Chesterfield Borough Council has teamed up with East Midlands Chamber to encourage businesses to get more young people into work by taking advantage of the new Kickstart scheme.
The Government programme covers the cost of a six-month work placement for 16 to 24-year-olds who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.
Employers that want to create at least 30 placements can apply directly to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a grant to cover the costs, but companies with fewer than 30 roles must apply via recognised gateway organisations, such as the Chamber.
To date, the Chamber has signed up almost 340 businesses and facilitated more than 1,000 potential placements across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. About a third of these are digital and technology roles, with other popular jobs include business and finance, as well as transport and storage.
To engage more businesses to create job opportunities for young people in their communities, and benefit from the additional resources offered by work placement students, the Chamber has collaborated with local authorities and other organisations.
As part of its latest partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council, it will hold a free virtual information session on Monday 7 December for businesses to find out what the scheme involves and giving them the opportunity to join 20 other organisations in the borough of Chesterfield – which together want to create 59 placements – in making applications.
Diane Beresford, deputy chief executive of East Midlands Chamber, said: “We know young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the huge amount of unemployment it has created, so the Kickstart scheme is an important mechanism for helping them to get the skills they need to prepare for the world of work.
“Businesses that take part will be playing a vital role in their communities by supporting and preparing our future workforce, but there are also many benefits for employers.
“As this is a fully-funded scheme, it allows organisations to trial new roles, and provides relevant training and mentoring to ensure the young person has the most up-to-date skills and knowledge. There is also a relatively risk-free opportunity to identify good-quality apprentices, opening a pathway for both the employer and employee to grow together.
“It’s important that the public and private sector work together, and our partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council is a great example as we want to make sure as many companies as possible take advantage of these opportunities.”
Councillor Amanda Serjeant, deputy leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, added: “We understand that COVID-19 has affected our communities in a variety of ways, but it has especially impacted on our younger workforce, with the number of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming out of work benefits nearly doubling since March 2020. We’re delighted to be working with East Midlands Chamber to help support the economy and assist both businesses and workers in mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19.
“One of the council’s key aims is to ensure that Chesterfield is a thriving borough and the Kickstart scheme will open up much-needed opportunities for young people to develop their skills and careers for the future. There are also many benefits for our local businesses who participate in this scheme during this challenging time. Therefore, we’re encouraging businesses to engage with this fully-funded programme to offer our younger generation vital work roles that will build fundamental skills.
“The information session we are running on Monday 7 December will be a beneficial tool for businesses, helping them to gain further insight into the scheme and the support on offer to them in making applications. We encourage all businesses that are interested to attend and utilise this free resource available to them.”
The £2bn Kickstart scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his Plan for Jobs to help young people into work and spur Britain’s post-COVID economic revival.
A quarter of a million people aged under 25 have claimed unemployment benefits since March, while the unemployment rate among young people is far higher than the overall rate of 4.8%, reaching 14.6%.
The Chamber has already held four online information sessions that attracted 250 attendees, many of which are among the 320 businesses that have since registered with the Chamber to recruit for placements. Some of these organisations have multiple vacancies.
Acting on their behalf, the Chamber applies to the DWP for funding, which pays 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, national insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week.
Employers can choose to top up this wage and are also eligible for a £1,500 Government grant for training people on a Kickstart placement.
The Chamber started making applications on 1 November. Once they are accepted, young people are referred into the roles via a Jobcentre Plus work coach. Application can be made until December 2021 initially.
Diane added: “The number of businesses that have already booked on to our information sessions shows there’s great appetite out there among businesses to take advantage of these opportunities.
“Businesses receive the full salary cost for six months, but we’re also educating them about the finer details, such as how they must provide employability skills to individuals so they will be well-equipped to land permanent jobs in the future.”
The Kickstart Your Business: Accessing the Kickstart Programme session being run by the Chamber in partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council will be held via Zoom on Monday 7 December from 12pm to 1pm.
It is free for both members and non-members of the Chamber, and open to anyone regardless of whether they are based in the Chesterfield area.
It will feature a welcome by Cllr Amanda Serjeant, presentation by the Chamber’s deputy chief executive Diane Beresford and education and business partnership manager Pieter Eksteen, and a question and answer session.
Businesses can sign up to the event on the East Midlands Chamber website.