More than 40% of young people put their career plans on hold due to pandemic, according to research presented by BAE Systems.

  • Young people identify continuous learning, a good salary and stability as key priorities
  • Engineering and technology and digital are among the top industries which young people believe hold the best long-term career opportunities, in light of the pandemic
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of young people have or would consider an apprenticeship

More than 40%[1] of young people aged 16-24 surveyed in the UK say they are putting their career or education plans on hold until the pandemic is over.

The research, commissioned by BAE Systems to mark National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February), looks at the impact the pandemic has had on the ‘lost generation’ and their career aspirations.

Facing the toughest job market since the 2008 recession, a fifth (21%)[2] say they are even more confused about their career path, with 20%[3] of respondents also stating the industry they had wanted to work in has been deeply impacted.


When asked what matters most to them in a career, almost a third (31%) of young people said continuous learning and the ability to develop their skill set is an important factor, reinforcing the need for flexible training and skills development, as set out by the government in its recent FE White Paper. Whilst wanting to earn a good salary (41%) topped the chart, jobs that provide stability and routine (30%) and a career that is future-proofed (25%) are key areas of concern.

Respondents had clear views on the skills that they think will be most important to support their future long-term career plans, with ‘soft’ skills ranking among the highest, including communication (35%), problem solving (31%) and team work (30%).  With the pandemic highlighting the critical role of healthcare and education professionals, these industries came out top with young people believing they hold the best long-term career opportunities. Interestingly, nearly a third of respondents said the opportunity to make a difference to the world (30%) is important to them in a future career.

The top seven industries for long-term career opportunities are:

  1. Healthcare (31%)
  2. Education (20%)
  3. Finance (14%)
  4. Technology & Digital (13%)
  5. Engineering (13%)
  6. IT (11%)
  7. Science (11%)


With more than half of young people (51%)[4] now placing more importance on their career as a result of the pandemic, many are looking at what options are available to them when looking to enter the job market. Almost two thirds (63%) said they have or would consider an apprenticeship, of which, four in ten (41%) cited gaining experience in the working world as a key driver.

Richard Hamer, Education and Skills Director at BAE Systems, said:

“It’s clear that currently, the path for young people looking to enter the job market is extremely tough. The ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic are far reaching and have left students with greater uncertainty about their future. That’s why it’s important that those of us who can, must continue to create new opportunities for young people, working hand in hand with the government and wider industry, to make available options known to young people.

Apprenticeships play a significant role, providing people with the necessary skills to work in highly specialised and technical industries. Through on-the-job learning of practical skills, the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals and the provision of support at every step of their training, apprenticeships can offer an entry into a long-term and successful career.”

Ben Marson, Director of Partnerships at The Prince’s Trust, said:

“The pandemic continues to negatively affect young people’s employment prospects. At The Prince’s Trust, we know from our own research the impact unemployment can have on young people’s mental health and overall future. Our recent Youth Index report found that 60% of young people say that getting a new job feels “impossible now” because there is so much competition and 23% saying they don’t feel confident about their future work. It is absolutely crucial that we work with our corporate partners like BAE Systems to provide opportunities for young people to gain the skills and confidence for work, so they do not lose hope for their future.”

Louise Fairclough, a first year Chartered Management Degree Apprentice with BAE Systems, said:

“I joined the Company in January, having gone through the virtual recruitment process. Since then, I have been working from home and feel that despite the pandemic, my career has got off to a fantastic start. I have already had the opportunity to contribute to projects, including the Learner Voice survey which collects feedback from apprentices and helps the business to make informed decisions with regards to the running of its apprentice induction programme. I would recommend doing an apprenticeship, both to school and college leavers as well as anyone thinking about retraining. There are a wealth of opportunities provided right from the get-go and I have received a huge amount of support from the Company.”

BAE Systems recently announced it will recruit more than 850 apprentices and 400 graduates in 2021, the highest intake in a single year.

The Company has doubled the type of apprenticeship programmes on offer to more than 50, including options to study up to degree level. Opportunities are available in a variety of roles including accountancy, human resources, electronic systems design, software development, joinery and mechanical fitting. With almost 10% of its current apprentices aged 25 and over, the programmes also offer a wide range of opportunities for people looking to retrain.

[1] Statistic (43%) combines respondents that selected ’strongly agree’ and ‘somewhat agree’ for ‘I am putting my career/education plans on hold until the pandemic is over’.

[2] 21% of respondents selected ‘I wasn’t sure on my career path and now I’m more confused’ when answering ‘Which of the following statements best applies to you in relation to how your career aspirations have changed in the last year, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?’.

[3] Of the respondents who think the Covid-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on their short and/or long-term future career prospects, 20% noted ‘I wanted to work in an industry that has been deeply impacted by the pandemic’ when asked why they think the Covid-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on their short and/or long-term future career prospects.

[4] Statistic combines respondents that selected ‘much more importance’ or ‘somewhat more importance’ to the question ‘How much more or less importance do you place on your career as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?’.

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I honestly hope 63% of young people are not wasting this time not to learn new skills particularly in IT when there are 100s on online learning opportunities and plenty of internationally recognised bodies providing them. If someone has spent the last 6 months furloughed from a retail job they know is going to be extinct on 80% pay I have no sympathy for them if they have not used the opportunity to educate themselves.


I’m sure older people who have lost their jobs are more motivated to get another, mortgages/renst/long term comittments requiring momey. While a lot of youngsters just want to moan about how bad they are having it/no future/not their fault blah blah. In fact some NHS woke commando said that youngsters are having the same mental health issues as soldiers in the trenches in WW1! Total woke chuff. While I have sympathy for school age kids, as they have no choice and the impact to their education is massive, for many others it could be seen as an opportunity. Cheers.

Sean Crowley

Have a niece who had a placement in the States that has subsequently being declined for fear she wont be able to return to Australia , also a nephew in Annapolis who’s whole career path is being changed overnight with a curriculum that is being made up on the fly . These kids are not living the lives we promised them and we do need to support them and your poor dear youth in the UK i can only imagine must be legitimately traumatized . The trenches you mentioned of first war were far better in the fact that you… Read more »


Wow1 Firstly I/we dont remember promising these youngsters anything, same as nobody promising me, or my generation anything. Secondly, damn, up to 4 years of savage combat, fear, slaughter coupled with horrendous living conditions, trauma, injury and decimation of Battalion after Battalion, is much better than maybe not doing the job choice you may have wanted, for modern kids! WOW! Please re-read what you posted and maybe think about the rather woke, pathetic reasoning you gave. Regards.

Sean Crowley

Currently live in Australia where every little town has a memorial with an inordinately long list for the towns size dedicated to boys who went off and died in a war that was not they’res . Am aware of the tragedy of WW1 but were losing kids to despondence who do not even see a future , so i stand by my statement and also advise you to stand by the youth of the UK . The future of your country .


I stand by my country and its future, always good advice and I stand by those who deserve that effort. However im unsure about how things are going in Aus, but let me assure you, there is a high percentage of Uni aged young people who now may have to try to either get a worthwhile degree, which means real effort, or maybe choose a job which can give a career, and not a piece of paper with worthless letters. Their is work, its just the dynamics have changed and they, we all, have to change with it.