The UK, like all other countries, has been hit by a huge economic shock over the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that, in order to protect people’s lives and ensure the NHS can continue to operate, the country has had to shut many businesses down for long periods of time.
That can understandably create anxiety about all of our own lives, and in particular around employment.
The UK Government believes, though, that whilst the economic figures are bleak over the past year, the economy still has strong fundamentals and will rebound quickly. That means they have introduced a number of schemes to ensure that job losses are kept to a minimum in this unpredictable and never-before-seen time.
Perhaps the most famous scheme was the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as the furlough plan.
But there are other schemes available for those who are no longer in work and are looking to get back into paid employment – with all the advantages that that brings.
In particular, the UK Government is aware that many young people – who often work in sectors like hospitality and retail, which have been hit particularly hard by lockdown restrictions, are wondering about their next steps. City A.M. has taken a look at the UK Government’s schemes, tips and advice for getting into work.
The Kickstart Scheme
The Kickstart scheme is a six-month, paid job placement for young people with a local employer – paid for entirely by the UK Government, so it’s a win-win for employee and employer alike.
It provides a fully-funded opportunity for young people to gain experience of working in Britain’s most exciting companies, and develop skills that will allow them to find work in the future.
Announced by the Chancellor in the summer, the scheme has already provided some 120,000 jobs.
The scheme is open to those between 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment.
What it looks like in practice
The UK’s leading modular building expert Portakabin has signed up to the Kickstart scheme, providing vital work experience opportunities for young people as part of the UK Government scheme.
Amanda Stainton, the firm’s Human Resources Director, told City A.M. that the scheme builds on Portakabin’s work with apprentices.
“That has seen forty-five young people receive vital skills training and mentoring over the past eight years,” she said.
The Kickstart scheme will see thirty additional Brits join the firm.
“The placements are scheduled to start in January and although we’ll continue to keep a close eye on UK Government guidelines at that time, we’ve ensured that our factories, depots and customer sites are able to carry out their essential work safely in a Covid-19 secure environment,” she said.
“The work experience opportunities will give young people a real understanding of the workplace and the huge variety of skillsets which make up our business.”
The Sector-based Work Academy Programme
So-called “SWAPs” offer a chance for people on a number of benefits to build their confidence in a new line of work, enhancing their CV and gaining invaluable work experience and training.
So far the academies have helped over 40,000 people across the country with employers from a range of industries stepping up to offer placements. Each SWAP focusses on working in a particular industry – such as care, or logistics – for up to six weeks.
Those on the scheme get pre-employment training, work experience with an employer in the industry, and at the end of it they receive a job interview or help with the application process.
What about on the ground?
Embark Learning works in partnership with Fairway Care Home in Walsall to deliver a ‘SWAP’ – and it’s been hugely successful.
“A SWAP is an invaluable scheme,” Embark Learning’s Business Development Manager Safwan Hanash tells us.
“It helps customers understand what it’s like to work in this sector and we help transform people’s lives by giving them the opportunity, training and skills to move into work in the care sector.”
Each one of the learners that joined the scheme in Walsall in October 2020 have gone on to be employed by Fairway. And in 2019/2020, the firm had 228 starts with almost seven in ten receiving jobs at the end of their six-week academy programme.
The New Enterprise Allowance
The UK Government doesn’t just help people to get into work with other firms, but also provides help to start a business for those who qualify.
If you are receiving certain benefits – including Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and the Employment and Support Allowance – you can get money and support to build a business.
Individuals are given access to a mentor, as well as a weekly allowance worth up to £1,274 over the first half a year.
More than 200,000 people have become their own boss since the scheme launched almost a decade ago.
Britton’s Bears is one of those firms
Julie Britton was made redundant by a firm in the aviation industry at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But undeterred, she decided to strike out on her own – starting a company crafting teddies from recycled fabrics.
“We don’t know what the future will bring,” she told City A.M., “but my little business is now established and will definitely carry me forward.”
Over the past ten months, the UK Government has helped millions of people to continue to work or provide for themselves and their families through the Plan for Jobs.
The package, which totals some £280bn-worth of support, has been extended in full and in part until April 2021.
That builds on the support offered to firms to keep going during the pandemic.
Jobseekers can find additional support, help and advice on getting in or back in to work on the UK Government’s dedicated hub: gov.uk/jobhelp