Could online experiences help to quell rising career anxieties?

Exploring the future employment prospects of a generation hit hard by COVID-19

While the majority of schools remain open, educators and teachers are still under great pressure, not only to catch up with the curriculum, but also to respond to continuing social distancing challenges.

Young people are also well aware of the changing and challenging world, causing them to worry about how the current situation might affect their futures.

For example, our recent research found that the majority of young people feel the coronavirus pandemic will adversely affect the educational routes and job opportunities available to them.

Reality check

Not only are young people suffering from added coronavirus anxiety, but research from the Sutton Trust has suggested that the disruption of lockdown is likely to lead to a “significant detrimental effect on the prospects of young people once they enter the labour market”. It seems that their anxiety is, unfortunately, rooted in reality.

Compounding this is the fact that during lockdown, the vast majority of 11–16-year-olds did not take part in any formal career activities, such as a careers guidance session or online work experience. At a time when young people are unsure about their futures, it’s really important that they’re able to explore career options, plan ahead and be motivated to study. Now that the majority of students are back in class, teachers must be supported to address growing career anxiety among young people.

Hopeful for STEM

The heartening news is that the future’s still bright for young people – especially within the STEM sectors. During the coronavirus crisis, a spotlight has been shone on the brilliant work of scientists, technicians and engineers responding to national needs. We’ve seen exceptional examples of engineering across essential services and infrastructure; from the design and delivery of thousands of ventilators, to the building of NHS Nightingale field hospitals.

The opportunities offered by a career in engineering are particularly far-reaching, with the sector continuing to attract funding and investment for its pivotal role in addressing current challenges, which requires creative and diverse thinking, collaboration and innovation.

Now’s the time to show young people the available engineering opportunities. We know that those who have taken part in a STEM careers activity are three times more likely to consider a career in engineering. And, like never before, technology is allowing young people to explore a greater range of career resources, with an array of activities and experiences that bring careers to life regardless of social distancing challenges.

“At a time when young people are unsure about their futures, it’s really important that they’re able to explore career options, plan ahead and be motivated to study”

Supporting teachers

To support teachers in accessing such resources and experiences, we recently launched Neon – a digital platform that gives teachers easy access to quality-assured online and offline engineering outreach activities. The platform collates the UK’s engineering experiences and career resources together in one place, bringing STEM professions to life. With the support of the engineering community, Neon empowers teachers with the tools they need to engage young people in a career in the engineering sector, which makes up nearly 20% of the workforce.

We ask that all young people have the chance to learn about and be inspired by their future opportunities, and we believe that for many, the job security and fulfillment they seek could be found in engineering. It’s a critical time to provide high-quality careers information that empowers young people, regardless of their background, to make informed decisions about their education and careers. Teachers are key to this and must be supported to deliver impactful experiences, even in these challenging times.

You might also like: How lockdown positively impacted an edtech approach to careers education


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