Kickstart Scheme guidance – our experience trying to hire

Woman in business casual wear sitting at a table working on her laptop in a corporate office

Guidance for small business looking into the Kickstart Scheme – learn from our mistakes!

In the beginning, the Kickstart Scheme seemed too good to be true.

The chance to take on extra help for no cost at all was not one to pass up, so thousands of companies signed up and crossed their fingers.

And while there has certainly been lots of success, we’ve had a different experience.

So before you spend your time signing up and creating a job description, it might be a good idea to look at the other side of the story for guidance.

What is the Kickstart Scheme?

The government’s Kickstart Scheme was introduced in September 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

Its goal is simple: tackle rising long-term youth unemployment while helping businesses stay afloat.

Through the scheme businesses can employ a 16-24 year old at no cost. The government covers training expenses and wages for 6 months, giving struggling companies a free pair of hands and young people work experience.

You simply have to hire one of the applicants recommended to you by Jobcentre Plus staff.

At first glance…

With the government covering training and wages, this scheme was life-changing for everyone it helped.

But it didn’t help everyone.

To be eligible, candidates have to claim Universal Credit. While that’s fantastic for the majority, lots of people don’t qualify:

  • Young people aged 16-17 cannot claim if they live with their parents
  • Those that live with partners in full-time work are less likely to qualify

And while some of the people that need access to jobs are excluded, even more issues crop up.

Firstly, there is very little focus on training and development. Companies can simply employ candidates for low-level work and give them few long-term skills. While any experience is good experience, the point of Kickstart is to help people find and stay in employment – skills are essential for this!

And secondly, we don’t know what the long-term benefits will be for the candidates. Will these placements help them stay in employment at all?

It seems silly to put all of our eggs in the Kickstart basket when 92% of people that complete an apprenticeship stay in employment after.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

Two young girls sitting with a Mac laptop, pointing at the screen

Our experience using the Kickstart Scheme

We applied for the Kickstart Scheme back in October 2020 through a gateway as at the time, we didn’t reach the minimum number of placements you needed to qualify.

You had to offer a minimum of 30 placements and that just wasn’t realistic for us. So we signed up within a group and crossed our fingers.

Months passed and we heard nothing, despite chasing up about it a few times.

It seemed like Kickstart didn’t want us. But a few weeks later the government opened up direct applications and scrapped the minimum number of placements rule, so we applied again in the first few months of 2021.

We waited a few weeks again before hearing back and finally being accepted onto the scheme in March.

We quickly tried to advertise our opportunity – an administration-heavy role with a great training element and waited.

But we heard nothing. We received no notification that our job was live and no updates from the Jobcentre.

By the end of June, 3 months after we first advertised the role, we had only 5 referrals from the Jobcentre. We did get one direct applicant that we were excited about, but they ghosted us every time we tried to contact them.

We recently tried to check up on the role but discovered that it had expired and was no longer being advertised.

“I’m trying desperately to talk to someone but to no avail. It’s really tragic!” – Lucy Smith, DigitalGrads Founder and CEO

Traditional hiring v the Kickstart Scheme – guidance for small businesses

Our experience using Kickstart hasn’t been great and while I’m sure that some companies have hired amazing candidates through it, it seems like we put a lot of time and effort into something for no reason.

And it’s not like there aren’t any candidates out there for us! In the time it took us to get one good applicant through Kickstart, we’ve taken on four new team members. Two of which are on Kickstart-style fixed-term contracts.

So for us, traditional hiring is the way to go. And even though we don’t get any wages paid for by the government, it’s clearly better to hire at a cost than to not hire at all.

Even though we only had one direct application, it seems like Kickstart doesn’t give you applicants of quality either. So you could end up like us, waiting for months for a candidate only to be ghosted after they apply.

So our guidance is this: don’t put all your eggs in the Kickstart Scheme basket.

And I’m willing to bet that others will agree. We recently ran a poll on LinkedIn to find out if we’re just the odd ones out…

We discovered that while many found amazing candidates through Kickstart, far more people are struggling.

Only 29% of respondents hired through Kickstart and a massive 41% left a comment detailing their difficulties. Almost everyone explained how the long process and poor communication left them feeling hopeless about the scheme.

The opportunity to hire without having to pay for wages is too good for most businesses to pass up. But issues like wait times, poor communication and applicant quality are too big and common to ignore.

That’s why I recommend doing both. Apply for a Kickstarter through the scheme while also hiring the traditional way. This will help you get a direct comparison on timings, cost, quality and help you stick to your deadlines.

After all, there really is no point in taking months to hire a junior when you can hire one within weeks.

About post author

Hi, I'm Daisy. I'm using my passion for writing to work with DigitalGrads on their content and social media campaigns.
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