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How jobseekers can access help to find new work opportunities during the pandemic

Wednesday 08 September 2021 17:15 BST
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during the launch of the Government's new Kickstart employment scheme, in east London on September 2, 2020
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during the launch of the Government's new Kickstart employment scheme, in east London on September 2, 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

Jobseekers and those facing redundancy can access a range of support options to help them find work.

Despite uncertainty around the pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period, across Britain there are a range of initiatives to get people back into work.

They include help for people to switch careers by developing new skills, bespoke support for jobseekers to spot suitable local vacancies and training to enable people to grow confidence and secure a new role.

Among the government-backed programmes in Scotland, Wales and England is the Kickstart scheme, which provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

The scheme, which facilitates a six-month paid job with a local employer, paid for by the government, was announced by the chancellor last summer along with a £2bn pot to fund positions in businesses across Britain.

Halo Urban Regeneration, which is managing a £63m brownfield urban regeneration project on a 23-acre site in Kilmarnock, Scotland, is offering 200 training placements as part of the scheme.

Halo’s founder, Marie Macklin, said: “The Kickstart scheme is very useful particularly because we are an urban regeneration company going into deprived communities, those areas with challenging economic conditions, and we’re really trying to put something back. 

"What we are doing with the funding is not creating jobs that would be the normal jobs that young jobseekers would find if they looked in the marketplace.

Marie Macklin promoting the Halo project in Kilmarnock (Halo)

“The Kickstart 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.

“We have some amazing companies in our city centres, but young people in these challenging economic times, how do they get a job in these city centres?

“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.”

She added: “The uptake on it has been immense, we basically purposefully say you do not need a qualification to do the course because there are too many kids who don’t engage in going to college or university because it is an establishment.”

Ellen Wakelam, co-founder of In the Welsh Wind, a small distillery overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales, said she was using the Kickstart scheme to give local young people valuable work experience.

“One of the drivers for setting up a business back here was to offer opportunities for employment for local young people,” she said. 

"Even in buoyant economic times, it’s not an area where there are lots of prospects, so we’re excited to be able to offer new roles that will give people experience and lots of transferrable skills. 

"Bringing people into the business brings in different ideas, insights and suggestions about how we can do things differently. It's something we thrive on. 

“On the flip side, we can offer people the opportunity to train and develop their own skills. Even if there isn’t a role at the end of it, hopefully we’ve opened their eyes to other possibilities and options, and given them experience they can take somewhere else.”

Another scheme available to people who are out of work is the Sector-based Work Academy Programme – or SWAP – which supports businesses to create a skilled workforce.

SWAPs are also there to help prepare those receiving unemployment benefits to apply for jobs in a different area of work.

Workers on the production line at a car factory in Sunderland (PA)

SWAPs are an opportunity for jobseekers who are claiming either Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), to build their confidence in a new line of work, enhance their CV, and gain work experience and training.

So far, they have helped over 40,000 people across the country with employers from a range of industries offering placements.

Each SWAP focusses on working in a particular industry, such as care, construction or logistics and lasts up to six weeks.

“We’ve got huge recruitment at the moment, temporary and permanent, in sectors like the civil service,” explained Steve McCall, the communications manager for Jobcentre Plus Newcastle. 

“I’ve hosted open sessions where I’ve brought jobseekers onto a Teams meeting and spoken about the civil service, covering some of the myths, talked them through the departments, what they’re there for, what the career potential is, and brought in an employer from one of those departments to talk as well."

He added: “I always direct people to That’s a great place for people to start, there’s a lot of information on there, a lot of tips, there’s a lot of information around different sectors so people can see the skills that they might already have and be able to transfer into different career directions."

The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is a third government initiative which provides a fund for jobseekers with a business idea.

Support includes a mentor to give advice as the new business begins to trade and a weekly allowance worth up to £1,274 over 26 weeks. Recipients can also apply for a loan to help with start-up costs if the business is less than two years old.

More than 215,000 jobseekers have made use of the scheme since it launched in April 2011.

Julie Britton, 54, from Wigan, set up Britton’s Bears, which crafts teddies from recycled fabrics including airline uniforms and old baby clothes, with help from the scheme.

She said: "The NEA was offered to me and my work coach referred me to a business mentor right away when I told her what I was doing and he helped me set my business up by doing a plan etc. I received £65 a week for 13 weeks and £33 per week for 13 weeks. It was really helpful and gave me peace of mind. It topped up my payments during quiet months."

For more information about the help available, along with latest vacancies and jobsearch ideas, visit

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