Meet the ‘kid from a deprived community’ now heading up £65m project | UK | News (Reports)


Marie’s company is managing a £63million project that will create jobs through the Kickstart Scheme (Image: )

Whether you’re starting out, switching careers or looking for a local vacancy, finding a job in the middle of a pandemic isn’t easy.

So the UK Government has launched a number of initiatives to create, support and protect employment with its Plan For Jobs.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Kickstart Scheme last summer, offering job opportunities for 16-24-year-olds who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. There are also Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs) offering six-week placements, and the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) to help self-employed people develop their business.

Marie Macklin CBE is founder and executive chair of HALO Urban Regeneration, which is managing a £63million project in Kilmarnock that will create opportunities through the Kickstart Scheme.

“This will be the first town centre net zero carbon energy project in Scotland – a Community Urban Village, which also forms part of the net zero pledge to create a new green economy wrapped around enterprise and innovation. We’re hoping to create 1,300 jobs and £200million for the Scottish economy,” says Marie.

“The scheme is life-changing in the sense that these areas – not just in Kilmarnock, but some of the most deprived communities in the country – are being helped, and we need to give these young people a road to recovery. I was that kid from a deprived community. We have some amazing companies in our city centres, but young people in these challenging economic times – how do they get a job there?

“There was £1,500 allocated for each person for purpose-built training and that is enabling us to work with the top experts to create a cyber security course for young people who have disengaged from school, and really have no hope.

“Some of the people we are working with have great computer skills, but they don’t have the confidence. So this is offering a stepping stone into a whole new world – to help protect our country and to give them confidence to work with some of the best cyber security experts in the world.

“The uptake has been immense. We stress that you don’t need a qualification to do the course as there are too many kids who don’t engage in going to college because it is an establishment.”

A bright future

Nichola Venables, CEO of property-tech start-up New Build Database (NBDB), is one of many employers offering young people opportunities under the Kickstart Scheme.

Nichola is CEO of a property-tech start-up offering young people opportunities under the scheme (Image: )

With 20 years’ experience in finance, management and risk, Nichola can offer on-the-job training to candidates and has advertised seven vacancies at her Cardiff Bay-based business.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping others grow,” says Nichola, 42. “I left school at 16 with few qualifications, although I’m currently completing a masters level business leadership course. And I understand that for some people, getting into early employment is more critical to their long-term success or immediate needs than going to university.”

And as a small start-up, NBDB is an ideal environment to learn a broad range of skills. “One key thing for the team is to be prepared to work on any task,” says Nichola. “They’ll learn customer service, data management, research and analysis skills, social media management… All the roles will be remote, and they’ll be suitable for many people who might otherwise experience challenges or barriers to working. From a selfish point of view, I’ve missed having colleagues around me, and I can’t wait to start daily calls with the team.”

The Kickstarter Scheme allows people to learn through experience (Image: )

Nichola’s also excited about what the youngsters can bring to the business: “I expect some will have ideas about the software that I haven’t yet considered, Their familiarity with intuitive apps will make them great test analysts for later software rollouts. I hope they’ll also bring fresh ideas about approaching customers via social media. Towards the end of the programme, I’ll support them in writing CVs, practising their interviewing skills and building their brand.”

At the end of the scheme, companies can hire the staff if there’s a permanent position available. “I’m so excited to offer a chance to learn and grow through work experience,” says Nichola. “Hopefully, I’ll help the individuals go on to secure long-term employment. I would love for that to be with NBDB, but if it’s not possible to offer them a job I’ll do everything I can to help them secure work elsewhere.”

A chance to gain key skills and experience

Amanda Stainton is HR director for Portakabin, which is based in York. The family-owned business has 1,750 employees and is planning to add 30 new recruits from the Kickstart Scheme.

“We’ve been very fortunate in that we haven’t had to furlough any of our employees, and we felt the Kickstart Scheme was a great opportunity to build on what we already do with apprenticeships,” says Amanda. “We’ve had over 40 apprentices over the past eight years, and Kickstart is another opportunity for young people to get some real experience and improve their skills.

Amanda is HR director for Portakabin, which is planning to add 30 new recruits from the scheme (Image: )

“I have children of a similar age, and I understand the longer you spend out of work after coming out of education, the harder it is to get into it. Opportunities in areas like retail and hospitality have disappeared due to the pandemic, and we don’t want young people to get left behind.”

Portakabin will be able to offer a wide range of experience for its young recruits, as Amanda explains: “Because we’re a manufacturing organisation, we’ve got lots of opportunities here – within manufacturing, but also in marketing, IT, HR and in our commercial teams. We’ll be running programmes in terms of CV writing and interview techniques too, which will provide that extra set of skills and experiences that will hopefully mean they can be successful outside Portakabin, or perhaps join us as apprentices, if we have those opportunities available.”

‘I’ve even been given my own project’

Alice O’Sullivan, 23, is on the Kickstart Scheme with Portakabin.

“After gaining a degree in IT and Data Science, I looked for a job that would complement that,” she says. “When I saw the placement at Portakabin, it interested me, as not only is it a well-known company, but it would offer the chance to gain experience across a number of areas. As I still wasn’t sure which area of IT I wanted to work in, it was ideal.

“In my first week, I’ve been introduced to all areas in the department, and took part in meetings to help me gain an understanding of how the team operates.

Alice is on the Kickstart Scheme with Portakabin (Image: )

“I’ve also been given a project to work on that includes writing a user guide for the company’s self-service IT portal. It’s a great task, as it means I can learn about the systems the company uses while supporting my new colleagues.

“I’m grateful to have been able to start the Kickstart Scheme despite the pandemic. Although some days I work remotely, Portakabin has created a safe and comfortable working environment.”

‘I want to offer work opportunities’

Ellen Wakelam runs a “small but ambitious” distillery on the west coast of Wales, and for her the Kickstart Scheme is a way to give local youngsters valuable experience.

The In the Welsh Wind Distillery makes spirits, including eight award-winning gins, and is now developing a fully grain-to-glass Welsh whisky using barley grown by local farmers.

Ellen runs In the Welsh Wind Distillery, using the scheme to give youngsters valuable experience (Image: )

The company has five full-time employees and will be adding to that with its Kickstart recruits. “We’ve been approved for four placements,” explains Ellen, 37, from near Cardigan.

“The first of these will be a general distillery hand. We think we can offer a young person a really good understanding of every aspect of the business – from the technical side of distilling to things like as bottling, labelling, customer service, marketing and business insight.”

The In the Welsh Wind Distillery makes spirits on the west coast of Wales (Image: )

Ellen knows the importance of having job opportunities in the area and that’s one of the reasons why she was so keen to base her business in west Wales. “I grew up here and trained as a teacher, but had to leave to find work,” she says.

“One of the main drivers for setting up a business back here was to be able to offer employment opportunities for local young people.”

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