The diary of a wannabe Kickstart employer…

I’m sure very few people will disagree with the idea of Kickstart but as ever, the devil is in the detail. Or the delivery, that comes from the detail, driven by the policy.


I was on an ERSA round table last year with around 300 organisations, many of whom would be involved in Kickstart.

As an employability and recruitment solutions expert, I had a list of very obvious and basic concerns that if they weren’t appropriately addressed, would hamper the delivery of Kickstart which in turn would frustrate employers and lock out young people of what is supposed to kickstart their career but more importantly, avoid them becoming long-term unemployed, thus preventing the scarring and damage that comes with that.

With only 15% of kickstart vacancies being filled, no one who knows anything about recruitment can say this is going well. We now have a situation where some employers are withdrawing as they haven’t had any candidates and DWP is closing Kickstart vacancies because they haven’t been filled.

And here I am, more than six weeks after our 3 Kickstart vacancies went live, with only one application (which came in yesterday). Referrals by job centres to anything are usually a challenge, but seriously? Initially we have had a few emails saying a work coach has referred a young person to one of our roles but “When we refer someone to your vacancy, it is not a guarantee that they will apply. We will refer them and ask them to apply, according to the instructions you have given in the vacancy template.”

The main reason I’m told we’re not getting anyone; young people are low on confidence, haven’t got a CV, don’t know how to make an application.
Who knew eh? Well me, actually and this is where our programme, Get ready for Kickstart © would help significantly.

The Premortem is a tool used by many Fortune 500 companies amongst others to essentially predict what might go wrong and put it right before it does. We use it a lot in our consultancy work.

One of my key concerns before details of the policy were even fully thought through, was what was a work coach was going to be able to do with a young person who may be low on confidence, motivation and aspiration, not have a CV or certainly one they have confidence in and not know what they really want to do with their life. What exactly is that work coach going to do to get them in front of an employer?

This was brushed over in that meeting but it should have been a real Monopoly moment: STOP, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT £200.

Being able to stop policy being launched because of obvious failures is one of the critical success factors that could transform DWP. In Tom Pollard’s paper for DEMOS, following his secondment to DWP policy he said “Policy does not withstand first contact with reality”.

This is no secret but nobody seems willing or able to do anything about it.
Attitude is the main thing employers are looking for when hiring someone and that’s why it is a key feature and benefit for our Get Ready for Kickstart © programme we launched in early March 2021.

The programme was specifically designed for young people who could be interested in, or are already interested in taking part in Kickstart. Run online over three days and with an option of ongoing support, it combines practical recruitment training, advice and tools for health and wellbeing, mindset and reducing stress and anxiety.

It also includes help to address common challenges often facing young people including lack of awareness, depression, anxiety, no direction, little emotional intelligence and needing to develop more character and resilience. It incorporates proven exercises which increase confidence, motivation, aspiration, self-esteem and the ability to see and understand different perspectives including the employers.

But nobody across DWP has bought it. It would make a significant difference to the amount of young people getting a Kickstart role and the amount of employers successfully filling their roles.

Recro have placed many young people who have been through our programmes via JCP successfully into Kickstart and often get 50% of people into sustainable employment from our programmes. Earlier this year we got 50% of 18-24s into work across Derbyshire.

If there is nothing built into the front end of Kickstart, it doesn’t really matter whether it is extended past December or not. There aren’t enough young people in the UK to fill the Kickstart roles while the conversion rate is so poor. And if that’s improved recently, good, but it’s possible to significantly improve it.

Get Ready for Kickstart © is available under DPS and the Get Ready for Kickstart © Plus version includes writing a CV with the young person following the programme, a practice interview and some target roles and sectors.

The principle of Kickstart is great. Let’s take some action and help as many young people and employers as possible in whatever time we have left.

Thank you for reading. Please do get in touch on 0330 122 7015 or email if you have any questions.