Anyone who has to predict the jobs market for young people leaving school in the next few years has a very difficult task. Not only has the global pandemic “upended” any economic and sectoral forecast, but the mental and social impact of the last twelve months on all young people has been significant. Recent research by the Mental Health Foundation and Swansea University has shown the vast majority of (68 per cent) British teenagers fear the pandemic will make the future worse for people their age.
Professor Ann John, of Swansea University, said: “The pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions of British teenagers. As our survey shows, many are worried about their mental well-being and the future. Over two-thirds have felt alone. Prioritising the mental health of teenagers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond is critical. That is why we need to take action now, to make sure support is available for those who need it, while guaranteeing access and enabling transitions to training, education and employment. Only through being proactive can we ensure the pandemic does not have long-lasting consequences.” Shockingly, pessimism increases fairly steadily with age, the survey found: from 57 per cent of 13 year-olds surveyed saying life will be worse for their age group, to 78 per cent of 19 year-olds.
Having been heavily involved over the past few years in supporting the outstanding work of Samaritans and their support for the young in schools and universities, mental health issues are close to my heart. I have been chatting to pastoral leaders and others in many independent boarding schools in recent weeks and am especially grateful to the teams Dauntsey’s School, Lancing College and Lord Wandsworth College for their contributions to this article.
This is a time for teenagers to focus on what they can control rather than being afraid of what they cannot. There is something immediately liberating and empowering when children can take responsibility for things around them; even more so when it means they can focus on future goals and ambitions.
There are activities which teenagers can do now which will enhance their prospects of getting a future job, whether after university or direct from school. Employers and university selection panels are looking for young people who have gained transferable skills, all of which have been shown to impact positively upon on job satisfaction, graduate recruitment, and job application screening. These skills are not necessarily taught at university but are being acquired every day at good schools, especially at UK boarding schools.
Transferable skills include independent learning, communication, team working, problem solving, listening, and an ability to self-reflect and to set goals. UK boarding schools offer the perfect place for young people to build and hone these skills in a safe and supportive community. Trying new things, learning exciting skills and making a wider group of friends, whilst living away from home, is a happy by-product of the whole experience. Not only is the teaching and learning environment at boarding schools of the highest quality, but care, attention to the individual and time spent on supporting mental health and well-being, as well as careers advice about direction after school, is offered in spade loads.
Tom Rimmer, Head of Sixth Form at Lord Wandsworth College reports that pupils have shown extraordinary strength through adversity since the start of this pandemic. He says, “Many are understandably anxious about the cancellation of their exams and the as-yet unknown grading process. However, our principle of +2 has been brought into sharp focus for many. It is an aspiration and a mind-set that encourages pupils to project themselves two years into the future; so for our sixth formers, this involves proactively planning and preparing for university and beyond. In lockdown, Sixth Form tutor groups have been channelling their energy into their own ‘Change-maker’ initiatives by seeking to have a positive impact in the local area by supporting food banks, local charities and community groups. We have also set up a series of ‘LWC Focus’ talks that have helped pupils to make up for cancelled internships and work experience by connecting with a wide range of Sternians (old boys and girls), parents and friends of the College”.
Key here has been the way that the support has been offered – Tom readily admits that a fine balance must be struck; there is no point in looking ahead if teenagers feel that their future prospects have been shattered by the impact of the pandemic…
Source: The English Education