Clare Hancock, Employability Manager at Acacia Training

Stoke-on-Trent based Acacia Training (@Acaciatraining) is set to play a key role in job creation and the employment of young people across England, in a bid to help stimulate economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acacia Training has secured contracts worth up to £2.2m in funding under the government’s new Kickstart scheme. This will fund the creation of 6-month high quality placements for 16-24 year olds across England, including in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent.

The funding will cover all employers’ costs to bring a young person on board within their business for 25 hours per week, for a period of six months. This includes funding to cover the young person’s salary at national minimum wage, employer national insurance and pension contributions. In addition to this, employers will also receive a £1,500 wrap around service grant that supports the costs for recruitment, employability training and additional resources needed to welcome the new recruit to the business.

Clare Hancock, Employability Manager at Acacia Training, explains:

“It is equally important to support employers with job creation and recruitment, as well as reducing the risk of long-term unemployment for 16–24-year-olds after COVID-19. We are very proud to be able to play a role in restimulating the economy, creating jobs, and ensuring that young people are not disadvantaged by the impact of the pandemic.”

Since January, the Trentham-based company has worked rapidly with employers, the DWP and many Job Centre Plus sites to create over 250 work placements in different sectors including administration, marketing and sales, construction, childcare and early years, health and social care, construction, schools and education, and hospitality.

Acacia Training will provide a combination of tutor-led and online virtual training packages for those core sectors, as well as other core elements to build a robust ‘wraparound’ service to help the young person develop essential work skills such as communication, teamwork and health and safety as they settle into the workplace.

Clare adds: “We’ve seen a really positive response from employers – this support can’t come fast enough for them and there has been a big uptake. Companies are seeing this as a real win-win situation. They can access vital funding towards the cost of recruiting and employing new people, and they are also doing something to steer young people into jobs and careers after employment opportunities were scaled back due to the economic uncertainty caused by national lockdowns.

We are committed to giving employers flexibility in terms of how they access the scheme – it is not a one size fits all approach. We have listened closely to local and national employers and responded by ensuring we personalise what is on offer by getting to know each employer’s ethos and values and getting in place a plan that works for them. It has got to be the right partnership. It is not a quick fix - it’s about companies investing this funding into their workforce development. Each employee needs to be managed and mentored.”

The Kickstart scheme is complemented by other funded training and recruitment initiatives.

Clare explains: “Ideally, once the six-month placement has been completed, the young person would then secure a permanent position and potentially progress on to further education programmes such as an Apprenticeship. Indeed, following the government’s announcement in this week’s Budget that the financial incentives available to employers taking on an apprentice will increase, there are many opportunities to pursue.”

Acacia Training has also been successful in securing funding for Traineeships - which gives young people an opportunity to experience new sectors and receive support with employability skills through a bespoke training scheme and work experience opportunities.  The programme was given a significant boost in this week’s Budget announcement when it was announced that a further 40,000 traineeships would be created in England.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Kickstart Scheme in 2020 as part of the government’s post-Covid recovery plan. Employers can obtain more information about the scheme here.

Kickstart vacancies are aimed at those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. Details of available vacancies can be found by contacting local Job Centre Plus offices.

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