New initiative strives to help young people find employment as UK prepares for COVID recession

The second cohort of the FastFutures programme will benefit from online skills training and mentoring developed by some of the nation’s leading employers

As the UK’s second lockdown increases the prospect of a double-dip recession, employment opportunities for young people across the country seem bleak – especially when internship programmes, apprenticeships and graduate schemes have seen such dramatic cuts. In light of this, online training provider Avado have announced a second cohort for the FastFutures programme – a pioneering online programme to boost employability and personal skills for 18–22 year olds.

Designed and funded alongside some of the nation’s leading employers, MPs and industry bodies – such as NHS Health Education England, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, the CBI and Tech UK – the programme will support 2,000 learners and commence in January next year. The first 12-week FastFutures programme launched this September, providing 1,000 fully-funded places.

Applications for the next instalment are now open, closing on 30 November. It’s thought that the programme will expand considerably over the next 12 months, with plans to enrol close to 10,000 learners by the end of next year, with the programme thus playing a significant role in the national effort to help young people find employment and drive the nation’s economic recovery in the fallout of COVID-19.

Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove and former Chancellor said “it’s great to see this second phase of FastFutures – with some of the UK’s largest employers investing into young people from all walks of life, and equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly digital workplace.”

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The programme’s application system has been designed to include an online gamified test and interview process which prioritises underrepresented groups, who are currently finding it particularly difficult to secure full-time work. The procedure ensures spaces are awarded for ability rather than education or social background, advancing opportunities for a diverse and inclusive pool of talent. Of the current cohort, 58% are from a minority ethnic background, 55% derive from a lower-income family, 10% identify as LGBTQIA, and 7% are recognised as SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).

The initiative has been informed by some of the country’s leading employers, including BT, AstraZeneca, Barclays, Octopus Group, Tate & Lyle, AO.com and the NHS Health Education England. Through the provision of mentoring, Q&A sessions, virtual site visits, ‘soft skills’ development, interview practice and networking tips, the programme gives participants a valuable insight into the working world.

Matthew Ansbro, managing director of FastFutures, commented: “In light of the second lockdown, we are pleased to launch another FastFutures programme. This is a challenging time for many young people, and the FastFutures programme provides an equal opportunity for a diverse array of youth to gain the knowledge they need to feel comfortable entering the job market.”

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