Everyone across the globe may be enduring the coronavirus pandemic but for some, it is stripping away their future. For young people, in particular, lockdowns have affected the ability to complete their studies while the overall impact of COVID-19 has hit companies’ hiring practices and therefore given fewer opportunities to the younger generation than ever before.
Couple this with the fact that the financial crisis of 2008 left a long-lasting effect on career opportunities, young people face a double whammy when it comes to establishing themselves on the work ladder as well as in developmental opportunities. And for companies, they are missing out on a huge glut of talent.
The #ChamberBreakers podcast series confronts the issue of how businesses can better conduct corporate social responsibility (CSR) by understanding the needs of marginalised communities as well as how a crisis impacts certain staff demographics — from age and ethnicity, to sexuality.
In this third episode, Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK, and Xavier White, CSR and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, speak to Hayden Taylor — the 23-year-old founder of social enterprise, Unloc.
Unloc helps thousands of young people in schools, colleges and communities with their education, employment and mental health. This gives Taylor a special vantage point from which to describe the effect of COVID-19 on them —the very real prospect of a terrifyingly long-term problem for a whole generation.
“50% of mental health issues are established by the age of 14,” says Taylor in this latest episode of ChamberBreakers. “We know that the lockdown in the UK has isolated young people from their friends, from their family, their school community — and all those around them that would normally offer a kind of informal support network.
“This is a huge challenge for young people. But it is also a huge challenge for the organisation trying to support them.
Technology has been a major part of solution. As it has been in so many other areas of people’s lives during the pandemic. Charities working on the mental health agenda have used the internet as much as businesses – from audio-visual platforms like Zoom and Blue Jeans to anonymous chat apps. Each are ways to engage with people. But each comes with its own specific challenges.
“It’s not an easy task for charities, particularly when a huge range of young people don't have access to technology at all – or are perhaps sharing it with other members of their household,” he says.
“In my local area, the estimate is twenty five percent of young people do not have access to a laptop,” says Taylor. “That's a really scary statistic. But it also means that we can't target support at those young people because they physically cannot connect to it in the first place.”
How business can make a difference
Taylor does have a part, at least, of the solution. “What CSR departments can do is to be plugged into that conversation locally; to work out how they can lend support to those organisations trying to reach young people. And that could be a kind of expertise, or it can be physical hardware.
“We've worked in the past with Verizon Business (VZ) to use second-hand laptops and to make sure we get them to people in need. But there's lots of opportunities for CSR departments to provide very specific bits of expertise around the types of technologies that charities are using to connect with young people over the internet.”
The six-part podcast #ChamberBreakers is out every Thursday. This week’s episode features Christina McKelvie, the Scottish Minister for Older People on the challenges older populations are facing from COVID-19.