Younger generation critical to Scotland’s COVID-19 economic recovery, Barclays report finds

Young people’s energy and enthusiasm, technological skills and creativity will help boost Scotland’s COVID-19 economic recovery, according to new research released today by Barclays’ LifeSkills.

In the research carried out by Barclays, just over a third (34%) of UK business leaders noted the significant role that the younger generation in particular will play in helping businesses survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. The most common reasons why they believe this are their energy and enthusiasm (51%), aptitude for technology (46%), and creativity (40%).

When asked, over eight out of 10 (84%) business leaders in Scotland said they would be interested in learning from the younger generation or those entering the world of work. Over four out of 10 (42%) had heard of the concept of ‘reverse mentoring’, when junior staff are paired with those more experienced to swap insights and add perspective on tackling business challenges.

However, only 6%of business leaders say that reverse mentoring is already in place in their organisation. The bank is keen to encourage more businesses to follow suit, as young people aged 16-24 across the UK said they believed that greater knowledge and experience of the industry they want to work in would boost their employability prospects (33%).

COVID-19 has had significant impacts on youth unemployment and opportunities in the workplace. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released earlier this month indicates that the unemployment level among those aged 16-24 has risen to 13.4%. Young people are one of the hardest hit generations, with a number of entry-level roles in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors impacted by the pandemic.

Barclays is calling upon business leaders in Scotland to bridge the gap and take action now to have a positive impact on employment prospects and career growth opportunities for young people.

Since 2013, the LifeSkills programme has been supporting young people to gain the core, transferable skills needed to succeed in the workplace, with more than 11 million having participated to date.

In a survey of general consumers, respondents in Scotland said that leadership (25%) and financial management (22%) are among the top skills they think they can learn the most from senior business leaders.

Gary McPake, an 18-year-old University of Glasgow student and member of the LifeSkills Advisory Council, recently mentored Kirstie Mackey, head of LifeSkills.

Speaking about his experience as a mentor, he said: “Hearing Kirstie take on my ideas, when she is the expert in the conversation, helped me understand the value of my own perspective and problem-solving skills. I’ve always been told that the future of work will look different, and coronavirus has clearly intensified this, but I feel more confident in my own skills and value after being a reverse mentor, and learned a lot about the importance of communication.”

Kirstie Mackey added: “Being mentored by Gary has been a fantastic and insightful experience. At 18, Gary approached the problems I brought him in a new way, and his openness and creativity opened my eyes to different ways of exploring ideas.

“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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