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This week the UK government released its updated figures for the 2020/21 academic year, which revealed that the number of young people starting apprenticeship programmes has fallen by 18.5% compared to the same period 12 months ago.

Clearly the impact of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdowns has to be taken into account, but the figures have still understandably raised concerns as to what the training and development opportunities for young people in the UK will look like as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and the latest university graduations take place in the coming weeks and months.

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Opinium, Liberty conducted its own research to explore the challenges facing 18–25-year-olds in the UK and US, including the impact of the pandemic on their job and career prospects.

Only just over half (52%) of respondents who are currently in employment said they were on the career path they would like to be, and over a third (39%) said they think it’s unlikely they will embark on the career path they would like due to fears over the impact of the pandemic on job prospects.

However, during a recent podcast we held one of the main takeaways I took from some of our fantastic guests was that it’s absolutely vital that the message to students, graduates and young people looking to secure an apprenticeship or enter the job market is not all doom and gloom. Yes, of course things are challenging right now – but there are opportunities out there and it’s so important that we promote messages of encouragement and optimism.

This is something we hope we have been able to play a small part in at Liberty through our Liberty Academy programme, which is aimed at helping students and recent graduates learn more about the PR industry and what an entry level role working in PR is like.

Through the Liberty Academy programme we have been able to offer ‘virtual’ internship placements to students during the pandemic – and we have several more fantastic students joining us over the coming months.

The culmination of this was winning an award in the 2021 Company Culture Awards, with the Liberty Academy programme being named the winner in the Best Apprenticeship Programme (Agency) category.

We’re so grateful to all of our partners at Queen Mary University, King’s College and Kington University for all of their collaboration and support. The students we have engaged with have been absolutely fantastic – and we have learned a huge amount from them along the way.

But we can always do more – and we must keep going! Through the Liberty Academy programme I’m proud to say we are committed to doing just that at Liberty.

James Meredith

James is a Director at Liberty Communications

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