A couple of papers released by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence complement our other article on young people in this issue.

Of the two papers the Brotherhood put out, the first looks at life chances for those around 30 post-COVID, while the second one has a VET focus.

Life chances at 30

The first paper by Ursula Harrison, Matthew Curry and Dina Bowman is entitled “Setbacks at 30: Life Chances and COVID-19”. Its key messages are the insecurity the pandemic has created. For a number of young people the pandemic has “slowed down life plans. Some have postponed having children, buying a house, getting married or travelling. Some said, “they couldn’t make plans because of the uncertainties of work and financial security in the future” and many “reported mental distress due to overwork; anxiety about work, money and the future; or isolation from family, friends and colleagues.”

However, “those with secure jobs fared the best, especially if they could work from home. But they also reported increased workloads and blurred work-life boundaries, while those “with insecure work experienced income losses, financial insecurity and increased distress … were the most likely to have pre-COVID living arrangements and plans disrupted.”

JobKeeper helped, but most 30-year-old respondents experienced negative financial impacts, which they dealt with by drawing on, or even draining, their superannuation; cutting down on expenses; borrowing money or selling belongings to raise some extra cash.

Some made new housing arrangements, including “moving to live with parents, moving to a cheaper residence, having someone move in or out, negotiating reduced rent or mortgage payments and postponing plans to purchase a home.”

Those living alone found it tough, but “those with partners said they were an important source of support, with many reporting increased closeness and improved relationships.”

The VET stuff!

Kira Clarke, Joseph Borlagdan and Shelley Mallett produced a short complementary paper entitled “Young people and vocational education and training (VET)”. So, this is the one that may most interest readers given the context provided by the first article we highlighted. The paper itself highlights a series of key impacts and solutions. It focuses on those aged 15 to 24. These young people see the effects as disproportionally severe and long lasting. Not good news!

The impacts

The authors point out that “young people who were already experiencing educational marginalisation associated with demographic and geographic characteristics are most at risk of the compounding impact of COVID-19 on their access to employment, education and training opportunities and outcomes.”

In addition, the authors point out that “the youth labour market will be slow to recover,” with young workers concentrated in service industries and low-skill jobs that have been most affected by the social distancing measures and economic downturn. This is coupled with their reliance on high rates of part-time work, low-skilled work and casualised or precarious work which does not help their circumstances.

Finally, they suggest that the ‘digital divide’ has amplified the effects on young people. The move of “education systems and employment services to digital and remote mass delivery is most difficult for those young people who cannot afford the latest technology or lack confidence using it.”

So, what are the ways forward?

The solutions

In the authors’ view, the ‘solutions’ include government investment in skills and training, enabling job creation and pathways focused on “existing and emerging skill shortage areas.” In their view:

“Cross-sectoral collaborative efforts, grounded in local training and labour markets, are needed to build tailored pathways to high- demand occupations.”

Finally, they believe we need to combine and expand complementary work and learning. And they see this as needing:

“a clear, achievable pathway to full qualifications, so that young people have options for career mobility and returning to further education and training.”

The Brotherhood has produced a range of other valuable research reports and policy documents that you can access here.