When the Kickstart Scheme was first announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in July 2020 it was welcomed as an innovative and much needed stimulus to the UK jobs market at a critical point in our emergence from the economic and health crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (or so we thought at the time). Part of the ‘Plan for Jobs’, the £2bn scheme would “create thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country”. Such a scheme was an evolution of tried, and somewhat unsuccessful, programmes of previous governments such as the Future Jobs Fund, whilst representing a monumental shift in policy from the days of Mandatory Work Activity and the world of ‘workfare’, rather than welfare. Whilst we may debate the efficacy of such schemes and their approach, what we would all accept is that Kickstart was the right scheme, at the right time and was widely welcomed by the sector.
“I want the next generation to be remembered as the Kickstart generation. It’s their talent and skills that will drive our country forward in the future.” Rishi Sunak.
As with any new government scheme developed and rolled out on this scale, Kickstart has not been without its challenges for us as both an employer and Gateway organisation. As many employers and Gateway organisations can attest to, understanding the eligibility criteria, the application process, and managing communication with DWP has proved a fine art and something only few have truly mastered. Unfortunately, such challenges were also not helped by a somewhat lacklustre launch and media campaign of such a flagship programme which took months to mobilise before the first placements started in late 2020. Latest figures show that there have been an estimated 120,000 placements approved via the scheme, however, only 6,000 placements have started. There is certainly work to be done to achieve the aim of 200,000 jobs by December 2021.
Despite the challenges faced in its infancy, the Kickstart Scheme has evolved to become an essential component of any business’s recruitment strategy during 2021. As an employer with 4 outstanding Kickstarters excelling in their roles already, and as a Gateway organisation working with businesses employing Kickstart roles in all sectors, our overall experience has been incredibly positive. The quality of young people actively seeking work has been truly inspiring and refreshing, yet also saddening that such ambitious, driven and motivated young people don’t have a wealth of opportunities available to them as seen in recent years. As we work our way through the roadmap out of lockdown, and an influx of education leavers this summer, demand for the scheme and the opportunities it creates will inevitably increase. I’m in no doubts this is something the Kickstart Scheme will address by stimulating the jobs market, and providing progression into an apprenticeship, permanent employment, and career progression when delivered in a supportive, structured and meaningful way.
Kickstart Scheme is an excellent example of how partnerships and collaboration between businesses, education providers and government can lead to great success. However, we believe it does not go far enough and we support the call for extending the scheme beyond the planned cut off date for new starts on December 2021
. In February 2021 the Youth Futures Group[i] wrote to government setting out five clear reasons to extend the scheme:
1. Youth unemployment is likely to remain stubbornly high throughout this year and next year, particularly among young people with few or no qualifications. The deadline of December 2021 for Kickstart jobs will bring an end to this scheme when young people need it the most.
2. Extending Kickstart for at least six months will help secure Kickstart’s legacy by ensuring that robust evidence on its effectiveness for different groups of young people is collected. Without this evidence, we will miss a crucial opportunity to learn ‘what works’ in tackling youth unemployment both now and in future.
3. Employers need to make up for the placements that they were unable to deliver in recent months due to the lockdown restrictions brought in at the end of 2020. Unless Kickstart continues beyond this year, it is likely that these potential placements will be permanently lost.
4. Extending the period over which employers can deliver multiple ‘cycles’ of placements will increase the total number of opportunities as well as allowing employers to improve the quality of their placements for each subsequent cohort.
5. Kickstart will only reach its full potential if it can become a ‘pipeline’ for disadvantaged young people to start an apprenticeship or higher-level training course. Closing Kickstart at the end of 2021 will prevent providers from creating these crucial links between education / employment programmes.
These reasons alone make a compelling case to extend the scheme and ensure that the intended benefits to young people, employers and our local economies can be realised. Now is the time to act and put faith in the longevity of the scheme in achieving the outcomes is set from the start. We simply cannot afford to fail this generation of young people who are likely to be some of the hardest hit by this crisis.
Learn more about DBC’s Kickstart offer here https://www.dbc-training.co.uk/kick-start-scheme
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[i] Youth Futures Group (2021) Five reasons to extend ‘Kickstart’ February 2021