New research shows that the impact of the pandemic could continue to hit young workers hardest as a quarter of businesses report that they have no plans to hire workers aged 16-24 in 2021. 

A new report from the CIPD highlights that less than half of employers (46 per cent) are planning to hire 16-24 year olds next year. In addition, a further quarter of businesses (25 per cent) stated that they do not plan to hire from this age group.

Almost three in 10 employers (29 per cent) stated that they did not know whether they would hire from this group in 2021, leaving young workers vulnerable to unemployment.

This comes after recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicated that the first national lockdown hit young workers, aged under 25, the hardest. Workers within this group were two and a half times more likely to work in sectors that were shut down in comparison to other employees.

Citing the Government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ which aims to incentivise employers to hire young workers, the CIPD claim that most employers have “poured water” over these plans with a failure to take these up.

As it stands, the Government is giving companies a £1000 bonus for every traineeship offered. For apprenticeships, the organisation will receive £2000 if they choose to take on a young apprentice and £1,500 if they hire an apprentice aged over 25.

However, this has not translated well as the CIPD’s report shows that the uptake for these are particularly poor. Only 8 per cent of organisations who were previously not planning to offer a traineeship are doing so now. Additionally, only 6 per cent that were planning to are now upscaling the program.

Additionally, for apprentices, only 5 per cent of employers who were not planning to take on an apprentice are doing so now and around 7 per cent who were planning to take on an apprentice are now considering taking on more.

The CIPD suggests that this could be a result of a lack of awareness surrounding traineeships. Despite launching in 2013, a third of employers (35 per cent) admitted that they had never heard of traineeships.

However, employers have reacted more to the Government’s Kickstart Scheme with around a third (32 per cent) saying that they were either very or somewhat interested in the scheme.

In order to improve the hiring levels of young workers, the CIPD outlined the following recommendations:

  • The Government building better awareness of traineeships and its benefits
  • A more comprehensive communications campaign that highlights the support available for employers
  • Apprenticeship incentives in England to be made more generous and the deadline to be extended to at least the end of 2021
  • Simplifying the system and make it easier for employers and individuals to understand and navigate
  • The Government ensuring that the Kickstart placements build employability skills in a systematic and structured way through the adoption of the Skills Builder Universal Framework for Essential Skills

Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at the CIPD, said:

Employers and the Government need to meet each other halfway to improve employment prospects for young people who’ve been hit hardest by the pandemic.

On the one hand, our report makes it clear that the Government’s incentives to improve apprenticeships don’t gar far enough, particularly given that many employers don’t have a strong track record on them. Equally, not enough employers are aware of traineeships to take advantage of the incentive on offer.

On the other hand, employers also need to look beyond graduates and rethink how they are investing in, and developing, young people. Not only can apprenticeships and traineeships be a great way of creating a young talent pool but, at a time when there’s a jobs crisis, they can give young people a much-needed foot in the door.

*This research was taken from CIPD’s report ‘COVID-19 and the Youth Labour Market’ which surveyed 1,006 senior HR professionals and was published in December 2020.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.