Across England, parents are breathing a sigh of relief this week, as many students finally return to classrooms after months of disruption to their education. Indeed, the reopening of schools and colleges marks an important milestone for the country, as it moves to the next stage of recovery.
There is no doubt that the last 12 months have proven especially challenging for young people. They have had to adapt to learning remotely and find new ways to connect, socialise and share their experiences with friends.
Young people’s mental health has suffered the most, they are more likely to struggle to find a job and their longer-term economic prospects have been dented by the pandemic.
Snapchat reaches over 90 per cent of 13-24 year-olds in the UK, giving Snap a unique insight into understanding young people, and a vested interest in their future.
So, over the last few weeks, we partnered global economic forecasters Oxford Economics to build an evidence-based view of what the future looks like for young people.
What we found is cause for optimism: damage to Gen Z’s earning power and employment prospects will be temporary. But, this requires us to rethink the way we deliver education if they are to seize the opportunities of a post-Covid world.
While it’s not ground-breaking to suggest that the digital economy will continue to grow, Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the speed and scale of this change.
Oxford Economics believes that by 2030, three-quarters of all jobs in the UK will require advanced digital skills. The pace of the shift to automation will step up, and burgeoning technologies like augmented reality – in greater demand than ever due to social restrictions – are also set to become more ingrained in our daily lives. This has significant implications for young people and those who teach them.
The good news is that many of the attributes that Gen Z possess make them uniquely placed to take advantage of the new, post-Covid economy.
We know this, because we see it every day: Gen Z are creative, adaptable and have the ability to harness the power of technology for good. We believe they have enormous potential not only to bounce back from the pandemic, but also to grow the economy of the future.
This is why we have to take steps to foster these attributes, as well as teach them the skills they will need to thrive in a more digital world. Our economic recovery and the future of our digital economy depend on it.
Oxford Economics has set out a series of recommendations to policymakers for how we do this. In the short-term, clearly, the focus has to be on narrowing the significant educational attainment gap from the last 12 months.
But more broadly, the priority should be on retooling our education systems to be fit for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, while enacting an agenda which supports young people to adapt to the permanent shifts in our economy and thrive in this new world.
Schools reopening is one of the biggest steps forward on the roadmap back to society reopening, and our old lives. We all strive for a sense of normality, but that doesn’t mean we should fall into the trap of seeking to replicate the same systems we have been following for generations. It’s a new world, and our support for young people should strive to meet that moment.
Some things have permanently changed. They even have the potential to be better than what came before. So, we must give our young people from all backgrounds the tools to be able to succeed, enabling Gen Z to unlock their own potential and lead our digital future.