Training and support during and after Covid-19: Article 4: During and after lockdown: the experience of young people
[Translation (French - English) : EPALE France]
After an unprecedented period of lockdown due to the Covid-19 health crisis, and its many consequences, we are now in the process of exiting lockdown. Life is gradually returning to its initial state, but we are all aware of the fragility and uncertainty of the situation. Fears are also growing over the economic and social consequences of this crisis, and further impacts are being discovered every day. The world of the future is uncertain, as are the training and support professions. In the three previous articles, we aimed to clarify the stakes in a new engineering of training and support processes, giving the floor to managers and professionals of networks that have managed to develop continuity in training and service (MFREO network, CEP Bourgogne Franche-Comté). We also sought to identify how these emergency processes could generate more sustainable changes and what opportunities this unprecedented crisis situation could open up. We therefore chose to question structures and professionals, and information on the public was analysed from this perspective. However, the challenge is not only to look at how structures and professionals have coped and innovated in this "remote" period, but also to better understand the impacts on the public itself.
How did the public cope with the lockdown?
The lockdown has resulted in a wealth of studies (1) on the many impacts on individuals. Stress and anxiety, of course, but also personal reflections, family life, and questioning one's relationship at work. In this respect, the surveys can be divided into two registers of questioning. One is a collection of thoughts on the experience of lockdown; the other is more concerned with the way in which each individual perceives the future today and what this post-lockdown period will mean for their intentions, their projects and, more broadly, their perception of the future. An in-depth analysis of these studies provides several indications. There is major individual variation in the experience of lockdown. There are also successive differentiated phases (despondency, anxiety, anger, acceptance, etc.), but these too are highly variable. These differences in experience are also a result of the conditions of lockdown. It is of course quite easy to stay at home in the right conditions. And it is more complicated when anxiety is amplified by difficult material and financial conditions. But the lockdown has also played a significant role in individuals’ professional pathways. It is not easy to stop a training course you've just started. Or to have to give up on a job that was accessible before the crisis. In this respect, we felt it essential to hear from people for whom the issue of lockdown could accentuate difficulties and the feeling of powerlessness. The 436 Mission Locale youth centres in France collected feedback from the young people they accompany via a Flash survey. The survey was carried out with the support of France Stratégie and the French Centre for Study and Research on Qualifications (Cereq), and provided very interesting indications. 30% of the young people surveyed said that their experience of the lockdown was bad or very bad, due to several factors: boredom came first (48.8%), followed closely by difficulties in finding a job (40.3%), isolation (36.6%), financial difficulties (30.5%) and fear of being contaminated or of contaminating loved ones (29.1%). The respondents also highlighted difficulties linked to their housing: this was the case for 7.6% - a proportion which may seem low, but which implies that some of these young people may have found themselves in extremely difficult situations of poor accommodation or no accommodation.
Coping with uncertainty: questioning the future
Young people are also divided in their perception of the future, oscillating between confidence (30.5%) and concern (33.4%). In fact, three-quarters of the worried young people fear that they will not find a job because of the crisis.
Unequivocally, the issue of employment is essential for respondents, who place it at nearly 77% as their top priority for the future, followed by clarifying their career plans (66.8%), and resuming training (43.7%). When asked if they would like to be supported through the different stages of their lives, 61% of young people said yes.
These different elements are found in the general population, but young people are well aware of the complexity and uncertainty of the period ahead. This will necessarily affect their choice of direction. There is already a polarization on a few obvious criteria: employment situations and prospects; geographical location. But there is also another criterion that was much discussed during the lockdown: the perceived social utility of work. In any case, this changes the relationship with the future, but there is an additional feeling of having less control over what may happen.
Also, during this period, issues of the digital divide have been widely highlighted and debated. CEDEFOP (2) produced a report on the digital divide during COVID-19 for EFP students in Europe who are at risk of dropping out. It is based on preliminary information on 7 countries provided by Cedefop's network of Ambassadors to prevent students dropping out of school early. The report concludes: Further support is needed to meet the needs of learners who are at risk of dropping out by ensuring their equal access to high-quality distance education. The current crisis has shown that digital inclusion is not possible without social inclusion. Marginalized and vulnerable learners are less likely to involve themselves in distance learning procedures. The report also points out that learners at risk of dropping out disconnect for a longer period of time and may finally drop out of their EFP programme. Yet it's not all negative, nor is everything black and white. The lockdown also sparked inventiveness. Many new initiatives have been launched. The Mission Locale in Pays de Saint-Malo, for example, has designed, developed and implemented a youth guarantee process largely at a distance. The results are very interesting and open perspectives both in terms of the agility and inventiveness of professionals and the mobilization of the public. It also shows that the digital divide does not always take the form we imagine and that the public is all the more involved when the concept of working from home takes into account their resources and initiatives. We could cite a very large number of initiatives that we hope will help us to enrich our methods of support. While physical encounters will not be so simple in the future (but who knows?), maintaining an active support link is essential. And it is undoubtedly on this level that the reflection and initiatives have been most fruitful. It appeared that in some situations, young people found it interesting and enjoyable to have contact that was less solemn and pre-planned, more conversational and less project-centred, but in any case, very helpful. They expressed a genuine interest and discussion on this situation that is new to everyone. This raises questions about the importance of the methods proposed in creating a bond of trust and support. While the digital divide is clearly at play, it is not only one-sided. We need to re-examine the most appropriate methods for the public, even if it means leaving the illusory comfort of plannable and quantifiable methods. This is also true with regard to skills development for this audience. Indeed, access to varied and multi-modality learning situations for all is at stake. And not just distance learning, which is only one facet of it. Social equality is also a factor to consider.
Philosopher Cynthia Fleury highlighted this in a recent editorial. "We mustn’t make the mistake of rebuilding the past. Lockdown has paved the way for a modern society with a great deal of experimentation. We musn’t fall into the trap of plethoric hyper-structures that excel at creating barriers".
(1) Stress, travail, média : comment avons-nous vécu le confinement ? https://lejournal.cnrs.fr/articles/stress-travail-medias-comment-avons-…
(2) CEDEFOP : European Centre for the development of vocational training
 Stress, travail, média : comment avons-nous vécu le confinement ? https://lejournal.cnrs.fr/articles/stress-travail-medias-comment-avons-…
 CEDEFOP : European Centre for the development of vocational training
Training and support during and after Covid-19: read other articles
Article 1 : What are the challenges and answers in terms of innovation?
Article 2 : The network of MFREO training centres.
Article 3 : Career development counselling for people in employment