Kickstart: “A real missed opportunity”

Adam Harman (left) and Oliver Dixon, Kickstart trainees for the Window Company (Contracts)

Replacing Kickstart was “a missed opportunity,” an industry director has argued, criticising the decision to close the scheme early while the glazing industry is in the midst of a skills shortage. Further, the UK government’s Kickstart scheme – which offered employers subsidised minimum wages for employing 16 to 24 year olds on 6-month work placements, and £1,500 towards providing training – failed to deliver the numbers it promised, according to Katie Thornton, director of compliance and administration for the Window Company (Contracts). Just 100,000 of the 250,000 targeted places were filled by the 31 March cut-off date.

“It was obviously difficult for some employers to offer Kickstart placements while lockdown restrictions were still in place.” explained Katie Thornton, director of compliance and administration for the Window Company (Contracts). “Some struggled to attract youngsters who had been long-term unemployed but others were simply not aware of the potential benefits. Closing the scheme early, when we were still in the midst of a skills shortage, seems like a real missed opportunity.”

The Window Company (Contracts) took on Oliver Dixon and Adam Harman under the Kickstart scheme at the start of the year. At the end of their 6 months, both were offered permanent jobs as trainee window fitters. Katie said that Kickstart was “the ideal way to give Oliver and Adam a taste of the industry and see whether they had what it takes to build a successful career”.

She added: “We provided a comprehensive training programme which included manual handling, working at height, asbestos awareness, and loading and unloading. This would have benefited them even if they hadn’t stayed with us. However, both fitted in from the very beginning, and showed the kind of commitment and enthusiasm which meant we were delighted to offer them permanent roles.

“We would have been willing to deliver multiple cycles of Kickstart placements as the scheme really worked for us. It certainly had the potential to become a pipeline to attract young people who might never have considered a career in fenestration onto apprenticeships or higher-level training courses. However, it has been replaced by a Way to Work employment matching scheme which carries none of the subsidies or training grants that made Kickstart a useful way of giving young people on universal credit a real chance.”

Oliver said: “I’m really excited to have this opportunity to train for a long-term career. I’m learning new skills every day. I can already see myself, in five years or so, as a lead fitter, leading a professional and productive team on a full-house install.”