Young people have been among some of the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic, both socially and economically. Many missed out on important life experiences – simple yet momentous life milestones put on hold – from proms to parties, graduations to gigs.  Some have lost jobs due to the closure of pubs, restaurants and cafes which employed many young people. Others have been forced to learn from home – often without desks, a study area or access to a laptop or WIFI. Young people have faced all this alongside battling an insecure economy, an increasingly competitive jobs market and a lack of access to mental health services.

I have my own tale to tell: I’m a graduate without a graduation, having finished my undergraduate degree online after a year and half of online lectures (alongside some awkward online breakout rooms). I remember the Government’s lockdown announcement in January – myself and fellow students waiting with baited breath about what is meant for us. Yet there was no mention of the word ‘students’ or ‘young people’ – it simply wasn’t good enough.

Fellow young people agree: according to a major study by the Co-operative Group on our “Ghost Generation”, 60% of young people feel they will be permanently disadvantaged by the pandemic, with 58% feeling the Government has failed them during the pandemic.

Even before COVID, too many young people have faced a ‘Catch 22’ – you can’t get a job without experience but you can’t get experience without a job. The pandemic has only made this worse, with work experience opportunities for young people becoming few and far between. Young people simply want an opportunity to develop their skills, but nearly two thirds believe that competition to get a job has increased so much it feels impossible. This impact has been even more marked on young people from diverse backgrounds.

I’m proud to be a member of and now work for a movement which puts young people at its heart: from our brilliant youth network and allowing young people to shape policy, to supporting them through selection processes and election campaigns. We don’t just talk about our values and policies on young people – they are at our core.

The Government now has to learn from the co-operative movement so young people don’t feel left behind.  Often I find myself as a young person talking to older generations about their grand ideas for young people – yet they have rarely consulted actual young people. It’s simple: don’t talk about what’s best for us without us. The co-operative movement is strong because every member, young or old, has a say and stake.

So my plea is with the Government: offer something substantial and sustainable for young people. A plan which addresses the changes in our working environment due to COVID, creates work opportunities and listens to some of the biggest problems felt by young people. Talk with us, not just about us. Only then can we bring our “ghosted generation” out from the shadows.