Was £1.9bn scheme a kickstart or kickstop for youth employment?

Kickstart and construction - success or failure
As part of the government’s Plan for Jobs launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kickstart scheme went live in September 2020, targeting those aged 16-24 who are on Universal Credit and deemed at risk of long-term unemployment. The initiative had a budget of up to £1.9bn and aimed to create “hundreds of thousands” of high-quality six-month work placements. But has it worked?

Applications come to end on December 17 after the scheme was extended in October.  Government figures released a year after launch show that only 76,900 young people had commenced a Kickstart job, despite more than 196,300 roles being advertised.

On paper, the scheme looks a great way to help 16-24 year olds to gain some valuable work experience but in reality does this work for construction? Not a huge amount of data that has been published as yet but available figures show that only 3 per cent of the roles created have been in our industry.

Could this figure be low because of all the administration required just to be approved to advertise a Kickstart placement, never mind finding a suitable candidate and training them for six months? The Kickstart website sets out at length what a firm must provide to see if they are eligible. It is a long read, but here are the highlights:

Tell us:

  • how many employees you have
  • about changes to your workforce in the last 6 months and why (for example redundancies and changes to hours worked by existing staff)
  • the number of people affected by changes to your workforce in the last 6 months
  • about the kinds of roles, functions and average salary of those who were made redundant or who had their hours reduced in the last 6 months
  • if you would be able to create these jobs without Kickstart scheme funding and what funding source you would use
  • what recruitment you have completed, started or paused in the last 6 months, including how similar these vacancies are or were to the roles you are creating for the Kickstart scheme
  • if the jobs will be similar to existing or planned roles or the roles previously done by those made redundant or with reduced working hours, why you are using Kickstart scheme funding to create similar roles
  • if you’ve engaged with any relevant trade unions and any advice the unions have given.

How you will support young people to become more employable

Tell us:

  • what support will be offered (for example helping young people with writing their CV and preparing for an interview)
  • when you will provide this support (for example halfway through their job or towards the end)
  • how many hours it will take to provide the support
  • who will provide the support (for example you may already have a pre-existing relationship with training providers)
  • how you will monitor this support
  • how the young person can provide feedback during their job and afterwards, and how this will be acted on

You get £1,500 funding per job for setup costs and support. If you someone else helps you do some of this, you’ll have to agree how you will share this money.

After completing this mammoth task, there is no guarantee that companies will be accepted. Experience of applying for Kickstart, including our own, has resulted in generally negative feedback:

  • The process of signing up is too clumsy
  • It takes too long to apply – anywhere up to three months
  • The application is only the start of the process!

Time and again accessing these types of initiatives comes down to a question of time and resource. Large firms will have HR departments which can ensure all the criteria is met and is cost effective when doing it for a number of recruits (for instance 30 x £1,500 = £45,000), but if you are a one-man band, running your own business, ordering supplies, doing invoicing and delivering projects, the chance of an extra £1,500 that might not materialise is nowhere near a big enough incentive. Firms can use a gateway to help apply but again they still need to provide all the information above.

Apprenticeships are what construction knows and understands. Apprenticeships mean the learner comes out with a meaningful qualification, as well as work experience and money earned, but they don’t get this on Kickstart.

The government will hopefully publish more statistics once the scheme closes, showing which sectors used the scheme the most, what size of businesses accessed the scheme, how many jobs were advertised versus filled and how many turned into permanent jobs. We await publication with interest but based on experience we suspect the scheme might be more of a kickstop than a kickstart for youth employment.

By Fiona Gamwell, Communications Officer, Hudson Contract

Fiona Gamwell, Hudson Contract

Data Source: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-09-21/52625

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