I am sure many of us will be stressed about the job market at present. The uncertainty caused by a looming recession is not an enjoyable space to be. With that in mind, this piece comes from the Class of 2020 project. Their team consists of 30 volunteers who have banded together to create a FREE online learning platform to help young people develop key skills during this challenging time. It’s a worthwhile read, especially if you have been furloughed or struggling to find a job. The link to their site is at the bottom of this piece – be sure to check it out! LW
Nothing is scarier than the unknown. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, which in turn produces panic, or lethargic depression. Mollycoddling language has been the scourge of these last few months. In that vein, let me be blisteringly clear: things are crap. They’re crap in general, but if you’re looking for a job, they’re especially crap, with a side order of absolutely bloody terrible.
Internships – a struggle to land at the best of times – have been cut by 40%, and entry level roles are down by a quarter. Popular industries like arts and hospitality are haemorrhaging jobs. Experts forecast that this year’s graduates will be feeling the pangs of the crisis not just now, but for years to come, with an increase of 13% unemployment in three years time, and an average pay cut of 7%. It’s the worst economic crisis in living memory. Worse than 2008, and possibly even worse then 1981. And we’re stuck in the middle of it! ARGH!!!
Okay. Now, take a deep breath.
There’s a catharsis that comes with accepting that you’re well and truly boned. You can’t go anywhere but up once you’ve hit rock bottom. Scant and unappealing as they may be, it’s time to take stock of our options. Starting with:
Down in London town, the Conservative government is taking a decidedly non-conservative approach to the jobs crisis. They’re flinging money at it. £2.8 billion, to be exact.
Perhaps there are one or two hardline young Tories wringing their hands about national debt. But for the rest of us, this is good news. If you’re on furlough, the government will give your employer a tasty bonus if they keep you on till next year. If you’re unemployed, you can sign up for career coaching, six month work placements, or a heavily subsidised apprenticeship scheme.
This time last year these quasi-socialist measures would have seemed unthinkably radical. When Gordon Brown instituted similar changes in 2009 with the Future Jobs Fund, David Cameron cried out in protest, and disbanded the fund as soon as he came to power. But COVID-19 has drop-kicked political precedent through a plate glass window. Dramatic state intervention is now par for the course. So, hooray for that, I guess?
That’s all well and good. But what if you’re looking to start a career the old fashioned way? That brings me to…
The Good(ish) News
To misquote Ed Sheeran, I lied in the title. The jobs are not gone. They’re just evolving, readjusting in the wake of a new world order. While some sectors plummet, others are on the rise…
Housing, for instance, and recruitment. These industries have not diminished, but they have undergone irrevocable changes. Innovative startups are rushing to fill the gaps where old stalwarts have been made obsolete. In these companies, graduates with youthful energy and fresh ideas are being welcomed with open arms (though not huge pay-checks, sadly).
Furthermore, as terrible as it is, this crisis is temporary. There will be an economic uptick somewhere down the line. Companies that skimp out on recruitment now will be unable to take advantage of the post crisis ‘boom’ that will (god willing) occur in a few years, just as it did in the late 2010s. Finding a job in 2020 is less about getting a good degree and more about canny entrepreneurship and networking skills. In that respect, nothing has really changed.
In fact, a lot of the issues graduates face right now are simply accelerated versions of problems that were already there. The days when a university degree was a guarantee of lifelong employment are long behind us, especially for students of the arts. The average undergraduate degree won’t touch on many of the skills actually sought after by employers: expertise software like Excel and Adobe Photoshop, SEO and UX design, as well as more nebulous assets like good leadership and lateral thinking. Students are expected to fill gaps in their education with side jobs, extra curricular clubs, and private projects.
It has been suggested that this crisis could mark the beginning of a new era of education: self directed, with a greater focus on vocational skills. Apprenticeships and practical training could take the place of dead-end hospitality jobs. Private and from-home study could regain some of it’s lost status.
This is where Class Of 2020 comes in. Our ambition is to fill the gap between education and work – to take training materials that companies use to train their employees and make them available to people looking for work. Sure, Masterclass might give you directing lessons from Martin Scorcese, but we’ll give you business development tips from Microsoft. And we’ll give you them for free. Not a bad way to use all that free time you have now, eh?
The upshot is, we are in the midst of a terrible crisis. But we are also something of a crisis generation. If you’re graduating this year you’ve already lived through 9/11, the Iraq war, and the 2008 crash. You’ve seen police brutality on Twitter and eating disorders on Instagram, and spent your entire life in the creeping shadow of climate change. Rebuilding the world in the wake of COVID-19 is an enormous and intimidating task, one that’ll take some lateral thinking and a metric gallon of chutzpah. But, if nothing else, we have got chutzpah. We’ve got it in spades.
Prospects UK: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/
Class of 2020: https://www.classof2020.org.uk/
You can find Class of 2020 on social media:
Twitter – @classof2020HQ
Facebook – classof2020HQ
Instagram – classof2020hq