A £2bn ($2.7bn) scheme to help young people into work in the UK has launched with support from major employers like Tesco (TSCO.L).
The Treasury said in a statement on Wednesday that its ‘Kickstart’ jobs scheme was officially launching. The programme, first announced in July, will see out-of-work 16-to-24 year olds offered six week job placements with their wages paid by the government. Employers will also be given up to £1,500 to pay for uniforms and other costs associated with the programme.
The Treasury said Tesco was one of the first major employers to sign up to offer placements through the scheme.
The ‘Kickstart’ programme forms part of the chancellor’s multi-billion pound ‘Plan for Jobs’ announced in July. The programme is intended to help spur the UK’s economic recovery.
The targeted measures to help young people come in response to the disproportionate economic hit they suffered in the COVID-19 downturn. Over 60% of 17 year olds in employment were furloughed when the crisis struck, the Treasury said, and the number of under-24s claiming jobless benefits has risen by more than a quarter of a million since March. Experts fear many of these people could fall into long-term unemployment unless they pick up skills and experience during the crucial early years of their working life.
“This isn’t just about kickstarting our country’s economy — it is an opportunity to kickstart the careers of thousands of young people who could otherwise be left behind as a result of the pandemic,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
“The scheme will open the door to a brighter future for a new generation and ensure the UK bounces back stronger as a country.”
Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “At a time when cashflow is tight, this fully funded scheme will help employers bring young people into the workplace and develop new talent for the future.”
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the Kickstart programme was “important” but called on the government to do more to support apprenticeships.
“Incentives for apprenticeships aren't enough on their own to keep businesses afloat as well as hiring an apprentice, so more must be done to ensure small firms have all the support they need to survive and then thrive after this pandemic,” Cherry said in a statement.