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Comments and opinions24 August 2023

Learning from Kickstart – how can we best support young people into employment?

Victoria Whittle talks about the success of the Kickstart Housing Partnership, which has enabled the creation of more than 500 placements across more than 80 employers. 
Victoria Whittle, Head of Jobs & Training at Clarion Futures

“It was a great example of government and the housing sector working together to meet a common goal, but now that the last placements are over, the big question is ‘what’s next’?”

Victoria Whittle, Head of Jobs and Training at Clarion Futures

By Victoria Whittle, Head of Jobs & Training at Clarion Futures

The pandemic had a devastating impact on young people, particularly affecting their mental health, confidence and access to employment. Many felt isolated and hopeless whilst at the same time, employers were struggling to recruit staff and businesses were increasingly concerned about their talent pipeline.

In order to tackle these associated challenges, the government launched the Kickstart Scheme in 2020, creating paid six-month work placements for unemployed 16 to 24 year-olds.

As the biggest social landlord in the country, and with a proud record of running employment support programmes, we felt compelled to take part. We soon realised that there were many other housing associations keen to participate including many smaller peers lacking the infrastructure to get involved on their own.

That’s why we created the Kickstart Housing Partnership, providing a way for the sector to work together to create new jobs and encourage more young people to consider a career in housing.

Led by Clarion Futures, the Partnership enabled the creation of more than 500 placements across more than 80 employers. We’ve seen all sorts of jobs created – from social media assistants to caretakers, IT support roles to customer service assistants – helping young people take their first step towards a rewarding career.

It was a great example of government and the housing sector working together to meet a common goal, but now that the last placements are over, the big question is ‘what’s next’?

A number of Kickstarters visited the Houses of Parliament in February 2023 and met with Mims Davies MP, Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, to share their experiences.

Learning from Kickstart

We’ve worked with the Financial Inclusion Centre, an independent not-for-profit think tank, to deliver an in-depth report incorporating feedback from both employers and Kickstarters to provide learnings that will help us answer that very question.

The report found that 93% of Kickstarters currently in employment said that the Kickstart experience was very important or essential in helping them to find further work. 88% of Kickstarters currently in employment are now confident about their long-term employment plans compared to 23% before Kickstart, and 79% report a positive change in wellbeing as a result of their employment.

These are without a doubt statistics to be proud of but for me the most important part of the report is the learning points and recommendations it sets out.

The first of these is the importance of supporting young people to access good quality jobs and the need for this to remain an important policy objective, driving improvements in mental health and wellbeing and supporting ongoing economic recovery.

The key word here for me is “quality” – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to employability support, and we’re committed to providing support that’s tailored to the needs and aspirations of each young person who comes through our doors.

One of the other recommendations is that young people should have access to a wide-ranging and holistic package of training and support, and that’s something with which I wholeheartedly agree. We saw how the employability support provided to Kickstarters helped them succeed in their placements, but it goes beyond that. We also need to factor in support for wider wellbeing, including practical things relating to family, housing, transport and money – it’s about removing barriers to enable young people to fulfil their potential.

The report also recommends that standard recruitment processes should be simplified when dealing with young people. This means using recruitment language that is jargon-free and accessible and introducing informal interviews focused on character and attitude rather than solely knowledge and experience – all changes we could and should be making.

Looking to the future

To translate these learnings into action at Clarion, we’ve created a new Youth Employment Manager role focused on four key areas: mental health and wellbeing, support for those not in education, employment or training (NEET) or economically inactive, in-work support and training and upskilling.

We’ve also recruited a new Youth Employment Officer to pilot new programmes and are exploring opportunities around entrepreneurship and a green skills employment pathway to enable young people to tap into this growing sector and help to tackle skills shortages within the retrofit supply chain.

Looking to the future like this is the only way we can build on Kickstart’s legacy, working with our peers to identify innovative solutions to help the next generation to find their feet in the world of work. The Kickstart Housing Partnership set us on that course, and we’re more committed than ever to seeing it through.