With the country slowly opening back up, and the introduction of the government’s Kickstart scheme, It’s highly likely that your organisation may be looking to recruit new talent and offer opportunities to young people. 16-25 year olds have been disproportionately impacted by job losses over the last 12 months, and many more have missed out on furlough due to zero hour or casual contracts, or working on a freelance/self-employed basis.
New figures have revealed that 63% of those who faced job losses in the last 12 months were under 25. Employees aged 25 and under were nearly two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that was shut down due to social distancing, with many of these unlikely to return to full staffing levels for some time.
Fortunately there is hope. The Kickstart scheme offers funding for organisations to employ 16-24 year olds at risk of long term unemployment a paid 6 month role. Many organisations are looking for digital natives to come on board to help shape more digital focused initiatives and marketing, and many more will simply find that more young people are applying to roles they advertise.
For many young people this may be the first time they’ve worked in a role outside of entry level retail and hospitality roles, for some it will be the first step out of a pandemic induced pause in employment, and for some it may be there first ever step from education into employment. It’s also going to be an experience that shapes their view of work in a post-covid world and could be the first rung on their career ladder. It’s absolutely crucial to young people that it’s done right.
It’s incredible that the opportunities for secure fixed term employment and workplace learning are available. It is also incredibly important that these employees have a positive and constructive experience within these roles. Here are some tips for employers and young employees alike on how to create a mutually beneficial and constructive work experience.
Employers: Be mindful that the young person you are employing may have been impacted financially over the last 12 months. Pay the living wage if you can so that your employee can afford a decent quality of life and save for the future or repay any debts if they’ve been surviving without a wage during the pandemic. If you can provide or offer support with costs of lunches, travel and uniform/essential equipment please do. Make sure that they have access to the same benefits (such as pension contributions) as other employees, and signpost to support (such as tax relief for WFH) whenever you can.
Young People: If you’re struggling to afford to cover some of the costs of working, such as buying lunches, paying for fuel or public transport, or having the appropriate attire or uniform for your job, let your employer know. They might already offer free or discounted food and drink for employees. You might be able to car share (when restrictions allow) with a trusted colleague, and if you have concerns around workwear, just ask! their dress code might be surprisingly lenient. It might also be asking your employability worker (if you have one) for support with covering travel and food costs. They might be able to offer a bus pass and sometimes even supermarket vouchers to help with costs in your first month of employment. The most important thing to remember is if you’re struggling in any way, let your employer know.
Employers: Recognise that the role may be the first time the young person you have hired has worked in that particular sector or role, or even in the workplace as a whole. If you don’t already, implement a plan for regular 1-1s and reviews to make sure they are supported to fulfil the requirements of their role. If you can set up a method or channel for them to direct questions to their manager or team members at any time in the working, and where they can receive timely responses so they can access the support they need even when managers are engaged in their own responsibilities. Try to assign a line manager with similar working hours for this and any other support. If you are bringing someone in for a new role that requires a level of technical knowledge, but don’t have anyone within your organisation that doesn’t provide that knowledge, try to seek a an external expert that can act as a mentor and advisor.
At interview stages and on commencing the role, ask your employee if they have any additional support needs or require anything for them to complete their work effectively. Accommodate this to the best of your ability, and educate yourself and where relevant others on their specific condition or additional needs so you can ensure you are accommodating their needs correctly and sensitively.
Young People: If you don’t know something, ask! And then keep asking questions. Especially if this is your first time working in a particular industry or role, and especially if your job is temporary. Getting as much knowledge as you can will help you to perform well in your job, and will equip you well for future jobs and interviews too. Ask for feedback and extra support whenever you need it. If the organisation holds regular 1-1s or performance reviews, make the most of these, get as much insight as you can and if you find they’re slipping through the net don’t be afraid to remind your line manager to make sure they happen regularly.
More importantly if you have any additional support needs or know of anything that might put you in a better position to perform well in your job let your employer know. They will be able to make reasonable adjustments if you have any disabilities, learning support needs, physical or mental health conditions.
Employers: Be aware that young people are amongst the demographics most likely to have seen an increase in poor mental health and risk of developing severe mental health conditions as a result of the pandemic. For some, entering into a new role may be particularly difficult after a long period of unemployment or working from home, and will most likely directly follow on from a mentally challenging period of job applications and rejections, or stressful exam periods. Young people may or may not want to disclose issues with their mental health, but having an open and honest culture within your organisation around mental health and wellbeing can make a big difference. Regular check-ins, especially if your new employee is working remotely can go a long way. Offering some flexibility around work hours and allowing longer and more regular breaks and encouraging your staff to get out for some fresh air is also incredibly helpful. Make sure to let your employee know that they should feel comfortable and supported to speak up if they are struggling. And finally, treat mental health as seriously as physical health and make allowances for sick leave and days off accordingly.
Young People: If you are struggling with your mental health when going into a new job and feel comfortable to communicate this to your employer when you start, or at any point during your employment, then do. They may be able to support and offer reasonable adjustments to help you to work without adversely impacting your mental health. Your mental health should be taken equally as seriously as your physical health, and if you need some time off in order to rest and return in a better position to fulfil your responsibilities, then just ask. You may be able to take a day or two, or take sick leave or use annual leave if you need a break. Similarly you may want to allocate some annual leave at regular intervals to take a break and keep your wellbeing in check throughout the year rather than holding out for an occassional week away. You may also want to pursue mental health supportive privately or through your organisation if this is something they provide.
Employers and Young People:
- Respect pronouns, names and identities and beliefs.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Don’t make unnecessary comments on someone’s physical appearance.
- Don’t use inflammatory or derogatory language or make inappropriate comments or jokes.
- Don’t touch a person or their belongings without prior consent.
- Be mindful of any choices, such as work socials, catering choices, meeting times or locations which may unintentionally exclude any individual.
- Go to as far an extent as possible to eliminate bias and direct and indirect discrimination.
- Report any discrimination or offensive language or behaviours to a line manager, HR, or externally if necessary.
Give the young person you are hiring the same access to training and professional development as your existing employees. Make sure they have a say and can pursue training that is not only beneficial to their current role but is relevant to their interests and chosen career path. If your work involves using specific software or tools, or adhering to industry specific standards or guidelines, make sure they receive proper training. Ensure within the first week of employment that they have time to become familiar with all of the health, safety and security measures within their physical and digital workspaces. Make sure they have a say and can pursue training that is not only beneficial to their current role but is relevant to their interests and chosen career path. Be transparent about the amount of time and money you are willing to set aside for this training. If the young person you hire has an interest in business, entrepreneurship, or you are a third sector organisation, they may benefit from enrolling onto The Circle Academy. There are funded spaces on this flexible digital learning programme which are available to 18-24 year olds in Dundee.
If you think that you may need some training or support to carry out your job role effectively let your employer know. They may have in house training or access to external training programmes that are relevant to your needs and may give you a dedicated amount of time at the start of your job, or for a set number of hours a week to carry this out. If there’s anything in particular you are interested in learning which may be beneficial to you in your current and future roles, let your employer know, they may be able to support you in accessing it. Remember that if you are joining the organisation as an intern or apprentice, you are there to learn as much as you are to work. If you are interested in training around entrepreneurship or running a business, you might want to consider applying for a place on The Circle Academy. You can read more about funded places for 18-24 year olds on The Circle Academy here.
If you are taking someone on for a fixed term role, be transparent on what will happen after the period comes to an end. If you know for certain you won’t be able to keep them on, give them as much notice as possible so they can make arrangements for finances and alternative employment. If you have to let an employee go for reasons beyond their control make it clear that their dismissal is not a reflection of their performance, and provide as much support as possible to help them find another role. From reviewing their CV and providing a reference, to introducing them to relevant networks and signposting to relevant recruiters and organisations. Organising a meeting with their line manager or someone closely involved with their work to help with the above support and to celebrate their achievements and identify strengths and areas for improvement can be hugely reassuring and constructive for someone early on in their career. Gathering feedback from them can be a hugely effective way to assess your hiring processes and workplace culture to ensure you can attract and retain young talent in the future.
Take the opportunity to ask for feedback, a reference, advice on your CV and interview skills and access to networks and introductions to help you find future employment. Your employer may even want some constructive feedback from you about your time as their employee. If your employer can’t keep you on after an initial fixed period or because of reasons outside of your control, make sure you are given as much notice as possible, and as disheartening as it may be try to maintain a good relationship with your employer it may be a key to future employment. Seek advice if you believe you are being unfairly dismissed and if you are leaving a job because of a serious issue make sure you seek advice and report the issue. If you are leaving by choice or because you’ve secured another job, make sure you give as much notice as reasonably possible, or at least the minimum stated in your employment contract and be sure to show gratitude to your employer and coworkers for the opportunity.
Getting Back To Normal
The pandemic has put huge pressures on organisations and many have had to operate a little differently, and simply just focus on getting things done in order to survive. It’s understandable that things like workplace practices, team communication and even your own wellbeing has taken a hit over the last 12 months. In the haste to get things back up and running please remember to take the time to reprioritise these and work them back into your routines, especially when taking on new staff.
Please note that all of the above advice is written from the perspective of a young person that prior to joining The Circle had a vast variety of experience entering workplaces as an intern, apprentice, part timer and freelancer, and that has plenty of cautionary tales to share. If all of the above advice seems obvious to you, then you are undoubtedly on the right track.
This was written by Alice Watts – Digital Learning Producer at The Circle from 2020 to 2021. Alice was funded through the Rank Foundation for the past 15 months. Alice worked with our Team at The Circle to produce content and set up our first ever digital learning platform for The Circle Academy. We are delighted with what she achieved during this difficult time. We hope this fixed term internship has provided Alice with the skills and experience to get her next role in a More Than Profit organisation. Thank you for being part of our team and thank you for your hard work, we look forward to seeing what you do next. Kirsty Thomson Founder and CEO.