For the last two years, employers have grappled with a shrinking talent pool, exacerbated by the pandemic and the consequent reassessment amongst employees of their work priorities, ambitions and values.

Not only will organisations need to focus on attracting and retaining the best talent, but also young people entering the job market for the first time will need to think carefully about which businesses most faithfully reflect what is important to their lives or, to put it another way, their ‘reason for being’.

Let’s look back briefly to the last 12 months.

Research suggests that young people are more confused about their career paths than ever, with more than two-fifths pausing their career or education plans, a poll last year has found.

The survey of 2,000 young people aged between 16 and 24, commissioned by BAE Systems, found that 21% were more confused about their career path than before the outbreak, with 43% choosing to put career or education plans on hold while they waited for the pandemic to be over.

Similarly, one in five said coronavirus had deeply impacted the industry they wanted to work in.

Commenting on the findings, Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said it was concerning how many young people had felt lost regarding their career plans. “We know from the last recession that these types of things, particularly spells of unemployment, are very damaging to young people’s future earnings and mental health,” she said. ‘’Many sectors in which a lot of young people might have got their first foot into the job market, such as hospitality and retail, have been hugely affected by the pandemic. It’s likely we’re heading into a considerable recession, so things will remain tough for quite a long time.” 

Crowley said government action was urgently needed to prevent a ‘lost generation’ of young people. “There’s a critical need for high-quality information, advice and guidance to inform choice,” she said. “If a young person is thinking about a career in particular [it is vital] they can get a clear understanding of the entry requirements, and what can they do now in terms of skills development, to put them in a good position for when we come out of lock-down and more opportunities become available.”

Looking ahead, post lock-down

So, as the new year unfolds and the restrictions that have affected our lives start to lift, we can hope that normality of a sort starts to re-emerge. For employers and job seekers this will require a new set of imperatives. The Financial Specialists, Close Brothers, recently suggested five key actions for employers to consider in 2022, all of which might help to stem the volatility and churn within the workforce.

First, invest in training.

If companies are suffering from skills shortages, ignoring training may be a false economy. It’s likely to be easier to train existing staff than to take on new employees. Employers should think of this less as a cost and more as an investment.

Experiment with new approaches to recruitment. That might mean anything from changing your recruitment consultant to advertising in new places. Employers should not assume good quality people will be able to find them. Being proactive is key.

Thirdly, take on apprentices.

Efforts are being made to persuade employers to do more in this area. Offers of financial assistance to companies that take on young apprentices and the use of training bodies and other industry schemes can help reduce red tape. An apprentice can be an economical way of training young people for the future.

Fourthly, rethink the workforce.

More people than before are now working on a part-time or consultancy basis. Such staff can be an excellent way to bring skills and experience into businesses. Not only do such workers provide expertise that may otherwise be lacking, but they can also play a valuable role mentoring less experienced personnel.

Finally, focus on staff retention.

If businesses struggle to find new talent, they can’t afford to lose the knowledgeable workers they already have. Successful companies should redouble their efforts in creating a culture that encourages people to stay. Competitive remuneration packages, flexible working, and other initiatives will go some way to achieving this.

What about the young person’s perspective?

All of this is, of course, both commercially sensible and laudable. However, if young people believe they have chosen the wrong career – either due to bad advice, the wrong qualifications, incomplete information, poor choices, or economic circumstances that are beyond their control – very little of what employers choose to do will have much traction. The talent shortage continues.

So what this calls for now, more than ever, are new and disruptive ways of helping young people find a career that’s right for them. It’s common knowledge that the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our society. This impact is especially evident in the challenge young people now face when identifying job opportunities and a career pathway that suits them.

How Working Eye can help

Most careers advice today is still qualification-led and prescriptive in its approach. Working Eye is different. By allowing people to explore the world of work through a more emotive, sentiment-driven approach, this enables the user to explore careers that might more accurately reflect one’s ‘reason for being.

Also, if this approach starts early enough, it suggests we might arrive at choices that reflect a more holistic approach to a person’s career discovery journey. Too many young people are currently realising too late that the job they have chosen is not ‘right’ for them. For both employers and employees, this can prove to be both costly and damaging.

So, as we enter 2022, with what we hope is a more positive outlook ahead, we need to look at new ways of building a more relevant and more motivated talent pool for the future. In so doing, we can help prevent talent shortages and any possibility of a ‘lost generation’ of young people.