How business can support young people into employment in times of COVID-19

Post author image. Guest Editor
Discussing the role employers can play in future proofing opportunities for all young people at a time of unprecedented change and economic uncertainty.

Jonathan Lewis is Chief Executive of Capita, and Chair of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Employment and Skills Leadership Team.

Jonathen Lewis smiling at camera

The economic realities of COVID-19 are only just beginning to be seen. And it is a reality that is hitting home hardest for our young people.

Uncertainty has been the watchword for many of them over the past few months, from a disrupted education, to exam chaos and now a jobs market that is contracting.

As of August 2020, there has been a 122% increase in the number of 16-to-24-year olds claiming unemployment-related benefits since March 20201. And it is projected that three years after leaving full-time education, the employment rate of today’s graduates will be 13% lower than it would have been without the crisis2.

“If we are to build back responsibly, now is the time when we need to turn up the volume on inclusion and social mobility”

While we, as business leaders, work to navigate through these unprecedented times, we must not forget about our future workforce. Indeed, if we are to build back responsibly, now is the time when we need to turn up the volume on inclusion and social mobility. But how can we maintain focus on this when there are so many sharp demands on businesses in a challenging economic environment?

It all begins with reassessing what we look for as employers when recruiting new talent. Companies such as Grant Thornton, PwC and Penguin Random House have already taken this step by removing the requirement for academic qualifications from their school leaver programmes, recruiting instead against skills, behaviours and competencies. This first step needs to be aligned with a recognition that some young people will feel the effects more than others and so we all need to ensure we are targeting diverse groups accordingly.

This means starting while young people are in education, providing access to opportunities to develop the skills and behaviours they will need to be successful when they seek employment. Building that bridge between education and employment is more important than ever if we are to ensure that we have access to more diverse, productive and successful workplaces.

Find out more about how you can make sure your process for recruitment is more accessible for the class of 2020 and beyond by downloading BITC’s COVID-19: Future proofing qualifications factsheet.

Find out how your organisation can deliver the change to build back responsibly.


  1. House of Commons Library (2020); Youth unemployment statistics briefing paper, Number 5871 August 2020; available at
  2. Resolution Foundation (2020); Class of 2020: Education leavers in the current crisis, available at