How can we tackle the 'crisis of confidence' among young people?

"A substantial crisis of confidence in our future workforce"

 In November 2021, The Prince’s Trust shared research into the impact of the pandemic on young people’s confidence in their future careers.

The research revealed over half (52%) of young people said they’ve lost confidence because of the pandemic, rising to 60% among those from lower income backgrounds.

44% of young people don’t know how to get their life “back on track”

The impact of job instability caused by the pandemic and its economic repercussions has affected the wellbeing of young people. Those with unstable employment during this time were more likely to report poor mental health and lost confidence.

In our work with young people, we see the barriers, circumstances and setbacks that contribute to feelings of low confidence among young people. The pandemic has led to further job instability, redundancies, and an end to many training opportunities.

These factors have exacerbated what was already a difficult transition period for many young people. We are now facing what Jonathan Townsend, UK Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust, describes as a “substantial crisis of confidence in our future workforce”.

How can we tackle this crisis of confidence?

Our careers advisers are trained and adept at helping young people overcome the barriers of low confidence. By understanding and connecting with young people, we can attempt to reduce the impact of the pandemic on young people’s self-esteem.

In our experience, lack of agency and feeling no control over what is happening can lead to low confidence in young people. This is something that is disproportionately experienced by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With an event so large as the pandemic, what little control some young people felt they had to start with, has been completely taken away. This is particularly noticeable with those who were already disadvantaged by their circumstances.

How does low confidence manifest itself?

Lack of engagement, low self-worth and low motivation are the most obvious signs. It can be a challenge to engage young people who are struggling with low confidence. The barrier to engagement can be as basic as getting a young person on a bus and out of their homes.

For young people who are the hardest to help and under 19, C+K has a dedicated NEET (not in employment, education or training) team who work intensively with them to overcome barriers. Our careers advisers provide a regular, dedicated point of support.

It’s common for us to come across phrases like “what’s the point?” and “I don’t know” in answer to every question. With others, lack of confidence manifests itself through anxiety, and/or depression. Some young people believe whatever they do is never good enough.

How can we support young people struggling with low confidence?

Speaking to our careers advisers, they regularly come up against low confidence as a barrier for the young people they support. Here are some of the ways they help young people to challenge low confidence and build their self esteem. 

1. Acknowledge each person and their unique circumstances

We need to remember that, although the pandemic affects everyone, we have all experienced it in different ways. We must give young people the space to talk about their experiences and listen to the challenges they have faced over the last two years.

2. Help young people make decisions and challenge barriers

Some young people may have been in work and lost their jobs during lockdown. Others might feel their plan has been completely de-railed. The role of a careers adviser is to help people to think and make decisions about where they want to be.

Once goals have been established, we help to identify the barriers that might prevent them from progressing there and find ways to move past them.

3. Understand the limitations and make referrals

As careers advisers, we must understand our limitations as professionals and ensure we are signposting to other services when appropriate. For example, our Works Better programme includes a Positive Minds pathway for those experiencing lack of confidence as a significant barrier to progression into work, training, or education. For serious mental health issues, we would always refer clients to their GP or IAPT services when appropriate.

4. Reframe experiences

Wherever possible, we aim to take the positives out of a negative. We help young people to see how living through this pandemic has required them to build resilience and demonstrate a flexible approach to their lives. They have often had to react quickly and make changes to follow regulations. These are all skills that are highly valued by employers.

5. Accept situations beyond control

Lack of agency and control is one of the main contributing factors to low confidence. We help young people to consider and accept that world events are beyond their control.
Moving ahead with this in mind can lead them down pathways they may not have considered at first. We maintain that being open to new ideas and experiences could provide them with really fulfilling careers.

6. Motivational interviewing and visualisation

We use visualisation a lot as part of our conversations with young people. For example, “try and imagine how you would feel if you achieved this” and “try and imagine how you would feel if you did nothing to change your current situation.” Helping a young person visualise themselves in a situation can help them start to consider a new path for themselves.

One in five (21%) are fearful of their future because of the unstable jobs market. But 45% felt the time to retrain and gain new skills made them feel optimistic

We have a chance to help young people feel more confident in their futures. Despite many young people feeling despondent, almost half said they felt optimistic about having time to retrain and gain new skills. If we can help young people to access new opportunities, and support them in getting there, we have a chance of rebuilding some confidence.

In these ever-changing and challenging times, the professionals and services in a young person’s life need to be a consistent and supporting presence. By listening to and acknowledging their challenges, we can help to reframe and overcome them.

As Jonathan Townsend, UK Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust puts it:

"Young people have faced significant disruption to their employment and education, at a time when our economy and jobs market is in flux.

“As we look forward into 2022, there is still a huge amount to do to restore young people’s confidence and rebuild the skills they need for the jobs available now, and the jobs of the future.”

Would you like to find out more about the work our careers advisers do helping young people find their next opportunity? Find out more about our work with schools and colleges, and local authorities and service providers.

A substantial crisis of confidence in our future workforce

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