We owe it to young people to get the Kickstart Scheme right

With a £2bn injection to fund up to 300,000 placements, the government’s Kickstart Scheme is a pie that many want a slice of. It seems like the perfect marriage. A young person who needs an opportunity – a leg up on to that first rung of the career ladder. And an employer who, after an unprecedented year, needs support but can’t afford to take new people on at the moment.

The government’s Kickstart Scheme offers an affordable way for employers to get the support they need while helping young people learn new skills, but there are other benefits too. There is currently a huge pool of people to choose from, some who are already highly skilled, which will give companies the opportunity to find the right fit for their business.

They will be able to train someone within their company, to mould them to how they do things. This is a great opportunity for employers to fill any skills gaps, futureproof their organisation and train the next generation in their field.

Some employers are concerned about taking anyone new on, even if it’s not going to cost anything, in the current climate. Many feel they’re still in survival mode and simply don’t have time to make the application or give young people the attention they deserve.

But the big question is, what happens at the end of the six months? And this is why it’s crucial that everyone involved – the government, employers, Jobcentres, Kickstart gateways – are working together and planning for the future.

Employers must not see this purely as the answer to their recruitment drive. Placements should offer young people relevant, high-quality training and support to ensure they get maximum benefit from the experience.

And there needs to be a strategy for helping them climb on to the next rung of the career ladder at the end. If, after six months, they end up no better off than they started, then we’ve failed them.

A personalised approach is key, where young people can access bespoke packages of CPD courses, one to one tuition and support that both benefits the learner and is in sync with their employer’s needs and requirements. There is no one size fits all.

We are already planning for how we can progress learners on to apprenticeships at the end of their placements so that we can continue nurturing their career in their chosen industry. We want them to become valuable, longstanding members of their new teams.

Further reading

How to apply for the government’s Kickstart Scheme

Hot topic: Pandemic interventions for employers from the UK government

Employers warned not to crowd-out apprenticeship opportunities for young people

The way we can really make a difference to our “lost generation” is by equipping them with the skills, support and confidence they need to thrive in their future careers, combined with clear progression pathways. This scheme isn’t just about getting young people into work, it’s about keeping them there and if we want them to be in this for the long term, then they have to know that we are too.

Employers can use additional funding available for training and support and work with gateways to ensure placements are sustainable. Apprenticeship incentives, which we hope the government will extend, could work hand in hand with Kickstart going forward.

This is a great opportunity. Let’s look beyond the initial burst of excitement for the scheme, keep our eye on the ultimate goal and really make it count.

Clare Hancock is employability manager at Acacia Training