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Could you Kickstart a young worker’s career – and your business?

Could you Kickstart a young worker’s career – and your business?
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Could you Kickstart a young worker’s career – and your business?
Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells by Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells
Director - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells

A government scheme to help young people get work experience to boost their fledgling careers could be good for businesses, as well as for the 18 to 24 year olds it is primarily designed to help. The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create new six-month placements for young people who are currently on universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. Sandhya Iyer of The HR Dept explains how it works, how to weigh up whether it might be right for your business and how to apply.

Youth unemployment aggravated by coronavirus

The Kickstart scheme is a direct response by the government to the work and career challenges that those aged 18 to 24 are facing as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. The downturn in the economy is predicted by many to hit this age group most adversely.

The Resolution Foundation has predicted that youth unemployment in the UK could rise by 640,000 by the end of 2020, which would mean more than million unemployed under 25s. The think tank cautions that school leavers are always hardest hit by recessions, warning that long-term unemployment at the start of their careers can lead to “years of reduced pay and limited job prospects”.

Kickstart Scheme to tackle youth unemployment

The Kickstart Scheme  has been introduced by the government to address these issues. It offers six-month work placements for young people aged between 18 and 24, supported by the local job centre. Under this scheme, a business can take on a young worker to enhance their skills and experience in the job market.

  • The finances: The government will reimburse 100% of the minimum wage for their age up to 25 hours per week up to six months from the start date, including National Insurance and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. There is also £1,500 available per job placement towards set-up costs, such as a laptop, uniforms and training costs for instance.
  • The work placement opportunity: The young worker needs to be employed for a minimum of six months and there is no compulsion on the employer to hire the worker as a member of staff thereafter, nor is this an apprentice scheme. But the choice of an apprenticeship is available to both employer or employee at any time during or after the scheme.

The benefits of the Kickstart Scheme for small- and medium-sized businesses

No doubt many small-business owners will be tempted by the opportunity of having a funded addition to their team, and there are many potential benefits to the scheme:

  • Funded resource: You may choose to supplement your Kickstart placement’s wage, but there is no requirement to do so, so you have the opportunity to get an additional 25 hours’ support in your business per week with no financial cost to you.
  • A six-month trial of a prospective new apprentice: While there is no requirement to provide an apprenticeship at the end of the six-month work placement, the scheme provides a low-risk way of assessing whether they are a good fit for your company. However, in relation to the contract under which the individual would be employed, we await clarification on this; a key area of ambiguity is whether the Kickstart placement would it merely be a bespoke six-month fixed-term contract. Remember that you would want the young person to be bound by the same HR framework as the rest of your staff. Under the current ever-changing scenario, always ensure your contract is very
    clear on what terms the scheme could be terminated under.
  • Kickstart work placements available even if you have had to make redundancies: Unfortunately, many small businesses have had to let staff go as they simply do not have the cash flow to retain their work force. However, even if this is the case, you can still apply for a Kickstart work placement as the government recognises that this could provide a much-needed boost to a company that is facing financial difficulties, by providing an additional pair of hands without having to find resources internally to fund it. However, any resource which is hired under this scheme cannot be in direct competition with an employee who has been made redundant. For instance, if you are a trades business which has had to make your experienced administrator redundant, you may choose to hire someone with very minimal skills and experience, as compared to the very experienced pair of hands you have had to sadly let go. The candidate under this scheme would also be expected to do a more varied role apart from just administrative duties – besides protecting your business against the risk of an unfair dismissal claim from the employee you have just made redundant, it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the scheme to give the young person a wider exposure through your business, as well as fostering the perception of being a fair employer within the local business community by your ex-employees. However, you would not be in the same position if the administrator who was recently made redundant was a relatively young worker with relatively lower levels of skills and experience. Fundamentally you cannot replace the like-to-like skills and experience that your business has recently chosen to lose, only to be replaced by the Kickstart scheme. Seek advice to ensure you do not leave yourself exposed to a redundancy related claim.
  • A fresh pair of eyes: Bringing an 18 to 24 year old into your business could be a real boost, especially if you have an older work force; they may even be able to help in areas in which your existing team is not confident.
  • A year of additional resource: Once a Kickstart work placement has been created, it can be taken up by a second person when the first applicant has completed their six months.
  • Giving back: Whether you have a formal Corporate Social Responsibility policy in place or not, the Scheme enables you to provide a career boost to a young person facing long-term unemployment.

Practical steps to make a Kickstart work placement a success

Despite all the benefits, there are challenges to making a work placement of this kind a success for both you and the young person you take on. With the government urging us to work from home where we can, most youngsters taking up a Kickstart work placement will be working on their own at home. This raises many questions, such as:

  • How will you provide feedback to enable them to grow within the role and develop transferable employment skills?
  • How will you assess their capabilities to ensure they are a good fit and to enable you to provide work at the right level to interest and stretch them, without overwhelming them?
  • How will you create train, manage and motivate a young worker to work from home, without them feeling isolated?
  • How will you help them to feel integrated within your team?
  • How much supervision will they require to ensure they develop their skills and feel motivated within your team, and do you have the capacity for this?

Whether this will be viable for your business will depend on the nature of the work delegated to them and the young worker’s appetite for learning in an isolated environment. A lot will depend on how interesting or attractive you are able to make a home-working role for a young person. It is definitely feasible, if you get creative and are willing to invest in their development.

In addition, if you already have staff working from home, you should by now have working from home and lone working policies in place. With a new, young joiner, it is even more essential to ensure you have robust policies.  

Additional requirements of the Kickstart Scheme

There are other requirements that employers are expected to fulfil for a work placement to be considered eligible for Kickstart funding, including:

  • The role must not require extensive training to be undertaken before the placement can begin
  • Employers must be able to demonstrate how they will help participants develop their skills and experience, including support to look for long-term work, including: careers advice; goal setting; help preparing a CV; support with interview preparations; support with basic work skills, such as attendance, timekeeping and teamwork.

How to apply

Any organisation can apply for Kickstart funding, regardless of size, however applications have to be for a minimum of 30 job placements.  If you have 30 or more opportunities for young people, you can apply directly to the Kickstart Scheme.

Most small- and medium-sized businesses are only likely to be able to support one or two work placements; in this case can find an organisation that is co-ordinating applications in your area to apply on your behalf. Alternatively, you could opt to become a representative for a group of employers; if you opt to do this, there is £300 of funding for each job placement available to support the admin costs of bringing together the businesses for a joint application.

The Kickstart Scheme provides a much-need opportunity for some of the youngsters who are at the thin end of the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as a potential boost for business owners to bring in extra resource at little or no cost at this challenging time. But it’s worth considering how you will make it work before you rush to apply, so that the placement is a success for both the applicant and your business.

MEET THE EXPERT

Sandhya Iyer is the director of the HR Dept, helping small- and medium-sized businesses in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent.  A graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, she works with business owners, entrepreneurs and managers to prevent people problems and help them get the best from their staff.

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