BUSINESSES across the West Midlands are being urged to join a new £2billion initiative to get the region’s young people into work and the local economy back on track.
Thousands of high-quality work placements are expected to be created by the Government’s new Kickstart scheme, which launched on Monday, November 2, to help those aged between 16 and 24 who are on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.
Young people have been especially hard hit by the economic impact of lockdown, with latest figures showing the number of 16 to 24-year-olds claiming benefit has more than doubled to 44,000 since March when the pandemic first struck.
Nearly 800 West Midlands employers have already signed up to the scheme ahead of the launch, but business and political leaders are encouraging thousands more to follow suit.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is leading the region in brokering and promoting the Kickstart scheme, working in partnership with local councils and Chambers of Commerce.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “We know that young people have been hardest hit by lockdown, and also face bearing the brunt of the furlough scheme ending.
“For a region that has a young population, that is deeply worrying.
“Businesses have already responded phenomenally, with nearly 800 already signing up to the scheme before it even went live.
“But there are so many more who could get involved, and take on a young person at no or very little cost.
“So my message to businesses big and small is simple: sign up, and help Kickstart a young person’s career.”
PET-Xi is one of the companies which has signed up – offering 30 placements to work in community and resident engagement roles and across the wider business. The company has a range of support for young people from the city throughout their journey into work from looking for opportunities, through gaining qualifications including apprenticeships, accessing Kickstart placements, to landing new jobs with local employers.
Ryan Hughes, aged 17, from Coventry, was a trainee automotive technician but lost his job due to the coronavirus lockdown.
He is using his time out of work to learn new skills and has signed up to PET-Xi’s training programme Positive Futures.
He said: “I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing and I’m keen to join the Kickstart scheme. It will help me build up my skills and confidence and I hope it will work as a stepping stone for me to get a full time, permanent job.”
Dayyan Hamad, aged 17, from Coventry, had been training in car mechanics but became disengaged from learning. He is now looking for a job or Kickstart placement at a garage which specialises in electric vehicles.
He said: “I had to leave college after getting mixed up with the wrong crowd but I’m now really enjoying training with PET-Xi, which is giving me the motivation to get into work.”
Fleur Sexton, managing director of PET-Xi Training, said: “Our whole team are absolutely thrilled to be running the Kickstart scheme in our business. This is all about social equity, making sure that no young person gets left behind, helping to rebuild communities, and a fabulous opportunity for young people to reset, to grasp opportunities and to fulfil their potential.”
Rugby company Webropol provides data analytics, survey and reporting software to businesses and also carries out research, including staff engagement for all 22 NHS health boards in Scotland. Headquartered in Finland, the company has three employees in the UK and five people on contract. It has registered to take on two young people through Kickstart.
Managing director Amy Bassi said: “We’re planning to hire a junior infrastructure technician to work on our IT and another person to work on product development. These will be great opportunities for two young people to gain qualifications in project management, together with hands-on experience working across a number of different areas of the business.
“We believe it’s vital to develop our future workforce to help our economic recovery, as investing in the next generation means investing in our future customers.”
Coun Bob Sleigh OBE, deputy Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We know that young people have been hardest hit by lockdown, and this is why helping to get them into work has been such a high priority for us. It was really powerful to hear first hand from young people about the potential impact of the Kickstart scheme on their lives and those of others.
“Hundreds of businesses across the West Midlands have already signed up to Kickstart and we’re now calling on many more, big and small, to get involved and take on a young person at no or very little cost.”
Funding available for each placement will cover the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week, plus employer National Insurance and minimum auto-enrolment contributions. Young people will also be supported to develop new skills so they can move into sustained employment after they have completed their Kickstart-funded job. Employers can spread the start date of the placements up to the end of December 2021.
The Kickstart scheme is expected to create 20,000 placements in the West Midlands.
Companies can join Kickstart and find out more information by visiting https://www.wmca.org.uk/kickstart-scheme