The changing face of earning and learning: Barclays LifeSkills research

By Sarah Wild

Research by Barclays LifeSkills shows the decline of the Saturday job, but a rise in online ventures and entrepreneurism among young people in education, writes Sarah Wild.

The humble Saturday job can be the start of great things,” asserts Baroness Karen Brady CBE, “first woman in football” and chair of the Barclays LifeSkills Advisory Council. “My part-time job at a hair salon taught me the skills that put me on the path to a successful career in business – problem solving, proactivity and hard work. Your first job is more than just a point for your CV, it’s a life lesson.”

However, in 2015, research by specialist economics and policy consultancy London Economics and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) noted “a long-term decline in young people combining work with study”. Analysing the UK Labour Force Survey, its report, entitled Death of the Saturday Job, pointed out that, in 1997, 42% of 16-17-year-old students combined learning with work, compared with just 18% in 2014.

Many young people are entering the jobs market insufficiently prepared for the world of work

Three main reasons were identified for this decline: increasing preferences of young people to focus solely on studies, a changing labour market affecting the opportunities for young people to get part-time jobs, and institutional difficulties with the incorporation of work into study timetables.

Young people were under the impression that schools and colleges were “dead set against” pupils combining work with their studies, according to the findings. If asked about combining work with study, the overwhelming view was that schools and colleges would simply state that “school comes first”, the report said; a number of respondents suggested that the institutional stance was down to the pressure to perform well in league tables.

A focus group of educationalists admitted that (despite the potential positive outcomes associated with young people working) many providers have rules around the maximum amount of term-time work that students are allowed to undertake; one provider specifically mentioned that timetabling was designed to make it more difficult for young people to combine work and study. 

LifeSkills tips for finding a part-time job

  1. Know your skills: Identifying your skills is really important when you’re deciding which career is right for you. Try taking the Barclays LifeSkills Wheel of Strengths test to find out where your strengths lie.
  2. Do your research: Doing your research is essential as you begin your job search – but you don’t have to do this on your own. Check out Barclays LifeSkills’ online Advice Map and interactive tool to help you find the right advice from the right places.
  3. Get interview-ready: Interviewing can be one of the most important (and nerve- wracking) parts of applying for a new job. Use LifeSkills’ tool to prepare and hone your skills. 

A need for collaboration

With the 2017 Careers Strategy focusing so strongly on the value of students’ encounters with employers, this would be a short-sighted position to take going forward; especially at a time when businesses are warning that many young people are entering the jobs market insufficiently prepared for the world of work.

To quote Dame Fiona Kendrick, chairman and chief executive of Nestlé UK and Ireland, who wrote a forward for UKCES report: “Not only does this impact on young peoples’ prospects, but it can also affect the quality of the future workforce and the talent pipeline for many businesses. It is therefore vital that young people know of the benefits of part-time work, and that education providers and employers work together to ensure that they have access to them.”

LifeSkills, created with Barclays, is an enterprise working to do exactly this, providing schools with access to careers resources and work-experience placements. In May 2019, it conducted its own research into the fate of the student job, to gain insights into the current situation.

Surveying 1,018 14-21-year-olds in education and not yet in full-time work (as well as 1,754 adults aged 22+ for generational comparisons), it similarly concluded that the traditional part-time job has fallen out of favour.

Overall, the research found that just half (50%) of young people in education currently have a part-time job, compared to 68% in previous generations. Young people with jobs said they were driven by a desire to achieve some financial independence, to gain experience to improve their CV and skills, along with the chance to meet new people.

Those who were not working cited the need to focus on schoolwork (44%); the fact that they received an allowance from elsewhere (44%), or that they had no idea where to start looking for a job, despite wanting one (22%). Just under a fifth (17%) cited a shortage of part-time opportunities in their area, while 16% said they had applied for work but had been unsuccessful.

So far, so disheartening. However, the research also uncovered a more positive trend: while the number of young people in the UK with a traditional Saturday job appears to be falling, tech-savvy teenagers are increasingly turning to online ventures to boost their income.

Online jobs available for teenagers range from tutoring and website testing to being paid to take surveys and write reviews. It is, of course, vital to check that sites accessed are legitimate and safe.

Extrapolating from the results, an estimated 670,000 students aged 14-21 now regularly make money through online avenues, with buying and selling products online (such as clothes) becoming more popular than babysitting or dog walking as a way of making extra cash. These online ventures are collectively worth £11m a year.

Earning and learning can help young people to:

  • Gain transferable skills and experience
  • Prepare for full-time employment
  • Learn about time and money management
  • Become more independent and responsible
  • Grow in confidence and self-esteem
  • Make new friends, contacts and develop professional networks

The rise of entrepreneurism

A desire for greater flexibility, coupled with advanced digital skills, is driving many young people to find new ways of making money through part-time activities, the findings suggest.

While half (50%) of the previous generations said they worked in a shop or business when they were teens, just 37% of young people with jobs do the same today. Shop work is still the most popular type of job for young people, followed by manual work, but online ventures are growing in popularity.

Of those earning money through an online job or project, more than four in ten (44%) say they do this over traditional work because it provides them with more flexibility and 30% say their skills are better suited to earning money this way. Meanwhile, a fifth (21%) say they choose to work online because there is a shortage of traditional jobs in their area, and a further 19% say it allows them to be more entrepreneurial.

Head of LifeSkills Kirstie Mackie praises this growing spirit of innovation. “It’s really encouraging to learn that so many young people are finding new routes, other than traditional part-time work, to boost their experience, skills development and earnings while being able to plan their hours around their studying,” she says.

The nature of part-time jobs may have changed from 30 or 40 years ago, but they remain a crucial way for young people to strike out on their own and gain the valuable skills and experience they will need for the rest of their working lives

And while Baroness Brady admits that “finding a job alongside school or college isn’t as simple as it was in the past” she adds that “the opportunities out there are evolving quickly.

“I recommend that every young person thinks about taking on work while still studying; whether it’s cashing up in a shop or selling your creations online, the experience will have valuable things to teach you,” she pledges.

About Barclays LifeSkills

The LifeSkills programme inspires and supports 11- to 24-year olds by providing them with key employability skills to help them succeed in the world of work. The programme brings together educators, businesses, young people and parents.


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