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East Midlands Chamber News

Kickstart scheme: Unpacking the data behind East Midlands applications and vacancies

Businesses that want to create fewer than 30 placements as part of the Kickstart scheme must apply for the six months of funding via gateway organisations such as the Chamber. By the end of November, the organisation had applied on behalf of 340 businesses for more than 1,000 roles located across the East Midlands. Deputy chief executive Diane Beresford explains what the data behind these vacancies tells us about the long-term prospects of the roles.

The disproportionate challenges faced by young people during this pandemic can be illustrated by two key statistics.

Since March, a quarter of a million people aged under 25 have claimed unemployment benefits. And while the national unemployment rate was 4.8% between July and September, it was 14.6% for those aged 16 to 24.

The Government’s response has been the £2bn Kickstart scheme, which funds a six-month placement for people in this age group who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term employment.

This provides an important mechanism for helping young people get the skills they need to prepare them for the world of work, but the Chamber has also been trying to promote the benefits to employers.

Working alongside several local authorities and our patron Duncan & Toplis, we’ve held online information sessions to encourage more businesses to take advantage of the scheme.

At a time when many companies have been hit by cashflow problems and declining revenue, the Kickstart scheme doesn’t just enable them to support their communities but allows them to trial new roles that could even help create new products and services.

What the data about Kickstart applications says about economy

The data suggests this is what many organisations appear to be doing. A third of the 1,000-plus placements we have applied for have been in digital and technology roles.

Usually, companies find it difficult to understand the return on investment for these jobs but the opportunity to trial them shows a recognition that investing in a digital strategy will improve output.

They’ve identified the young people on the Kickstart scheme as the generation that already possesses these skills.

Eager to ensure there are long-term prospects for such roles, the Chamber will set up a digital work-based skills academy, closely aligned with the range of digital services we already deliver to provide further business action-planning support.

Featuring website planning, Google Analytics and digital media, this will equip them with the necessary business-related skills to complement their native digital expertise so they can continue to be an asset to their employer.

Another large chunk of the applications are for business and finance positions, as well as transport and storage jobs.

These are arguably more “typical” placements as many organisations will hire people in administrative positions or entry-level financial support roles, while the shift to online shopping has created huge growth in the logistics sector.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen positions created in sectors such as construction, engineering, law, health and social care, and retail – while the visitor economy, badly affected by the pandemic, is particularly keen for the support.

In terms of the businesses applying for the Kickstart grants, there’s an even spread across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Nine in 10 businesses engaging with the scheme employ fewer than 250 people, while more than half are micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

This is to be expected, although the 10% of businesses above the 250 threshold offer a lot of hope for long-term prospects as they have created executive roles, such as marketing and operational support executives.

These types of vacancies require job-specific training, which demonstrates employers are serious about the positions and people – meaning they should have good progression opportunities.

The Kickstart grant only covers 25 hours’ worth of funding for a job, and 38% of all vacancies are for roles with more hours.

With businesses having to top-up the rest of the pay, this also suggests they aren’t just recruiting for extra pairs of hands but investing in these new hires.

We hope this isn’t just a stop-gap scheme that helps to plug an employment gap over the next few months, but a project with long-term potential, and we’ll be working with training providers to develop pathways into apprenticeships for young people on the Kickstart scheme.

Businesses have been asking for a workforce with employable skills for some time, and this is a relatively risk-free opportunity for them to help mould that talent as they see fit.

Ultimately, it’s a chance to identify good-quality apprentices and entry-level hires, opening a pathway for both the employer and employee to grow together. As the name suggests, it could kickstart their next period of prosperity.

This article appears in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of the Chamber's Business Network magazine. To read the online edition, click here.