The Next Greatest Generation - the role of young people in rebuilding our nation:
Latest NCS Trust research
11 March 2021
The impact of Covid-19 on young people is increasingly well understood. And whilst the last year has been damaging for young people, compelling new research from NCS Trust shows that they are ready, willing and able to be a key part of how we build back better.
Our brand new survey, conducted last month with over 1,000 16 to 19 year olds, reflects our commitment to having youth voice at the heart of all we do.
Whilst we are not underestimating the negative consequences of the pandemic on young people, we felt it timely - as we reach the first anniversary of lockdown - to look forward and focus on the future. We wanted to hear their priorities and their hopes, and understand the role they want to play in rebuilding our nation.
Young people clearly want to make a contribution to their community and their country. Seven in 10 (69%) believe that their generation has much to contribute to the nation’s recovery from COVID. Two thirds (67%) are interested in helping out in their local community, and almost 3 in 4 (73%) in sharing their skills to help others.
Far from the common media portrayal of teens as self-interested and dismissive of lockdown restrictions, the findings reaffirm what we already know about the vast majority of young people in this country - they have, in fact, been looking to better themselves and their communities during the pandemic.
At NCS Trust, we have already seen this in practice. Through a year of social restrictions, we worked with our network and partners to pivot how we supported young people - helping thousands of them to run social action projects and volunteer in their local communities. In total, they contributed over 500,000 hours to good causes during 2020 - brilliant given the backdrop of an extraordinary year!
During 2021 we will be opening up further opportunities for social action through our Changemakers programme. Already running in 121 local authority areas, we have engaged 5,500 young people (and counting!). Changemakers form part of our wider ambition to create year-round, open access, social action opportunities for all young people, transforming NCS from a moment to a wider movement.
It’s clear to me that young peoples’ voices really matter in the debate about how we move forward as a nation. Almost 4 in 5 (78%) think they should be consulted on their ideas for how the country builds back from COVID, and almost 7 in 10 (69%) tell us they’re interested in contributing views to projects and policies for young people. Yet a significant majority (85%) feel that their views often go unheard by the people making decisions about the future of the country. That is something we at NCS Trust are committed to addressing.
I have just had the pleasure of welcoming the fantastic 36 new members of our Youth Voice Forum. The Forum supports the Trust in shaping our organisation and programmes, and provides key insight for our discussions with partners and policy makers. This complements the work we already do with young people, whether it’s contributing to our blog or creating our Youth Rising podcasts to help them learn valuable skills. I also really welcome the approach taken by the Government, who despite short timelines are working hard to bring the voices of young people into the important Youth Review currently underway.
The negative consequences of COVID-19 have not gone away. Indeed our survey shows that 3 in 4 young people (74%) continue to miss face-to-face contact with friends and family and 3 in 5 have felt loneliness and isolation more often than normal. So it’s perhaps no surprise that 79% tell us they are interested in meeting and mixing with new people at the end of lockdown.
I am reassured by this, since social mixing is one of the core pillars on which NCS is built. Indeed our programme evaluations continue to show just how impactful mixing can be in developing confidence and broadening horizons among teens.
We are also hearing a real appetite for learning new skills and gaining work experience (88% would be interested in these, with as many as half being ‘very interested’ in the latter). Three in 4 of those surveyed told us they support the idea of our providing more learning opportunities outside of school and college.
NCS already plays a key role in supporting essential skills development, as an active member of the Skills Builder partnership, but this research highlights that the need is even greater for those more economically disadvantaged. We have found that those eligible for Free School Meals are less likely to be positive about what the future holds for them (41% compared to 49% not eligible for FSM) and are significantly more likely to worry they have fallen behind others in the same year (71% vs. 57%). For this reason, we are dedicated to ensuring that NCS reaches those young people who stand most to benefit, with a continued commitment to Opportunity Areas and areas of greater deprivation.
We are also now supporting the Government's Kickstart employability scheme. As well as creating our own job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit, we will be providing wraparound support services, becoming a gateway provider for other employers.
I would also call out the work of our Education Engagement Team and network partners. Last year they developed a range of resources and workshops for almost 400 schools and colleges designed to support teachers, which impacted over 60,000 pupils in areas such as resilience training, post-COVID socialisation and health and wellbeing. I draw these particular examples out, since we know the demand from young people for mental health and wellbeing support is significant (cited by 2 in 3 we surveyed). Building on the positive feedback we got to our School Support programme, we’ve just launched Skills Booster to continue supporting educational institutions, with over 650 schools engaged to date.
This research has been important for us at the Trust. It has served as a stark message that never have the young people of today needed NCS more than they do now - to give them a break, a renewed sense of confidence, skills for the future, and the voice they have so sorely lacked. We are here to help them become ‘world-ready and work-ready’ so they can level up to achieve their hopes and dreams. I am genuinely excited about what we can help them achieve, together.
Mark Gifford, Chief Executive Officer
National Citizen Service Trust
NCS Trust surveyed a representative sample of 1,084 young people aged 16-19 in England online, using Youthsight's youth panel, between 17 and 22 February 2021.
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