Three ways reps can support young workers to get by and get on at work

For Young Workers Month and supporting young learner week, Kathryn Mackridge looks at some of the skills and training trends for young workers and how reps can help to develop them at work.

Young workers blog

Young people deserve a great job like anyone else, where they are paid well, treated fairly, get opportunities to progress, have their voices heard and their rights upheld.

Today’s young workers are the most qualified generation in the labour market. The proportion of young workers with a degree has increased from 27 per cent in 1998 to 44 per cent in 2017. However, young graduates today do not receive as significant an uplift in their earnings as young workers from two decades ago.[1]

With higher qualifications not necessarily paying off for today’s young workers as much as for previous cohorts, it is more important than ever that employers invest in their workforce, offering the skills and training workers need to progress into secure, well-paid work. However, one third (33 per cent) of employers have admitted to not providing any sort of training for their staff.[2] This rises to 37 per cent for employers in the hotels and restaurant industry, and 40 per cent in wholesale and retail – sectors which have seen an increase in the proportion of young workers in the past couple of decades.

The union rep role is as important as ever to support young workers to access learning, gain new skills and understand their rights at work. Unionlearn and the TUC have produced reps resources to help you do this.

Helping apprentices know their rights

A new app, Apprenticeship Essentials, features a range of free and interactive resources for apprentices and people considering an apprenticeship. Our guidance covers everything from apprenticeship basics - such as a Pay Calculator to check you’re on the right rate - to entering the world of work and the important role of unions.

With bite-sized learning modules, you can learn about what to expect from training, the rights you have as an apprentice, the responsibilities of the role and insights from case studies.

Download the app on the Apple Store or Google Play to access all of this and more.

Career Kickstart Review for union learning reps

This summer Unionlearn launched a Career Kickstart Review for young people and their career options. The guides are designed to provide support to young people, start a conversation with them about their career plans and give them the best possible start to their career. This guide takes union learning reps through the process of supporting young people who may not have had access to good careers guidance, helping them to develop confidence in making decisions and encouraging them to become active union members.

Getting by and getting on

Young people today are more likely to experience unemployment, underemployment, low wages, casual and temporary work, zero-hours contracts and workplace exploitation than in the past.

We have produced this briefing for reps and officers to help them bargain and create campaigns on issues that young workers care and are concerned about, so that no young person is left behind, and the union movement thrives.

The TUC spoke to hundreds of young people in low and median paid work – Britain’s young core workers – finding out about their issues in the workplace and some of the barriers to organising collectively. You can hear their voices here.

TUC Young Workers Month is an opportunity for unions to campaign on the most important issues for young workers and show how unions are relevant to their lives at work and beyond. www.tuc.org.uk/youngworkersmonth #youngworkersmonth


[1] TUC, 2018. Stuck at the start: young workers’ experiences of pay and progression

[2] UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), 2015. Employers skills survey (91,000 employers)

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Kathryn Mackridge

Kathryn is a TUC Policy Officer leading on young workers in the Organising Services and Learning Team.