We Need to Rethink ‘Skills’ to Save Our School Leavers

Gemma Hallett – Founder of mifuture app, the ‘tinder for jobs’ platform which helps young people match with employers for opportunities to earn and learn, and member of Technology Connected.

Across the UK, the graduate employment outlook for Generation Z is bleak, with the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds spiking to 27% because of the pandemic, three times as great the previous year.

It is also estimated that recent graduates are now 37% less likely to be employed in three years, which is not great news for school leavers. Yet university places awarded is already up 2.9% on this time last year.

So, what does this mean? Should school leavers be reconsidering the University route? I’ve seen first-hand how school targets, teacher and parents’ perception and messaging to school leavers that they must go to university is setting them up for a path that has no clear access to jobs and a guaranteed student loan debt averaging £40k.

The short answer is yes. If they are not committed to a future in Law, medicine, education and similar professions that necessitate a degree, then it’s time to seriously consider the value of alternative pathways that focus on immediate skill development, preventing debt and getting paid.

I have worked in education and with young people for over 12 years and little has changed in preparing their progression for the future of work. The future is skill based, numerous Welsh Government reports and Skills Partnership plans emphasise this, and of the hundreds of partners that use our platform to source school leaving talent only one company has ever required an A Level qualification to apply, in many cases a qualification just isn’t the prerequisite it once was.

Skill focussed pathways are the future

Coronavirus has accelerated the need us to change the narrative and nudge Generation Z to where jobs are. Welsh Skills Partnerships have identified hyper-local skills needs, and priority sectors that are emerging and growing. These are the sectors where jobs exist, where skill gaps are growing and the demand for skilled staff is high.

Now is the time to prioritise apprenticeships and Degree Level Apprenticeships over university degrees, and with a hyper-local focus they can provide direct routes into local emerging, priority & growth sectors that not just provide a higher-skilled better-paid future for Generation Z, but will strengthen local talent pools for our growing sectors, where skills shortages is costing the country £155.2 million.

School Leavers 2020

Though the swing to opportunity rich and mainstream Degree Level Apprenticeship provision may take some time, there is still plenty of options for class of 2020.

Uni without the move out costs

It is anticipated that first year students will have to start their degrees from home as many institutions are proposing to deliver first-year degrees online, moving to face-to-face lectures when campuses are able to re-open. There is an obvious cost saving in staying at home rather than moving to campus.


miFuture has already pledged our commitment to apprenticeship pathways, but whilst we wait for the sector leaders to assemble and provide higher level routes, those that leave school before sixth form or college in particular, current apprenticeships are a great route to attain skills for a long-term career in most sectors and start earning and learning straight away. FE colleges also have a huge amount of work-based learning provision to give a taste of earning and learning.

In a world where the skills need is constantly changing and evolving, it has never been more important for businesses and academia to collaborate to find solutions that benefit everyone, at all levels of education.

Gap year

Traditionally gap years are spent on travel adventures, but ongoing Covid travel restrictions have hampered these plans. Instead gap years can now be spent developing digital skill-rich experiences by combining online certifications and applying them by working entry level roles and volunteering.

Get to work

As much as the media and news proclaim that the ‘Covid Genration’ are doomed by unemployment and job loss figures, there are jobs, the Care sector has over 30,000 roles that need filling. There is always an opportunity for entrepreneurship in times of recessions, last recession saw the birth of the side hustle, and stories are emerging of how young people are using online platforms and drop shipping etc to make significant income right now.

Call to Arms

It is true that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on young people’s prospects and mental wellbeing. But we refuse to just accept ‘it is what it is’… instead, as Generation Z specialists, we see a real opportunity. One where our award-winning technology can change the trajectory and get a generation of school leavers to their feet, moving towards employability and prosperity.

Everyday our tech connects young people with real-time local employment, vocation, and apprenticeship pathways. They are no longer the ‘forgotten’ leavers, they are now empowered with a single, impartial, user-friendly app.

In this moment we have an opportunity to abandon the old way and embrace a better way, to change the narrative and mobilise young people to where the hyper-local jobs are.

We need to refuse to accept that young people leaving school and not taking the Uni route should be left to fend for themselves, when 98% of Generation Z use smartphones to access ‘the world’ we refuse to not put a world of opportunity right there in their hands.

#SaveOurSchoolLeavers Campaign

In our newest campaign we’ll connect our communities as they strive to build back better, we know the opportunities exists and skill gaps need filling, but action is needed and together we can create a positive ripple that can #SaveOurSchoolLeavers

An unprecedented moment like this requires radical action. So as leaders, in an unparalleled move, we are releasing our platforms for free for the rest of 2020, for any and all companies, large or small, with opportunities for young people.

2020 will be as defining for brands, as it is for school leavers, and those who actively support socially driven campaigns will fare well with Generation Z. Our campaign will position forward thinking organisations on the right side of history, to be a brand that stood up and did something.

We have the technology, the infrastructure, and the platform to make disruptive noise and with your involvement we can make a bigger impact to deliver a win-win in Wales.