If the generation who have battled through crucial developmental years during a pandemic hadn’t already faced enough of a hangover to their future prospects and personal lives, 2022 has been somewhat of a cluster-punch.
While mainstream media debates just how badly the energy crisis, climate crisis, prospect of war and cost of living crisis will impact everyone, it’s notable how very specifically students and young people aren’t really spoken about.
Here’s why you may need to radically reassess how you’re planning to engage youth audiences over the coming months.
The cost of living crisis and lack of options for students when it comes to moving away for the first time, travelling to and from college/university and/or trying to get by for the first time is stark. While there are campaigns to tackle the issue, students didn’t feature within the mini-budget as hoped and moves to freeze landlord fees are still being waited on.
Accommodation prices have increased by 61% over the last decade (NUS)
68% of Students can no longer afford course materials (NUS)
Cost of living for students has risen by 14% over the past year (National Student Money Survey 2022)
92% of students say rising costs are affecting their mental health (NUS)
Any old job?
Engaging Youth 2021 had already flagged young people potentially getting ‘stuck’ in roles something Hear It Podcast guest Simon Lucey echoed thanks to economic insecurities for Gen Z making moving jobs harder compared to previous generations. With placements and graduate schemes the first to go during the pandemic, what do young audiences face over the coming months?
1 in 10 16-24s in the UK were not in employment or full time education (NEET) by the end of 2021
1 in 5 young people don’t think their employment prospects will ever recover from the pandemic (NatWest Princes Trust Youth Index 2022)
73% of young people feel frustrated at missing out on school and work opportunities due to the pandemic and it hampering their opportunities (NatWest Princes Trust Youth Index 2022)
1 in 5 2021 graduates are now working in jobs that they don’t think of as a career, with just over half saying that decision was due to the pandemic (Prospects Early Careers Survey 2022)
With more families being plunged into poverty, there are also disproportionate impacts on areas of the UK as well as black and minority ethnic people being impacted to a deeper and more destructive level. While the cost of living crisis is talked about in broad terms, there are, as ever, levels to it that may further challenge how you best support or engage different audiences through your communications.
Black and minority ethnic people in the UK are more than twice as likely as white people to experience “deep poverty” (Runnymede Trust)
46% of ethnic minority children are living in poverty in Britain (Runnymede Trust)
Child poverty has risen from 4.1m in 2018 to 4.3m in 2022
Child hunger at school is one of the biggest challenges being faced (Chefs in Schools)
How can you communicate?
While many campaigns and content might feel at odds to the severe challenges being faced by young audiences, there are some principles that may help you shape how you engage youth audiences in difficult times.
Listen Up: listening right now is perhaps one of the biggest tools for communicators to use. Whether that’s social listening, focus groups, or being more in tune with assessing how communications land with your audience. You need to understand the challenges and how they relate to what you’re trying to say/offer.
In it together: throwback to Covid messaging but togetherness and collective language is more empathetic.
Avoid labels: at all levels, admitting you’re struggling, or asking for help is challenging, embarrassing and can really affect mental wellbeing. If there are ways you’re looking to help, think about how to make these easy for audiences to accept and identify with.
What channels, what asks? Digital channels are often the go-to for youth audiences. But for those facing hardship, unlimited wifi, credit and charged devices may become a luxury. Consider if you may be missing anyone and other routes you need to get your messages through.
Consider costs: if you’re asking for student input, offering placements or work opportunities, don’t even get me started that you need to contribute to young people’s time (pay them, offer them vouchers etc) but above that, are there expenses such as travel and food that you can be supporting?
Advice, but make it decent: if you’re offering solutions, signposting or giving tips, check the offers or solutions are genuinely helpful, still valid and are easy to access. Remember for those really struggling, identifying help is critically important, so be clear and check your sources.
What else do you have? You may feel like there’s nothing additional you can do to help such a growing problem, but get creative. For many young people, they’ve missed out on placements, experience and opportunities to develop their careers. If there are placement opportunities you can offer and cover costs, even on a small scale, as well as write up a reference, that could be a significant boost for a young person in the job market.
I hope this helps. If you want to discuss more drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org