Oh to be in the flush of youth – light-hearted, happy-go-lucky, single (or at least on Tindr). With so many advantages, it is often assumed that flexible working is not much of a need or concern for the fresh-faced who are still in their salad days. Yet, those just starting out in life face a myriad of issues for which agile work formats can provide a solution.
Tuition fees are high, upwards of £9,000 and repayable with interest. Added to the cost of living away from home, many students are saddled with debt that they will spend perhaps decades paying off. Even the maintenance living grants are often not sufficient to cover the basics. “For many, wages from part-time work are the only way students can make ends meet,” states Sir Peter Lampl of The Sutton Trust.
Juggling intellectually strenuous courses with part-time jobs is not an easy balance to pull off. But without flexible work, many people simply could not afford a tertiary or further education. When we leave people unable to improve themselves and their prospects, both our society and our economy suffer. Flex is key to this.
To get work experience, you need work experience. It’s the circular system that holds many people back. Internships are difficult to get in the first place, as many seem to come through word-of-mouth, family connections or privileged social networks. There does not seem to be enough internships to go around.
A more radical idea would be to introduce job-share internships, with each person doing 2.5 days per week. Doubtless this would require careful management, especially when it comes to handovers. But it is a possible option that would mean that double the number of people would gain at least some experience and something to put on their CVs to move their careers forward. Businesses would, in turn, get the benefit of having more people to assess for specific roles.
Youth seems to be the most care-free time of our life but the statistics on the incidence of mental health do not relate merely to those who are older. But making small change can have a significant impact. For example, a person with depression (which can often be worse in the morning) who is allowed to come into work at 10am and work later in the day can get a job and can keep that job. Employed, contributing, paying tax – this is what young people can have if reasonable adjustments are made to their particular situation.
If you want to find out more about what neurodiverse people can do if businesses provide the right working conditions and flexible working opportunities, check out our piece that expands on this subject.
Many young people take care of elderly relatives at home. By assuming such duties, they save the taxpayer huge amounts of money, thus shouldering up an already creaking and under-resourced care system. But this can only be fair if the carer has some opportunity to work flexibly around these responsibilities.
The consequences of removing flexible working from the equation are two-fold. First, whilst taking on such caring tasks is humane, worthwhile and honourable, it leaves the carer with little else to put on their CV. This in turn limits the kinds of roles young carers can apply for. Secondly, carers may become trapped in a system of living on carer-related benefits because of their limited skills. Young people have dreams – and should be given an opportunity to accomplish them. Flexible working allows the possibility both for caring and for young people to fulfill their aspirations and potential.
Young people are our future world. So, it’s really never too early to enter flexible working.