The Kickstart scheme: what your company should know

There are countless stories of people of all ages struggling to find work over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but those that have been particularly affected by this issue are young people. Two thirds of people that have lost their jobs since February last year have been under the age of 25, and the youth unemployment rate currently stands at 13.2%, compared to the national average of 4.7%. In light of this impending crisis and fears of a ‘lost generation’, the government has intervened. In the summer of 2020, the Kickstart scheme was announced, with £2 billion of government funding allocated to it. Since then, over 19,000 job placements have been created for young people as part of the scheme, with thousands more to come as more companies sign up. However, from an employer’s perspective, it can be difficult to work out where to begin with the process. In this article, we will address some of the most common questions you and your company may have about the Kickstart scheme, and give you the knowledge you need to get involved and help make a change to the lives of young people.

What is the Kickstart scheme?
The Kickstart scheme offers funding for employers to create work placements lasting up to six months for 16 to 24 year olds who are currently receiving Universal Credit. Its main goal is to prevent young people from falling into long term unemployment, and to give them the skills and experience they need to pursue gainful employment as they begin their careers. The scheme began in September 2020 and is expected to run through December 2021, meaning that new job placements can begin up until this point. The placements should provide a minimum of 25 hours of work per week and pay at least National Minimum Wage (or National Living Wage, if the worker is 23 years old or over). There is no expense to your business as wages, National Insurance contributions, training costs and auto-enrolment pension contributions are all completely funded by the government. However, if you want your Kickstart employees to work for longer than 25 hours a week or for a higher salary than minimum wage, this is a cost you will have to cover yourself.

Why should I get involved as an employer?

There are many reasons why your company should get involved in the Kickstart scheme. These include:

  • Full Training provided by TalentSpa

Your Kickstarter will be provided with all the necessary employability training required by the Government on the Kickstart Scheme. This means that your hiring costs are practically non-existent, unless you choose to top up your Kickstarters’ salaries above the government-funded minimum wage. 

  • No limit on number of placements

There is no minimum requirement or limit on how many placements your business can offer, as long as this does not take work away from current employees or replace existing vacancies. This means that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can get involved in the scheme and help support local youth in finding work. 

  • Opportunities to hire young, diverse talent for free 

As all Kickstart opportunities are handled by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and local job centres, instead of you advertising your vacancies directly, you will have access to candidates who may not normally apply through more traditional routes. Furthermore, you have the option to hire your Kickstarter at the end of their six month placement as a permanent employee of your business, which will save you the stress of having to recruit externally and train a new worker all over again.

  • Helping young people build their confidence

Many young people who take part in the Kickstart scheme may have been unemployed for several months, which can have an impact on their self-esteem. By giving them training specific to the role of their placement, and additional employability skills, you will help set them up on the path towards a successful and fulfilling career. You get the benefit of the great feeling of helping someone out, and who would want to turn that down?

By taking on a Kickstarter, you get access to new talent with fresh perspectives, and they get to develop employability skills that will help them throughout their careers – a win-win situation!

What does my company need to provide?
In addition to the requirement of 25 hours of work a week for six months, you also need to provide training that will support young people in finding work at the end of their Kickstart placement, assuming you will not take them on afterwards. There is no explicit guidance on what this training needs to look like, but it should focus on developing their employability skills, for example by giving them feedback and advice on their CV. You may also wish to designate one of your more experienced employees as a mentor for your Kickstarters to ensure they are given proper training for the job you have hired them to do. The most important thing your company should provide is an environment where your Kickstarters can ask questions and explore their curiosities. For some of them, this may be their first paid job, so you should consider whether your workplace will be able to accommodate for mistakes (for example, if you manage a production line). If your workplace culture already values learning on the job and professional development, your Kickstarter should fit in just fine as they make the first steps of their career!

As a Kickstarter myself, I know just how nerve wracking it can be to get back to work after being unemployed for several months. Thanks to the Kickstart scheme, I have been able to restore my confidence and have learned a lot of transferable skills that I’m sure will help me in my future career. However, there are currently around 539,000 young people who are still unemployed – if you want to learn more about how your business can help, visit our website here to get started on your Kickstart scheme application today!