Getting Kickstart working will take more than a pot of cash for businesses

Blog posts

12 Aug 2020

Tracy FishwickTracy Fishwick OBE, Managing Director, Transform Lives Company

During the Covid-19 crisis, we will be opening up our blogs to guest contributors. These blogs are intended to broaden the debate and discussion on how public policy, employers and civil society can respond.  Needless to say, the views will be those of the authors themselves rather than of IES.  If you’d like to contribute a blog, then please email IES Head of Communications: Steve O'Rourke

About the author 

Tracy moved from 20 years in local government into social enterprise leadership. Her 25+ years dedicated to creating change and speaking up so people don’t miss out, makes her a ‘go to’ employability consultant, both locally and nationally.  She led the Greater Manchester Future Jobs Fund creating 8000 jobs and has designed and led smaller ILM programmes as part of New Deal, Creative and Environmental Employment Programmes.  Tracy is also Chair of Groundwork (CLM), runs Transform Lives Company based in Liverpool and was awarded an OBE for services to unemployed people in 2020.

No one was more pleased to see Kickstart announced than me. I’ve seen the value of paid temporary jobs for young people since setting them up in the late 90s with ESF and New Deal, through to Future Jobs Fund and the Creative Employment Programmes.  We mustn’t risk waiting to see if enough employers figure out Kickstart for themselves, many will and that’s brilliant, but for many we’re going to need to help if we don’t want thousands of young people to be long term unemployed before their 19th birthday.  Our generation of young people need and deserve all the help they can get in the years to come. 

The good thing is that lots of us are already talking about ‘how’ we do this (if you want to know more please get in touch) drawing on past experience as well as learning, adapting and making Kickstart better than any of its’ predecessors. 

In this blog I set out the value that intermediaries can add, whether they’re charities, social enterprises, coalitions or employers.  The role(s) they perform can:

  1. Stimulate jobs in an area or sector, especially depressed labour markets.  The more that employers see their counterparts creating jobs, the more they’ll want to do the same.  An intermediary can create mini ‘jobs markets’ bringing businesses together, providing confidence and expertise to employ young people.  They can help accelerate growth in emerging markets e.g. green jobs, digital and social enterprise.  This helps meet the needs of all young people, by having an overview of job range, type and availability – intermediaries can spot gaps and do something about it.  For example, if all the jobs are admin but young people locally want green or sports jobs, an intermediary can perform a stimulus role.

  2. Ensure all employers are involved and get the support they need.  SMEs will be especially important.  They make up 95% + of all businesses and have the least internal HR support or capacity to navigate government programmes or find out how they can take part.  Instead of 1000s of SMEs all trying to work out how to engage (and asking DWP staff for help) an intermediary can smooth the pain and hand hold the employer and young people they want to hire.  From practical support such as writing a job description to attract young people, getting the most out of the interview, to HR and in-work welfare support to retain jobs. The same issues will also inhibit smaller charities and social enterprises from engaging effectively.

  3. Provide wrap around welfare and personal support for young people.  Some will need none; others will need lots – sometimes you don’t know at interview stage, their needs become apparent once managers get to know them better.  Loss of confidence, increased debt, housing, unhealthy lifestyles, child-care, transport…and more.  Young people benefit from support throughout and employers rely on expertise to help them and the young person keep their job. 

  4. Embed skills and learning. Bring in training providers to add skills and explore next steps with the employer, e.g. could an apprenticeship be the next step?  Could the employer take on the young person if they had more qualifications? Many employers find this very hard to navigate and again SMEs tend to lose out.  Bringing training providers in can help young people become apprentices, or tap into the right training offer which varies locally.  We want Kickstart to stimulate more apprenticeships not displace them. 

  5. Be an interface between DWP and employers.  It’s pretty bewildering for many employers to interface with Jobcentre Plus, many will find it easier if this is handled for them.  A warmer handover between JCP and employers will mean more young people find the right job and employers have a good experience; they might come back and hire more unemployed people next time they have a vacancy.

  6. Help navigate good progression from the six month temporary job.  Decent support around month four will be essential where the job isn’t being made permanent.  It’s inevitable and common - the ‘locking-in effect’ - where someone hangs on, hoping, until one day before the end of their contract prior to admitting they need to find another job. It happens whether the job is for three, six or 12 months.  They’re loving the job and want to believe it’s a keeper.  The employer might think they’re letting them down gently, but a better tactic is being honest, enabling CV update sessions, interview practice and job search that isn’t parked in front of a screen hours on end.  DWP will be swamped with new and existing benefit claimants for a very long time, their focus won’t be on what happens after a Kickstart job ends.

  7. Keep an eye on the quality of jobs.  Providing support to check jobs are additional, that employers are not abusing the funding by displacing other workers and are in Covid-secure environments.  Quality also means the job has been thought through and this applies at both ends of the spectrum.  I’ve regularly had to challenge the job that’s little more than 'brewing up' all day, as well as the job that’s a mini CEO on the minimum wage.  Young people also need proper inductions, correct Health and Safety, safeguarding etc.

  8. Act as the employer.  This works where businesses are unable to provide the payroll and contract of employment function but can provide the work, sometimes for hundreds of young people.  Intermediaries employ the young people and perform all employer duties other than the work element which the business provides, i.e. all line management and supervision etc. Intermediaries can support young people with their core work skills before moving to an external employer, reducing the risk of failure, and young people can test a number of workplaces to help them find the role or employer that suits them best, meaning they’re more likely to succeed.

To read my five recommendations for making Kickstart a success see here:

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 Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.