front-row seat for the cataclysmic effects of COVID-19 in recent months. Embedded in communities up and down the country, charities have been working tirelessly to support individuals, in particular younger adults, who were already on the brink before the pandemic. COVID-19 has driven and pushed the third sector to respond and innovate even further to support thousands in need.

In many instances, charities have found themselves supporting the most vulnerable workers that were hit hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19. This includes those in low paid work, those in insecure roles, such as gig workers or people on temporary contracts, as well as younger workers.

Nesta’s recent research found that just half (48%) of young adults aged 18-24 are confident they would be able to find another job in three months if they were made redundant, while one in three (36%) feel they’d have no prospects at all. What’s more, 47% of 18-24 year olds agree that a second lockdown would send them over the edge financially, while 45% agree that they do not know how they would pay for Christmas this year.

By developing and building on existing innovative solutions that are steeped in understanding, experience and genuine community insights, charities can make an invaluable contribution to support young adults affected by the pandemic access jobs and money at a time when they need it most.

The government, businesses and the not-for-profit sector have all made tremendous contributions over the last months, trying to help everyone emerge from the ills of COVID-19 as swiftly and unscathed as possible. With additional lockdown restrictions looming, millions of people across the country are again facing severe threats to their job security and finances, and low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 years are expected to be hit hardest. In order to move forward and better support vulnerable workers we need new and improved solutions that keep pace with the ever-changing challenges the pandemic presents.

To help workers impacted by COVID-19 find a new job or better cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic, Nesta is currently running the £2.8m Rapid Recovery Challenge. Supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Money and Pensions Service, the Challenge aims to supercharge the development and scaling of innovative solutions that will improve access to jobs, training and financial support. The Challenge is now closed for applications. The 12 semi-finalists will be announced in December, with at least six of these awards having been ring-fenced to not-for-profit organisations.

Third sector organisations are crucial to connect and help those who have recently lost their jobs or seen their income reduce. There are a myriad of charities that have already taken innovative approaches to do exactly that, such as offering online tools to help those looking for a new job learn about their strengths and skills, engaging community hubs nationally in forward thinking programmes which test new methods of engagement or using  digital platforms to support young people through training into stable and paid work.

With millions of young people continuing to struggle, charities play a unique role in their community due to their first-hand knowledge and ability to reach and support individuals directly. Now is a crucial time for the third sector, the government as well as businesses to come together to support people impacted by COVID-19. By finding, inspiring and accelerating innovation the Rapid Recovery Challenge is keen to do exactly that.

Chris Goulden, the Youth Futures Foundation’s Director of Impact and Evidence, is a member of the Challenge’s judging panel. For more information on the Rapid Recovery Challenge visit rapidrecovery.challenges.org/.

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