It feels like a lifetime ago now, but back in the somewhat brighter days of July last year, the Chancellor unveiled a plan to help young people get into work post-pandemic.
Rishi Sunak hailed the Kickstart Scheme as a plan that would avoid an entire generation being “left behind”. The idea is to pay employers to hire 16-24 year-olds, whose only alternative is to claim Universal Credit, for 25 hours a week on the minimum wage for six months.
However, recent figures show that fewer than 2,000 young people have started new roles under the £2bn scheme. This disappointing figure gives little hope to under 24s looking for work or to start a career.
I appreciate that we’ve been through some turbulent months since the scheme launched in September. However small businesses have criticised administrative issues in applications, forcing them to delay work for young people.
So welcome news came from the Department of Work and Pensions last week. It said that the scheme was opening to direct applications from small employers, instead of them having to apply through an intermediary.
As the vaccine rollout speeds along at full pelt, this latest rule change should boost the scheme’s reach, giving young people the opportunity to help drive the economic recovery when restrictions are eventually eased.
Kickstart alone will not solve the unemployment crisis faced by young people however. Further investment in apprenticeships is needed to give opportunities to those about to leave school, and training is vital for those who find themselves without jobs and looking for work in other sectors.
In order to help steer us out of the economic crisis we face, young people need access to all parts of the recovery vehicle.
National Apprenticeship Week 2021 runs from 8th to 15th February and aims to shine a light on the amazing work being done by employers and apprentices across the country.