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Progress: Just the Kickstart we need? A look at the scheme helping young people back to work

CORONAVIRUS might be a disease that primarily affects the old, but the economic havoc it has wrought has fallen disproportionately on younger people. The number of people under 25 registered as unemployed has risen by 77 per cent in a year and the same group are also more likely to be furloughed, so even those with a job have less security.

Youth unemployment is a problem for graduates and non-graduates alike. Recruitment business Walters People has found that only 16 per cent of graduates have found a job since March, while optimism among the young (18-24 years) about their future has dropped from 85 per cent in 2019 to 67 per cent this year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says that getting these young people back on their feet is ‘at the heart’ of the UK’s coronavirus revival. His plan aims to persuade businesses to take on new staff at a tricky time, but many are already finding that, although they want to help, the devil is in the detail.

What’s available?

The flagship project of Rishi’s plan is the £2billion Kickstart Scheme, the detail of which was released at the beginning of September.

Targeting 16-24 year olds at the risk of long-term unemployment and already on Universal Credit, it pays 100 per cent of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions for six months.

Many businesses initially hoping to sign up were surprised to find they must take on 30 staff under the scheme to apply alone and must otherwise band together as a group to put together an application, which makes things more complex.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation Of Small Businesses (FSB) says that the detail of the scheme is ‘disappointing’.

‘Without further work, the scheme will leave many without any employment support after waiting for it for so long,’ he says.

‘Small firms, who are the largest employers across the business landscape, have long expressed interest in this scheme and will be disappointed to find it harder than expected to take part.’

Even bigger businesses have said that it is a sizeable ask.

‘There are a lot of rules,’ says Olajide Junior Alabi, the recruitment manager for national restaurant chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK). He’s keen to employ more young people after lockdown because ‘they bring energy like no other to our business’, but he’s not convinced that Kickstart is the only answer.

More information about how Kickstart works is at gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme. Many local Chambers Of Commerce are also creating groups of smaller businesses to apply for the scheme, so it may also be worth checking there if you are interested.

Getting young people back in the workforce

GBK is teaming up with recruitment app Placed, to run the #WaytoWork campaign, which aims to get 200,000 young people back to work, mainly in the hospitality industry.

Placed has 65 brands on the app, including Iceland, Soho House, Burger King and Hakkasan, all of which are looking to restaff after the coronavirus crisis.

Technology will be at the core of the initiative, with interactive quizzes and tools that will help candidates upskill and reskill during their job search.

‘The process will help them to identify the different jobs they may be eligible for and help them develop further skills for job opportunities they may not have previously considered. It’s all about taking a holistic approach,’ says Placed CEO Jennifer Johansson.

The app has been developed to appeal to Gen Z. Candidates can search for jobs in line with their values, as well as take quizzes and training modules, which will help ready them for hospitality roles, including cocktail-making classes.

Other schemes

As well as the Kickstart Scheme, Rishi’s Plan For Jobs included £1.6billion targeted at helping people to look for work. This includes extra money for apprenticeships.

From August 1 to January 31, 2021, any firm that hires a new apprentice aged 16-24 will receive £2,000, while those which hire new apprentices aged 25 and over will get £1,500. This is in addition to the £,1000 paid to those who take on an apprentice aged between 16 and 18.

The cash boost is designed to cover some of the costs of recruiting an apprentice, from uniforms, to travel or a salary.

‘Apprenticeships play a crucial role in developing the skills people need, particularly young people, as they seek work in these challenging times,’ said the chancellor.

Mike Cherry, at the FSB, says that 92 per cent of apprenticeships in smaller businesses are held by people aged 19-24, but that the number of businesses taking on these trainees is ‘down massively’.

‘Incentives for apprenticeships aren’t enough on their own to keep businesses afloat, so more must be done to ensure small firms have all the support they need to survive and then thrive after this pandemic.’

Apprenticeships allow employees to learn on the job. Smaller businesses can get some help from the government to share the cost of training, while larger firms already have to pay an ‘apprenticeship levy’ which can then be used to pay for their own apprentices.

Wasted on the young?

For businesses who would rather hire older people, there’s a bonus for these apprentices too, although it’s less generous at £1,500.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, a community for over 50s, says that the government measures to support younger workers leave the older worker in danger of ‘being left behind with no tailored support, despite facing the twin challenges of increased age discrimination and an increased health risk as a direct result of the pandemic.’

However you hire, taking full use of government support will help make taking on new employees a less risky step in an uncertain world.

‘I have the job description ready. I’m awaiting updates’

Waiting game: Sara needs support to help her business, Babycup

SARA KEEL, from Guildford, has been keen to employ someone using the government’s Kickstart Scheme, ever since Rishi Sunak announced it.

‘I’ve had the job description written and everything ready, and I’ve been refreshing the government website waiting for updates,’ says Sara, who founded a baby weaning cup business (babycup.co.uk).

However, when the details of the scheme came in, she was disappointed to see that it looked unworkable for her business.

‘You can only use it if you can employ 30 people on the scheme and of course I can’t,’ she says.

Sara, who has three children of her own, says she’s passionate about the problems young people face with getting work due to the pandemic

‘This looked like a win-win. It would have helped a young person and helped me.’

Sara says there is a ‘glimmer of hope’ when it comes to using the scheme and giving a young person some help. The local Chamber Of Commerce has said that it might be possible for companies to join together under its banner to use the scheme.

‘I’m worried that the people who would have been right for my business might have already gone elsewhere by then though,’ she says. ‘I am disappointed.’

‘I would love help with social media’

Hiring now: Hanna (left) and Jess are joining forces to use Kickstart

HANNA DILLEY, who runs frozen toddler food business Benji’s Bites (benjisbites.co.uk), is excited to use the Kickstart Scheme to help a young person and grow her own business at the same time. She only needs one new recruit, but is forming a collective with a group of other food businesses so that they can all use the scheme.

‘I would love to utilise the Kickstart Scheme for help with social media and content planning. I’m struggling to find the time to do that to grow the business, as I also have two small boys to manage alongside all the cooking,’ she says.

As a collective, the group of food entrepreneurs have almost 50 roles they want to fill, which is more than the 30 required by the government for a successful application. It is being set up by Jess Salamanca, who runs healthy ice cream business Banana Scoops (bananascoops.com), and Lauren O’Donnell, who runs probiotic overnight oats brand, Oatsu (oatsu.co.uk).

The entrepreneurs share a weekly ‘accountability call’ to keep them on track, and are now going further in collaborating on Kickstart.

Jess wants to hire two people.

‘We currently have just under 50 roles! Hoping to submit this week,’ she says.

The young person’s guide to getting hired

Times are tough, but job offers made remotely tripled during lockdown says Phill Westcott, recruitment expert and director of Walters People, so it’s time for applicants to take a different approach.

Here are his top tips for standing out from the crowd…

Be bold in your approach

‘Share ideas, show your passion for the industry, and get across why you believe change can lead to opportunity — as this is the type of mindset that a business is seeking from any new starter, be it junior or someone much more experienced.’

Make a personal impression

‘Rather than email or submitting a CV, revamp your approach by creating a quick video detailing your experience whilst illustrating your personality.’

Work on your profile

‘Start to understand the key words and skills in your preferred job specs and align your LinkedIn and online profiles to reflect this.’

The experts

Olajide Junior Alabi, recruitment manager at Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Jennifer Johansson, CEO of recruitment app Placed

Phill Westcott, recruitment expert and director of Walters People

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation For Small Businesses