Monday 24 August 2020 7:40 am

DEBATE: Are the life chances of the Covid-19 generation damaged beyond repair?

Emma Revell is head of communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
and Rod Flavell
Rod Flavell is chief executive of FDM Group

Are the life chances of the Covid-19 generation damaged beyond repair?

Emma Revell, head of communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says YES.

Young people have had a rough pandemic.

Months of education gone, exam grades tainted by confusion and uncertainty even after the U-turn, the future burden of spiralling public debt against a backdrop of rising unemployment, not to mention social lives put on hold indefinitely — all to combat a virus which thankfully leaves their generation broadly untouched.

It is hard to imagine any 18 year olds feeling optimistic about their futures. 

That doesn’t have to be the case — coronavirus should be the trigger for deregulation of the labour market, making it easier and cheaper for entrepreneurs and businesses to adapt to the new normal and hire the best and brightest. But instead, all we are hearing is calls to extend the furlough scheme and force the taxpayer to foot the bill for supporting unviable jobs. 

The pandemic has also thrown into stark relief the weaknesses in our education sector, with universities demanding bailouts and schools across the country failing to provide decent remote learning. The crisis should drive reform; instead, the sector is passing the buck.

Covid-19 need not blight our youngest generation — but without bold action, it seems increasingly likely that it will.

Read more: We are facing a mental health crisis among our young people — one we cannot afford to ignore

Rod Flavell, chief executive of FDM Group, says NO.

Across the country, classrooms have been replaced with Zoom calls, teaching timetables scrapped, and life-changing grades have been decided by predictions rather than exams. 

You can say this generation’s life chances are damaged, but damaged beyond repair they are not. This generation will remain resilient even against such odds.

This generation possesses more technical wizardry than any before it. On social media you will see thousands of young people creating and sharing content — from music, artwork and writing, to innovative new apps. 

They are also energetic and proactive. So many of the charity campaigns for causes such as the NHS and schools that we’ve been so impressed by have been driven by the nous of a school pupil or student.

In my day job I oversee the training of hundreds of young people every year in analytics, artificial intelligence, and cyber skills. Never have I seen a generation so eager to learn and so well equipped to enhance their digital skills.

The Covid-19 generation must not be derailed by this crisis. Now it’s up to schools, businesses and the government to ensure they are supported in fulfilling their dreams.

Read more: The future of the Covid generation rests on putting skills first

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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