Last reviewed 12 January 2022

Senior researcher and employment law writer at Croner-i, Ben McCarthy, explores the Government’s latest schemes.

To help aid economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has announced two schemes designed to help and encourage young people into work. These two schemes have potential to be valuable tools for employers in sourcing potentially highly-skilled individuals from younger age groups. But what are the key things to note about the Kickstart and traineeship schemes?

What is the Kickstart scheme?

The Kickstart scheme was announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in July 2020 as part of his “Plan for Jobs”. It is aimed at creating new high-quality jobs to help 16–24-year-old unemployed people on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Employers who take on scheme participants will receive funding from the Government to cover some employment costs, including wages.

The scheme is being run across several industries in England, Scotland and Wales and is open to all employers who meet the minimum requirements for offering the scheme. The Chancellor has urged every employer, big or small, to hire as many “Kickstarters” as possible.

How does the Kickstart scheme work?

Under the scheme, employers can offer six-month placements to participants in “new” jobs. The job placements must be roles that are in addition to the current workforce. In addition, employers are expected to develop the skills and experience of the participant in areas such as looking for long-term work, including advice on their career and setting goals; support with CVs and interview preparations, and also basic skills such as attendance, timekeeping and teamwork. Applications for funding needed to include details on how this support would be provided.

The scheme covers 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours’ work per week, as well as employer’s National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Employers are able to top up the payment or offer a higher number of working hours, but the excess will not be covered by the funding.

Kickstart participants were referred to companies by DWP after they, or their Gateway representative, gave them details of the job(s) offered by matching the job description to eligible young people.

DWP notified the company, or their Gateway representative, via email each time a young person was referred to them. The participant chose whether they wanted to apply for the job placement(s) being offered. If they chose to apply, the company had the opportunity to interview them. They should notify DWP once the participant has started the placement so that funding can be processed.

The Government also pays employers £1500 towards setting up support and training for those on the Kickstart placement. This payment can also be used to pay for uniforms and other necessary start up costs. Employers who take part in this scheme can hire a second Kickstart participant into the same placement after the first participant has completed their six months. Employers who take part in this scheme can hire a second Kickstart participant into the same placement after the first participant has completed their six months.

While the Kickstart Scheme is not an apprenticeship, the Government has confirmed that participants can move on to become apprentices at any time during or after their Kickstart placement.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Kickstart scheme?

To be eligible for the scheme, employers must:

  • be an existing company/organisation with a track record of fiscal competence

  • offer a vacancy/vacancies which are new and not a replacement of an existing job, or cause current staff to have a reduced workload

  • be prepared to offer at least 25 hours a week to participants who are paid at the appropriate NMW for their age group, for at least six months

  • demonstrate at application stage what employability support they will provide to participants to give them the transferable skills needed to continue into gainful employment, training or education

  • demonstrate that the jobs they are offering are quality placements — both “meaningful” and “suitable” — that will benefit the participant in future

  • show how they plan to monitor the progress of participants to the satisfaction of the compliance and quality requirements for the scheme — covering participants’ safety, employer liability insurance, risk assessments for the vulnerable, and Disclosure and Barring Services for 16–17-year-olds

  • show how publicity activities, such as branding, will comply with the DWP publicity requirements.

The Government advises that if a young person leaves their placement before the end of the six-month period, or if they need to take temporary leave from the placement, employers should notify DWP as soon as possible. If the young person leaves permanently, the immediate payment scheduled from DWP before they left will be the last payment employers will receive. If the young person leaves temporarily, DWP may extend the funding period.

Scheme closure

Employers had until midday on 17 December 2021 to apply for a Kickstarter grant, or add more jobs to an existing grant agreement. 

They must have signed and returned the Kickstart grant agreement to DWP or the relevant gateway on or before 7 January 2022. 

All vacancies must be submitted to DWP by 31 January 2022. 

The funding is in place for all jobs started under the scheme up to 31 March 2022 (the Government must be notified of the role starting before 30 April 2022), with funding for six months once the young person has started their job. 

What is a traineeship?

Traineeships, introduced in 2013, offer education, training, and work experience to young people who may lack certain skills and experiences that employers look for in job applicants. Their aim is to provide young people with a pathway into employment or education. As traineeships involve unpaid work placements, they should not be confused with apprenticeships.

In July 2020, the Government announced that it would be reforming and expanding the traineeships programme to help young people in England, regardless of background, who are most at risk of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. This new scheme opened in September 2020.

What does a traineeship provide?

Traineeships are designed to help young people in acquiring skills and confidence to get, and sustain, employment opportunities in the future. From September 2020, traineeships should involve classroom-based tuition in Maths, English, digital skills, and CV writing, provided by the training provider. This is coupled with “high-quality” 70 hours (minimum) of unpaid work experience placements provided by employers.

Employers seeking to offer work placements as part of this programme for the first time must work in collaboration with training providers. They can either contact a relevant training provider directly, or receive assistance from the National Apprenticeship Service. A full list of training providers is available on the Government website. Employers and the training provider should work together to ensure that the work offered by the employer provides the experience that young people require to develop their employability skills. This can be tailored specifically to each young person alongside other elements of the traineeship.

How the work placement will be structured should be confirmed before a traineeship is offered to any individual. Once a plan is in place for the traineeship, it can be advertised through the Government website. Prior to placing an individual with the placement company, the training provider will provide work preparation training which may include direct training on the expected role they will fill during their placement.

When offering a traineeship work placement, employers need to provide:

  • safe, meaningful and high-quality work experience

  • a minimum of 70 hours of work experience — but no more than 240 hours for benefit claimants — over the duration of the traineeship (maximum of one year) and as agreed with the traineeship provider

  • constructive feedback and advice to the trainee

  • an interview for an apprenticeship or job in the business at the end of the traineeship, if one is available

  • an exit interview at the end of the traineeship with meaningful written feedback if no job is available.

Employer incentive payment

Employers can apply for a £1000 traineeship incentive grant under a new initiative, for delivering a 70-hour minimum work experience placement as part of a traineeship programme. It is available from 1 September 2020 up to, and including, 31 July 2021. Employers can take on as many trainees as they wish but will only be able to claim a grant of up to a maximum of 10 incentive payments. Multi-sited employers who wish to offer traineeships across England can do so and claim the £1000 grant per trainee per region, up to a maximum of 10 trainees in each region.

This cash incentive can also be claimed for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September 2020. This means that the placement could have begun prior to this date. Employers can claim the incentive by sending an application via the Government’s website after each placement has been completed. Claims must be made by 21 October 2021 — this is also the deadline for employers to send details of the outcome of the traineeships they completed by 31 July 2021.

Although employers have until 21 October 2021 to make this claim, it is strongly advised that they do so as soon as the placement is finished.


These schemes show that the Government is, to a certain degree, trying to look to the future and encourage economic recovery. With this in mind, it is advisable that employers do make use of them if they are in a position to.