Coronavirus: Younger generations critical to economic recovery

Kalila Sangster
·2-min read
Business leaders highlighted in a survey younger generations’ energy and enthusiasm as a reason why young people are key to economic recovery from COVID-19. Photo: Getty
Business leaders highlighted in a survey younger generations’ energy and enthusiasm as a reason why young people are key to economic recovery from COVID-19. Photo: Getty

Over a third (34%) of business leaders say that younger generations will play a significant role in helping businesses “survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world,” according to research by Barclays (BARC.L).

Half (51%) cited younger generations’ energy and enthusiasm as a reason why they are critical to economic recovery, 46% pointed to their aptitude for technology, and 40% highlighted young people’s creativity, in a survey of 552 business leaders and senior decision makers.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on youth unemployment and work opportunities for younger generations. Unemployment levels among those aged 16-24 has risen to 13.4%, according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released in October.

Young people have been one of the hardest hit generations, as many entry-level roles in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been impacted by the pandemic.

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Barclays is calling upon business leaders to bridge the gap between generations and take action to have a positive impact on employment prospects and career growth opportunities for young people through workplace initiatives such as “reverse mentoring.”

Although more than half (54%) of business leaders had heard of the “reverse mentoring” initiative — in which junior workers are paired with more experienced employees to swap insights and add perspective on tackling business challenges — fewer than one in 10 (9%) said that reverse mentoring was used in their organisation.

Over nine in 10 (91%) business leaders said they would be interested in learning from the younger generation or those entering the workplace.

A third (33%) of young people aged 16-24 said they believed that greater knowledge and experience of the industry they want to work in would boost their employability prospects, according to Barclays.

In a separate survey of 2,022 people, 22% of young people aged 16 to 24 said that leadership skills were the top skills they could learn the most from senior business leaders. Almost one in five (19%) said that confidence was a key skill that could be learned from more experienced business leaders.

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Kirstie Mackey, head of LifeSkills created with Barclays, said: “I encourage any business leader who wants to truly understand what skills there are within their team to explore if reverse mentoring could work for their business.

“We must be mindful of the challenges that young people are facing and listen to what they say they need. Training and skills development must continue to be a focus within the workplace to help young people and new starters realise their goals.”

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