COVID may be indiscriminate, but its economic fallout is not. The hardest hit? Those aged between 16-24. Our young people are still having their learning disrupted, their networking opportunities cut and their access to employment blocked.
I’m very concerned about their mental health, which is why, somewhat serendipitously timed to coincide with International Volunteer Day tomorrow, I’m lending my own helping hand by running a free Winter School over the December break for students.
Some of my amazing clients and partners are clearly concerned about the impact this climate is having on young people too and have lent a hand to help me recruit students for this school – a huge thank you to all of them for their support:
Jacqui Dobson and Financial Times; Troy Asset Management, notably Gabrielle Boyle; Future Asset and Helen Bradley; the charity Girls Are Investors (GAIN); senior HR manager Joanna Comber; Dawn Jarvis at Alnylam; marketing strategist and coach Elodie Levasseur; TechWomen100 Champion Didem Un Ates; transformational people leader Denise Shillito; Baillie Gifford and Sunny Burwaiss; Claire Smith and Patricia Galloway at DVB Bank SE; Laura Whitcombe at 30% Club; Marice Cumber at Ravensbourne University London and their partner Accumulate; and to those who prefer anonymity.
Also to my amazing Student Ambassadors - Emily Mason; Beth Thom; Edward Sheasby; Kirsty Mitchell; Naomi Oamen and Khalis Ariff who have helped shape and promote the Winter School.
It’s uplifting to work with forward-thinking companies like these. But there’s a critical need for business to do more. We urgently need to reverse the rapid deterioration of our young people’s mental health who, instead of smoothly transitioning from education into the world of work, are being greeted by redundancy, unemployment, and the bleakest of prospects.
“I went into the process with a really positive mindset,” says one student recently interviewed by The Guardian in its article, heartbreakingly headlined: ‘This could break a generation: UK’s unemployed young people tell of despair’. That same student continues: “But now the job hunt has become physically draining. It’s also affecting my mental health: the stress of running out of money, applying for benefits, and feeling unproductive.”
I’m devastated when I read headlines that speak of our young people becoming a ‘lost generation’. Beyond the long-term and disastrous impacts we know this will have on them personally, we know business simply can’t afford to write off this young generation – its talent pipeline for securing continued growth and future success.
I’m a long-time advocate for more diverse and inclusive business. My coaching specialism helps progress those who will change the senior leadership mix. While I’m often frustrated that D&I progress isn’t faster, I’m also encouraged that business increasingly recognises the benefits and blockers. My optimism is undoubtedly helped by the ongoing commitment to redress imbalance at the very top by the leading businesses I work with.
That’s why I believe it’s critical that business urgently offers a much needed helping hand to our young people. Right now, they need to be firmly on the corporate D&I agenda so that when it comes to diversifying teams via recruitment, development and advancement, our young people are front of mind for inclusion.
My coaching focus has always been with those nearing the top end of the career ladder but, for the first time this year, I’ve been coaching young people yet to begin their careers - the experience for me has been as profound as it has positive.
For who needs the practical tools coaching makes available more than young people right now? Tools proven to help reduce anxiety, promote resilience, and improve mental health. Our young people not only need to be leaving education with technical skills, but with these essential soft skills businesses so desperately need in this unprecedented economic climate.
While a pro-bono group-coaching school will benefit all those students who attend, sadly it isn’t enough to turn the tide more widely. My hope this volunteer day - and as we approach the giving season - is that others in business urgently find new ways to reach out to young people and lend, desperately needed, helping hands.
Susan Room is a former corporate leader, turned coach. One of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching, her unique approach sees her help others feel, look and sound confident – improving performance and happiness. Her new virtual eight-hour Make Your Mark programme for students in higher education is based upon her Make Your Mark with Susan Room® coaching model which has proven a hit with many corporate clients including Baillie Gifford and the Financial Times.
For more information about her Make Your Mark programmes visit: www.susanroom.com/make-your-mark