The Government should extend the Kickstart Scheme application deadline until June 2022, CBI President Lord Bilimoriahas said in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders (15 March).

By businesses and Government working together to make the Kickstart application process smoother and more efficient, Lord Bilimoria said many more school leavers will stand to benefit from the scheme.

By participating in the programme, young people are more likely to develop skills like teamwork, confidence and communication lost during lockdown – essential to a lasting and fulfilling career.

On extending the Kickstart deadline, Lord Bilimoria said:

“The Kickstart programme is a fantastic example of partnership between business, Government and education. But it’s not been perfect from day one. At first businesses had to create 30 jobs to qualify, making it very difficult for SMEs to participate.  The Government listened and removed that limit.

Since then, countless employers have signed up with more than 150,000 placements approved. But of those 150,000 fewer than 5,000 are actually up and running – less than 4%. It’s understandable where the latest lockdown has put plans on pause. Some sectors, like retail or hospitality, can’t get placements started until they re-open. Yet many others are struggling with the process.

“On the one hand, we’ve seen a vote of confidence in the scheme from firms. But on the other – a real sense worry for employers and school leavers as otherwise ‘oven-ready’ opportunities get lost in delays and red tape.

“With the scheme due to end in less than 9 months employers simply don’t have enough time to make the most of it. Extending the deadline by six months would account for any delays as our economy re-opens, guarantee time to process the huge demand for placements, and ensure as many young people benefit from the scheme as possible.

“We need the same responsiveness from Government we saw earlier in the year. Because for many businesses it’s taking too long to get a response from government, too long to match placements with candidates, and it’s unclear why some applications have been rejected. We need to do things quicker, with more transparency to make these opportunities a reality.”

On young people’s ‘lost learning’, Lord Bilimoria said:

“We must strive to support not only those currently in education but those young people, about to leave and enter the world of work for the first time. Because we know school leavers and graduates will be among the hardest hit by this crisis.

“Right now, businesses’ role in society is to help the UK forge the strongest possible recovery from this crisis. We want to see a scale of investment and economic vision that will ensure every young person leaving education in the next few years can have a long, fulfilling career. Supporting those who may have missed out, in the past 12 months and risk falling behind.

“My worry is that companies have heard about ‘lost learning’ on the news but don’t know what it means for them – or how they can help. For business, there must be one, resounding answer: we will not – cannot – fail this generation.

“At the CBI – we’ll be working with our members, with Ofqual, with the Department for Education and with the Department for Work & Pensions having that vital conversation – and looking at how firms can help.”

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