By Sean Duffy

It is without doubt that young people have had it hard during the pandemic and it is going to take heroic kindness at scale to unlock the social and economic deficit they are experiencing.

The speed with which mass employment support has been introduced to counter the impact of the pandemic is to be admired. Swathes of new initiatives and partnerships have been established at pace to support the immediate labour market needs.

Hundreds of people are working across Scotland and the rest of the UK to get young people into or back to work. In fact, the process of getting ready for, finding, applying for, starting, and retaining a job is a complex one, with many barriers, which make the process inaccessible for many of the people we support.

The Wise Group has confidence that young people want to come to the table, to engage in the new opportunities and experiences being offered by employers and employability support programmes across the country. Some will take the opportunity to develop their employability, communications, persuasion, and problem-solving skills for the future.

Others, who we hear from regularly, are struggling. We have learned over time that finely tuning the employment programme “model” can heap on the blind contractual rigidities that miss the essential point of providing the correct level of support to get the right outcome for the individual.

So, what is the right level of support, and do our employment programmes value securing a job over and above the vital support that is needed to make sure that those furthest away from the labour market are not left behind at the first hurdle?

When it comes to creating a path to sustainable employment for those furthest away from the job market, many organisations like The Wise Group have a great connection with “what works”.

Experience gained from delivering programmes that support society’s challenges allows us to learn from the past to inform, not simply influence, the future.

If we take even the beginning of the job-finding process, consider your job search without a computer or perhaps without internet. Can you?

Assuming that’s in the bag, you’re starting from the point of being unemployed even before the pandemic and have been isolating in your flat. Can you overcome the isolation and practise for your assessment centre or interview in the mirror? What do you even practise?

Imagine, then, the interview room. Complete with smart employer and shiny “matrix scoring” or a similarly well-intentioned method of choosing a new colleague. The gaping chasm between unemployment, Covid-induced debilitating isolation and performing at said interview is, in many cases, what leaves people behind.

The “what works” intelligence tells us that at this juncture young people need to be re-engaged if they are to believe that they are employable – our approach to getting young people into work cannot be the same as it was pre-pandemic.

Today’s needs include delivering the right level of “pre-employment support” like technology, communication and CV-writing skills, partnered with ‘bucket loads’ of humility and realisation that the pandemic will have added to the ‘stretch’ of unemployed time on their CV. All of this must feature in the support offered if we are to truly reach the right outcome.

Our equation, however, is still not balanced. We have missed the notion of sentiment in our thinking. Hard to measure, difficult to compute but disastrous if missed as it’s an essential part of our equation.

It is predicted that it will take 10 years for our young people to get back on their feet. But it’s not just jobs at play here. On top of job losses commentators report sharp worrying rises in young people seeking support for loneliness and mental health.

So, what is missing? Have we miscalculated the breadth of our challenge? Our nation’s wellbeing economy is waiting in the wings. Much is said of kindness and compassion, but let’s be clear, the wellbeing economy won’t happen to us. It is for all of us – social enterprise, private and public sectors – to drive.

If we are to create a true, lasting response to the deep scarring of the labour market, our approach must be emotionally intelligent, supporting positive and sustainable change in people’s lives. All of which must be underpinned by changing how our communities exist and thrive.

So, while tailoring our employment schemes is vital, it’s also time for the wellbeing economy to move from rhetoric to reality and take a leading role in enabling our young people to achieve. When people feel well, feel understood and feel valued, they are productive, they will feel optimistic and can maybe take their starring role in the nation’s recovery.

Sean Duffy is chief executive of The Wise Group