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Has the Kickstart scheme fulfilled its purpose?

Diane Hall


Young businesswoman texting on smartphone outside office, London, UK

The pandemic decimated the job market; one minute, it was flooded with candidates, as business after business folded and they were forced to let staff go. After a few months, however, it became apparent that the crisis had awakened something within many employees—who decided to hotfoot it to a competitor, retrain in another industry or launch their own businesses. The job market, as a result, became buoyant again, with some companies struggling to attract staff (in some cases, this was perhaps a wake-up call in reference to the pay and/or working conditions offered).

With regards to the younger generation, the final years of their education were heavily impacted, with criticism around Centre Assessed Grading, with online learning detracting from the typical university experience, and with so many absences within the teachers’ and lecturers’ communities. Graduate schemes and internships were cancelled, as no one was allowed to go into the office, which made for some very stop/start/stop/start fledgling career journeys.

In response, the government introduced the Kickstart scheme. Designed to give jobseekers aged 18-24 six months on-the-job experience, the scheme looked to be a decent solution to the problem. With the state paying these young people’s wages, it reduced the risk for companies during a very precarious time. It allowed them to take on more staff and explore growth opportunities whilst also embellishing the CVs of the Kickstarters.

Young professional getting dressed

Young professional getting dressed

Whilst initial interest was perhaps better than current take-up rates, which seem to be petering out as the scheme nears its expiration, there’s no doubt that a lot of young people, who would otherwise be hopelessly applying for dead-end roles or receiving mass rejections from the sectors they would prefer to work in, have benefitted from some real-life experience within their industry of choice (in most cases).

The government claims that the Kickstart scheme has boosted the careers of more than 100,000 young people. How many of these youngsters will be kept on in their respective companies once their six months is up remains to be seen. Though this figure sounds impressive, some experts have disputed the scheme’s effectiveness; in December 2021, The Independentran an article within which was the claim that Kickstart has ‘delivered fewer than half the 250,000 promised’.

I was on a job-related forum the other day and Kickstart was mentioned. The number of replies from older workers was significant. Whilst the scheme was said to be a successful initiative, there was universal regret that there was no such scheme for the over fifties—the second-most affected age group in unemployment circles.

With your whole career in front of you, and whilst, most likely, you’re living at home with your parents, a few months out of the workforce won’t have as much impact on your career as it might for an older employee—for whom age discrimination definitely does exist, and who is likely to have dependents to support and bills to pay. A similar scheme to help this group back into employment would be welcomed with open arms. As one over-50 said, it feels as if they’re already on the scrapheap, despite their years of experience and with a good couple of decades left in their career.

A lack of opportunities and the hopelessness that can stem from this, it seems, are not exclusive to the younger generation.

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