Yesterday the Chancellor announced Kickstart would be extended to March 2022, meaning young people can now start in a Kickstart job for another 3 months beyond the end of December.  Many of us have been calling for an extension and many also thought this was off the table.  Good news then.

I’ve written before about getting Kickstart working, based on my experience and I decided to revisit a blog I wrote before we all got embroiled in the day to day, to see what’s changed, if at all.  Would my top 5 ways to make Kickstart a success have changed now that we’re 9 months into delivery on the ground? (The original blog in full is below)

  1. Local consortia DO need to work together and create additional jobs that make sense in the area. At TLC we set about building a consortia approach, even as a small social enterprise. Our partnership with Baltic Creative CIC has been brilliant, bringing their businesses to our attention and vice versa, as well as stimulating those businesses to recommend other businesses look at Kickstart, or to create more jobs.  From an initial approval of 45 jobs we now have 220 and more coming all the time.  FOMO works!  Overall, 25% of all Kickstart roles are in retail and hospitality, the latter two are crying out for workers, desperate staff shortages, which begs another big question - whether Kickstart is genuinely additional work or jobs that just need to be filled.  Who’s being displaced by free labour through Kickstart?  How will we ever know?  For me and others, the prize was always having a bigger, sub-regional consortia all pulling together to create jobs in a strategic way: in green recovery; geographical areas where the need was greatest; jobs young people were interested in; priority sectors such as care; young people who need the help the most. We haven’t been able to do any of this. We’ve all been too busy working out how to make Kickstart work, it’s admin heavy. And its’ design doesn’t lend itself to being able to work and plan in this way.  A big, missed opportunity.
  2. Meet the needs of all young people. Never a truer word than this sentence, I almost cried reading this…“Don’t assume young people will make a stampede for 25 hour per week jobs all based in the city centre” this is THE story of Kickstart right now, we’re told there are 1000’s of eligible young people, but every Gateway is finding it hard to fill Kickstart places. There are lots of reasons, not least the lack of PR communicating directly with young people, or the fact they can’t see the jobs listed themselves.  One of my bugbears is we haven’t seen many full time jobs, a handful maybe.  Compare this with Future Jobs Fund 10 years ago, the vast majority of jobs we created in Greater Manchester were full time and we filled 8000 in 18 months.  This links to my point above, a central consortia approach with a single budget to oversee in an area allows you to think differently, we were able to maximise what was a £52m budget and get most of that into full time pay packets for young people.  Kickstart in comparison is piecemeal, bottom-up, companies generally want to be part of it at zero cost.
  3. Young people are not one homogenous group. We’re seeing young people with all levels of support need, from almost none to very significant. Thankfully our Gateway is a specialist in offering support be that anxiety, loss of confidence, increased debt, housing worries, unhealthy lifestyles. Not all are.  Employees and their employers have definitely needed our help, a more efficient way to galvanise organisations could have yielded more support, more diversity and opportunities to suit all needs. Instead there are 100’s of Gateway all doing different things.  We’re lucky in Liverpool City Region, we’ve all been meeting for over a year now, and this is providing an opportunity to support each other. I think it’s also fair to say that, anecdotally (and I would like to see some analysis) that most employers want to hire ‘job-ready’ and are over-looking those with additional needs, such as care experienced young people, those with no work history, or lower levels of qualifications. 
  4. Employers need advice too. Kickstart has been bewildering for employers: we’ve helped those who nearly gave up, those who’ve never engaged with DWP before, tiny companies who never had anyone on PAYE before, as well as refusing to work with some who were clearly trying to get young people for free in to dodgy jobs. We’ve happily helped with contracts of employment, working practices, allaying manager’s worries, job design, staff welfare, training, mentor skills training.  We’ve explained Apprenticeships, helped with payment queries, HMRC issues as well.  We’ve sat in Job Centres screening candidates and matched them to jobs.   I’ve lost count of the hours spent on this.  A £300 admin fee goes nowhere near covering this, especially when we don’t get paid a penny until a young person has started the Kickstart job. 
  5. Temporary jobs are a stimulus for ‘kickstarting’ someone’s working life, and this part is working. We’re now at the stage where the first Kickstart young people we helped companies to hire are now at 6 months. 5 of our first starters still need our help – the rest are being kept on or got a better job somewhere.  We still have young people thinking they don’t need this kind of help, but we’re here and now offering to support them for a total of 12 months.  I still think a consortia could have been more efficient at packaging up this kind of support, making sure everyone got a great offer. 


I’d love to hear from employers, young people and other Gateways – how’s it been for you?

Tracy Fishwick OBE

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