What's next for young people after lockdown?

Group young people using mobile smartphone outdoor - Millennial generation having fun with new trend

Countless students face uncertainty over their futures - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Katie Rutter is a second year English Literature undergraduate at Durham University who lives in Epping. Here she shares her views on what she believes Covid-19 will mean for the futures of young people in Essex 

Will the roadmap out of lockdown help the ‘lost generation’ find their way? 

It’s surely a question facing every generation, but for school-leavers and students, there is more uncertainty than ever before.  

As a twenty-something myself, the idea that our school and university years are the best of our lives is engrained into our brains, but we are left with this sinking feeling that the pandemic has robbed us of these moments and that time is running out.

Despite the reassurance that this generation isn’t medically ‘vulnerable’ to Covid-19, we are instead vulnerable to the pressures of upholding new friendships, studies and plans for our futures amidst a full-blown dystopian pandemic.  

Woman student on college campus learning wearing face mask while working on her laptop

Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on the opportunities open to young people in Essex - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

While the vaccine is being rolled out at record speeds, there is yet to be a cure for the wider impacts of the virus. In January, Young Minds reported that 67% of surveyed young people believed that the pandemic will have long-term impacts on their mental health.

Existing struggles with anxiety and depression have been confounded with loneliness and anxiety about studies and work opportunities. Can overpriced beers in the park with friends really remedy this epidemic of disillusionment?  

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Worries about our future careers have formed a dark cloud which hangs above the collective consciousness of young people and have become the elephant in the room at family dinners.

The Prince’s Trust’s 2021 Youth Index found that as many as 60% of young people say that finding a new job is ‘impossible’ and a quarter would describe their career aspirations as ‘destroyed’ by the pandemic.

It is easy to form a view of the coming years as especially bleak due to the impact Covid-19 has had on internships and work placements.

Last July, The Sutton Trust reported that 61% of surveyed employers had cancelled placements for 2020 and 48% expressed concerns about offering far fewer opportunities in the next few years.

'The Prince’s Trust’s 2021 Youth Index found that as many as 60% of young people say that finding a new job is ‘impossible’ and a quarter would describe their career aspirations as ‘destroyed’ by the pandemic'

Small businesses, especially within creative industries, have particularly struggled with fluctuating demand and social distancing rules, and are unable to take on young people due to business insecurity.  

Nevertheless, we must make sure to raise our eyes from the never-ending negative news stories and look beyond the storm. Covid-19 has prompted many young people to invest time into creative enterprises which full-time in-person work and study normally prohibits.

Countless Instagram accounts have cropped up, ranging from soy-wax candle businesses to baking companies catering to the new phenomenon of lockdown birthdays. Because the opportunities simply don’t exist in the numbers of previous years, the pressure to conform to the standardised template of a road to success has somewhat subsided. Is there finally an escape route out of the maze housing the rat race?  

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Admittedly, this outlook is supported by a certain level of privilege, and financial necessity requires increased security about our futures. In light of this rising barrier to social mobility, the government announced its Kickstart scheme which will provide funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit and will hopefully encourage a rise in opportunities as we slowly emerge on the other side of this pandemic.  

Career and educational anxieties can easily plague the undeniable hope embodied by the roadmap out of lockdown, yet we need to step back and feel the reverberations of the earthquake of a year we have had.  

Covid-19 has completely redefined extenuating circumstances and the opportunity to take a breather from the constant ache of anxiety for the health and security of our loved ones should offer a balm to any anxieties about our futures.  

This summer looks like a socially dense sea of friends and family, and hopefully we can relinquish social distancing from our vocabulary. A year lost doesn’t mean a lost generation and perhaps we can look forward to a positive culture change in the sequel to this dystopia.

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