In recent months, here at ViewHR we have spoken to a number of employers who have recently taken on new employees through either through the Kickstart Scheme or an apprenticeship. Whilst apprenticeships do not typically have an upper age limit, many apprentices are recent school-leavers. The Kickstart scheme provides funding to employers to employ young people aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.
As such, in this blog we look at some key things for employers to consider in seeking to build engagement with young workers:
Opportunities for Learning
Both the Kickstart programme and apprenticeships have an emphasis on learning. Employers receiving Kickstart funding are required to provide employability skills training, and apprentices will work towards a relevant industry qualification whilst also gaining relevant experience.
It is therefore important that individuals are given the right opportunities to succeed in the learning element of their position. This involves ensuring that they are given the agreed time off for their studies, and are supported to do this rather than made to feel guilty (e.g. “enjoy your afternoon off while we do your work for you” may seem a humorous comment, but could be very undermining!).
In most cases, to achieve an apprenticeship qualification, the individual will need to demonstrate that they have experience of undertaking tasks within their role, and so it is important that employers work with education provider to ensure that they understand the course requirements and can provide the necessary opportunities.
Induction is important for any new employee, as it sets the scene for the rest of their employment. However, with young people, this may be their first professional role, and so it is of particular importance. Employers should plan carefully and ensure that they do not assume that the new employee will “know how things work, because it’s pretty much like any other office”.
Preparing young people for the world of work is a priority for schools and colleges. However, in recent months Covid-19 is likely to have impacted on their ability to invite in guest speakers, arrange work experience, etc. As such, it may be helpful to appoint a new young person with a buddy to help orientate them and answer questions they may have.
Employers should also remember that for health and safety purposes, anybody under 18 is classified as a young person, and that additional measures may be required. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website provides an overview here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/youngpeople/law/index.htm
Both Kickstart placements and apprenticeships have end dates – Kickstart funding lasts for six months, and apprenticeships vary depending on the length of the course (typically one or two years). Most employers will issue a fixed-term contract for that period, so that there is no ongoing obligation to employ the person at the end of the programme.
Some employers will then look to retain the employee, because they value them and the knowledge and skills that they have gained. In other cases, the employer will seek to replace the employee with another apprentice or young person on a Kickstart placement, to minimise wage costs.
If you are thinking of continuing to employ somebody at the end of their placement, make sure you communicate this to them. It may be that you make this conditional (e.g. on passing their apprenticeship), but if you remain silent, then they might assume that there is no role for them and start looking for something else before their contract ends.
A recent articles by recruitment company Hays identified that Generation Z (born from the mid-1990s onwards) value employers who can offer things including a sense of meaning / social purpose, and improved recognition and practice around diversity.
As such, employers seeking to engage young workers may want to review their policies and practices accordingly. However, good practice around diversity and inclusion doesn’t mean exclusively implementing things for the benefit of younger workers, as getting this right can benefit everybody!
If you have a question around employing a young person, or would like to discuss employee engagement, the ViewHR team can help – please contact us for an initial discussion.