The decline of the Saturday job means young people are losing out – again.

A Resolution Foundation report indicates that the Saturday job is in decline. What does this mean for young people – and what steps should be taken?

Housing crisis? Fewer early career opportunities? 2020 is not looking good for young people in the UK.

Young people are being hit hard on multiple fronts in 2020.

News headlines are full of the youth housing crisis affecting young people who are forced by rising living costs, rents and house prices to live at home. Then there’s the recent ISE (Pulse) survey indicating that UK employers will be offering fewer entry-level jobs in 2020, meaning that more young people will have to compete for fewer positions.

Young people are keen to progress and develop, but the system and the employment landscape is proving an increasing challenge. Young people who want to move forwards in life – for the betterment of all – are being pushed back.

Here at Youth Employment UK, we work tirelessly to help realise a future where youth unemployment is a thing of the past, and young people can apply for roles that offer development and support on an even playing field. It’s not an impossible dream – but organisations need to come together and collaborate. Society as a whole needs to recognise and celebrate alternative routes into careers. Employers need to increase the quality and breadth of youth opportunities – after all, the employment future of young people determines the success of our society as a whole.

I’m proud to say that all the Youth Friendly Employers we work with are actively playing their part to offer young people MORE opportunities, and with fantastic training, mentoring and career development programmes. The DHSC, McDonald’s, EY and many others have been awarded the Youth Friendly Employer Mark for their dedication to youth employment. We need to see more collaboration and dedication like this if we want to turn those downward figures right-side up.

The decline of the Saturday job is hitting young people where it hurts.

A recent report from the Resolution Foundation report indicates a quarter of 16 and 17-year-olds were employed between 2017 and 2019 – falling from 48% in 1997-99.It also says that 8.2% of people aged 16-64 have never had a paid job. That’s over 3 million young people in the UK! It’s also and increase of more than 50% of the 5.4 young people who had never had a paid job in 1998.

So what’s going on? Why are the numbers of 16-17 year olds in work dropping so substantially? The report said that young people were prioritising their studies over part-time work. It appears that young people are aiming to get the most out of their education and are starting work later in life. That’s completely understandable, but I think young people are having to make an increasingly complex series of choices in order to get the most out of their education.

Education matters. It always did. But work experience matters too. Especially since young people are feeling increasingly less sure and less confident about what their future holds. The 2019 results of our annual Youth Voice Census revealed some worrying truths:

71% of young people who’d had work experience rated it as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, but they weren’t all getting access to it. Young people genuinely find work experience rewarding, so it’s a problem if they don’t have the time to do it, or if the opportunities aren’t there. Saturday jobs are such a great base camp for work experience, and if young people can’t get them, they are missing out.

Young women at university are half as likely to receive careers information as men. What does that tell us? It indicates that further and higher education appears not to be a level playing field when it comes to getting young people work-ready. Those graduate students have made a huge commitment to their further education – the least we can all do for them is help them to have some prospects and support when they eventually leave education for the world of work. If fewer employers are offering graduate positions in 2020, as the ISE (Pulse) Survey suggests, then any graduates will need a little extra work experience on their CV.

The 3,008 young people who took part in the Youth Voice Census raised location and travel as being one of the biggest challenges to finding employment. The great thing about a Saturday job is that it’s so local. It’s on your high street, or in your local newsagent’s. In more ways than one, it’s in reach.

The decline of the Saturday job is a real shame for young people. And it’s a real shame for us all.

Saturday jobs are:

  • An opportunity to earn money of your own, bringing you a step closer to independence and self-management
  • A means to develop necessary life and work skills like teamwork, time-keeping, resilience, self-belief and organisation.
  • A taste of work culture to help you prepare for later life
  • A chance to build work experience for your CV
  • A very important way to transition into adulthood, through being given responsibility and wages

Saturday jobs give you a chance to find out more about what you like (and don’t) in terms of roles and work culture. You might discover you loved interpersonal relationships with customers, or would much rather hide at the back counting stock and taking pleasure in an ordered system that YOU had ordered, yourself.

Recent news reports say that, over Christmas 2019, high street shoppers were particularly interested in experiences. In cinemas and fast food takeaways. These are areas where Saturday jobs – and the young people doing them – could thrive.

If the Saturday job is dying, what can be done?

If Saturday jobs are truly fading into non-existence, then we need to work harder to make sure other experiences can replace those lost in the Saturday job.

Volunteering could well be one of those experiences, but opportunities need to be more readily available. It must be ensure that volunteers are building skills, and that this experience is as valuable to employers as a Saturday job might have been.

It is also important that employers re-calibrate their recruitment practice, taking into account that fewer young people will have experience. Having this as a direct ask on job applications will lead to lots of missed talent.

Finally, we need to ensure that all young people know about the local opportunities available to them, and that they don’t feel so pressurised by education. Young people aged around 16 need to be able to take a step back, breathe, and feel able to explore education, a hobby or interest, volunteer and engage in a little part-time work, without feeling all the pressure of academic success or failure.

We don’t know what the future has in store for us. Young people may find it’s harder to get a job later in life due to a changing employment landscape and a potential change in the economy. Their ability to start working at a later age may even be affected by factors like ill-health.

We need to support young people to feel well-rounded as soon as possible in life. They confident they have room to develop, and the ability and resources to choose from a range of options – including the Saturday job.

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