Despite some of the toughest economic conditions for decades, significant numbers of young people remain positive about their future prospects according the 2012 O2 Youth Matters survey.
The findings of the research – which annually tracks young people’s opinions and attitudes – reveals that more than half (59%) of young adults expect to be as successful as their parents, 56% think they’ll earn more, while 51% believe they’ll secure a more fulfilling job.
The emergence of the digital economy and young people’s unique ability to capitalise on the opportunities this presents are the two main causes for such optimism. Almost three quarters of young people (72%) cited the growth of the internet and the associated creation of new roles and career opportunities. Many also feel that they have the skills needed to fill the jobs such opportunities create, with 54% stating that they could use social media networks effectively in a business context and one third (32%) believing they possess valuable and marketable digital skills such as coding and web design.
Despite the challenging employment market, with almost one million young people out of work, the findings nonetheless reveal a positive and proactive outlook amongst many young people. Almost two-thirds (63%) believe there are still jobs available for those with a positive attitude and willingness to learn. Almost a quarter (24%) have sought careers advice independently and nearly half (49%) want to take part in structured work experience programmes to improve their skills and employability.
However, there remains cause for concern, as the Youth Matters survey indicates that the insidious and lasting effects of the recession are impacting overall levels of confidence. According to the research, belief is gradually being eroded and the number of young adults that feel confident about their future has fallen by 11% in the last year to just over half (52%).
The findings highlight that amongst a significant minority of young people certainty in the future is far from assured. Almost one quarter (24%) worry they will be less successful than their parents, and amongst these, 84% blame increased competition for jobs whilst more than two thirds (68%) of this group believe that hard work alone is no longer enough to get them ahead.
Commenting on the findings, Durham University’s youth and communities expert Professor Tony Chapman, who helped to develop the O2 Youth Matters research project, said: “The picture that this year’s O2 Youth Matters research paints is a nuanced one. Whilst the majority of young people show resilience to the recession by maintaining their hopes and aspirations and taking ever more proactive steps to ensure they achieve these, the research also shines a light on a significant minority whose confidence has been knocked by the prolonged economic situation and the continuing high levels of youth unemployment.
“We need more organisations to provide programmes like Think Big, which supports young people across this spectrum, providing opportunities and harnessing their appetite to achieve more, whilst also sustaining their confidence and resilience in these testing times.”
National Youth Agency chief executive, Fiona Blacke, comments: “We need to ensure that young people are positive about the future and that their ambition is harnessed and invested in, through programmes such as Think Big, or we will end up with a lost generation. Whilst youth unemployment is a long-term structural issue, channelled in the right way by the right people, the positivity and creativity of young people has the potential to transform our economy – we just need to make sure they know we believe in them by giving them the opportunities to really shine.”
Commenting on the research, Bill Eyres, Head of Think Big at O2, said: “I see first-hand young people’s appetite to increase their employability and give something back to the community through the Think Big programme and our careers platform GoThinkBig.
“Given the scale of the challenge, businesses big and small have a role to play in levelling the playing field by providing a range of opportunities and supporting young people on their journey to work.”
O2 Think Big is an innovative programme designed to back young people aged 13-25 across the UK and help them harness their ideas, energy and passion to run projects and campaigns in their local community. The initiative works by putting cash directly in the hands of young people and supporting them to use the money in a way which delivers a positive impact in their local area while simultaneously building their confidence and work skills.
Notes to editors
* The O2 Youth Matters 2012 survey was conducted by Research Bods, one of the UK’s leading speciality youth research organisations. The questions were designed by Tony Chapman, Professorial Fellow at St Chad’s College, Durham University. The survey was conducted online amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 16–24 year olds in November 2012.
* The O2 Youth Matters survey was conducted by Research Bods, one of the UK’s leading speciality youth research organisations. The questions were designed by Tony Chapman, Professorial Fellow at St Chad’s College, Durham University. The survey was conducted online amongst a nationally representative sample of 1,500 16–24 year olds in July 2011
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About Think Big
Young people are full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. But they need the right support to turn their ideas into reality. That’s where Think Big comes in.
Think Big is O2’s social action programme designed to encourage young people across the UK, aged 13-25, to harness their passion and run projects and campaigns in their local communities. The initiative works by putting cash directly in the hands of young people and supporting them to use the money in a way that delivers a positive impact in their local area.
In addition to the financial support, young people receive substantial training and mentoring from some of the most experienced O2 professionals, to give them a hand in tackling the issues that really matter to them.
With the help of some great partners, including The National Youth Agency and UK Youth, Think Big is now supporting 2,600 Big Ideas across the UK.
Among those projects is an online radio station run by Ricky Williamson. Fife Youth Radio strive to make lives better for young people in Fife by providing an interactive “what’s on – especially for young people guide” live on the radio waves, helping to get young people off the streets and into local youth projects.
The Think Big programme is supported by the Telefonica Foundation.
GoThinkBig (www.gothinkbig.co.uk) is a platform which offers young people career advice, insight and inspiration to advance their own employment opportunities– with advice and funding available – and will bring existing work experience opportunities from a range of employers into one place for the first time.
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