The DofE is all about giving young people the chance to discover new passions, develop new skills and build their confidence and self-belief, so they feel ready for anything – including, hopefully, landing a job they love.
But the pandemic has hit young people particularly hard, affecting their education, mental health, social lives and job prospects.
So, this National Careers Week, we wanted to hear directly from young people about their views on entering the world of work at this uncertain time.
We surveyed 1,000 16-24 year olds from around the UK who’ve recently left school or college – and asked them what, if anything, schools, colleges and employers could do to boost their confidence when applying for jobs.
A mixed picture
Nearly three quarters of respondents feel COVID has made it harder for young people to get a job (73.7%) – but, despite this, they’re confident and optimistic.
Most say they feel:
- confident they could complete a job application well and present themselves as a strong candidate (70.9%).
- confident they could perform well and present themselves as a strong candidate in job interviews (69.4%).
- optimistic about their future career prospects (64.8%).
But a quarter said school and college hadn’t prepared them well for applying for and securing a job (24.4%), and one in five (21.4%) didn’t feel it had given them the skills they need to apply for jobs.
When we asked which activities in school or college had given them the most useful skills for applying for jobs, volunteering opportunities came out on top – with 93.55% saying it had given them useful skills.
In 2020/21, young people doing their DofE gave an amazing total of 1,862,627 volunteering hours – much of it supporting the COVID relief effort – and we know many Award holders go on to work in roles related to their DofE volunteering.
Young people also told us they value:
- classroom-based lessons on employment and careers (92.9%).
- academic studies (91.6%), and
- work experience placements (90.82%).
Views on employers’ attitudes
Nearly half of respondents feel employers are open to applications from young people who’ve recently left school / college – but one in four (25.5%) disagree.
Positively, 53.3% feel job application forms let them showcase skills they’ve developed outside work and academic studies – like the DofE – and 57.7% feel employers attach as much value to skills developed outside work and academic studies, if they can demonstrate they have them.
But 60.6% believe applicants are more likely to get a good job if they or their parents or carers know someone at the company.
What young people want to see
We asked young people what they felt schools / colleges and employers could do to help give them more confidence applying for jobs.
Their top asks for schools and colleges are to:
- connect students with mentors to give employment and careers advice, such as young employees and former students (49.3%).
- offer education on careers and employment, including on completing applications, CV-writing and interview skills (48.1%).
- find ways to develop relevant skills and knowledge in subject lessons or through coursework (41.7%).
And 37.8% feel schools and college should provide opportunities outside the classroom – like the DofE – to develop skills like teamwork and leadership.
These echo the DofE’s Youth Manifesto, in which young people call for compulsory education on careers, financial planning and employment in schools, and for employers to work with schools and colleges to create more work experience and mentoring opportunities.
Young people also told us they’d like to see employers:
- allow space on application forms for them to give examples of skills developed through extracurricular activities like the DofE – not just work experience – if they match the job descriptions (39.2%).
- work with schools and colleges to offer work experience placements (37.9%).
- work with schools and colleges to speak to students about application and interview skills (37.5%).
- and, when assessing applications, give equal weight to skills developed through extracurricular activities like the DofE – not just through work experience (36.4%).