25 Feb 2021
Business Business School Jobs/Apprenticeships
St Helens Chamber hosted a round table discussion with Mims Davies MP, the Minister for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions on Tuesday (23rd Feb), providing a forum for local business leaders to hear a briefing from the Minister on the government’s Plan for Jobs and to put their questions forwards on employment issues affecting their businesses and the local labour market.
Coinciding with the release of the latest ONS data on employment, which shows national unemployment standing at 5.1%, the Minister’s briefing focussed around the new Kickstart scheme which is now well underway, Sector-Based Work Academies and how they are supporting people to pivot their skills into new job roles or sectors, plus a range of other DWP initiatives which are underway or launching later in the year.
Talking about the Kickstart scheme which launched in September as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs, the Minister praised Chambers up and down the country for the work they have done throughout the pandemic to support getting young people into jobs, with latest published figures showing 120,000 opportunities already pledged and this is growing every day.
She said: “It’s great speaking to some of the fantastic businesses across St Helens who are already benefiting from our Kickstart Scheme, giving the next generation a helping hand to reach their full potential and get into new work roles – and it’s vital we continue to hear from local organisations on the challenges they face.
“Young people have been hit especially hard by this pandemic and that’s why they are at the heart of our Plan for Jobs, to help them back onto their feet and into employment as we push to build back better.”
One business joining the discussion was Helen Davies from Easy Tots, who was one of the first St Helens companies to appoint a young person through the Kickstart scheme, using St Helens Chamber as a Gateway.
Helen commented: “I’m quite proud actually that we’re the first business to take on a Kickstarter. Just six months ago my business was based at home, but I decided that despite all the uncertainty to go for it and we moved into warehouse space in St Helens in September. I took on my first full-time employee then, but about the same time I started to hear about the Kickstart scheme and I could see the value it could add to my business.
“Having approached the Chamber, I found the process really quite seamless and I got my two job adverts in straight away. I was happy to wait as I knew it would help me to build my structure as a growing business. As soon as the applications starting coming through, I interviewed and I was able to take the first one on. He started last week and into his second week he’s doing really well.
“Kickstart has enabled us to have a bit of breathing space cashflow-wise while enabling us to grow, but also it’s allowing us to give something back to help these young people who just need bit of support to grow their confidence.”
Tracy Mawson, Chief Executive at St Helens Chamber, who chaired the discussion, commented: “We were delighted to be approached to host this event and provide this fantastic opportunity to let the Minister hear from real business people who are impacted every day by government policy.
“Enabling businesses to have their voices heard at the highest level is a key priority for St Helens Chamber and we are always keen to welcome any Westminster representatives to come and hear from St Helens firms on the issues facing their businesses.
“Mims Davies provided a valuable insight into DWP’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ and it was extremely useful for her to hear the concerns of businesses as they face the challenges of growing and recruiting in a climate still heavily impacted by the pandemic.
“It also provided a great opportunity for us to ask for clarity on some key issues that will impact the support for businesses available in the future, such as the continuation of the New Enterprise Allowance, an initiative supporting people from unemployment to self-employment which is due to end at the end of this year, and the Shared Prosperity Fund, the Government’s pledge of £1.5bn per year, which will replace all EU funding, which currently offers a raft of support for businesses and communities.”
Other issues raised for discussion by members of the business community, included the need to attract more job applicants from BAME communities for certain job roles, how businesses will be incentivised and supported to retain and develop young people recruited through the Kickstart scheme through apprenticeships, and skills shortages in the engineering sector and the need to raise the profile of these careers amongst young people.
Cllr Kate Groucutt, Cabinet Member – Education, Skills and Business, who attended the meeting added: “I was pleased that a diverse range of businesses from across St Helens borough had the opportunity to share their experiences directly with a Government Minister, and for her to hear about their ambitions and the challenges they face.
“As we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, and if we are to avoid a devastating rise in unemployment in the months ahead, we need all public bodies and local infrastructure organisations like our excellent Chamber to work together to support St Helens residents and businesses. With a range of employment support, apprenticeships and training available, helping residents into work during these difficult and challenging times is a top priority for us all.”
If you are a local business owner and want to have your voice heard, the latest economic survey run by St Helens Chamber is currently live. The economic survey is one of the most powerful pieces of research the Chamber conducts and is your route to get your business needs straight to Downing Street. It is used by decision-makers in the region and also national organisations including HM Treasury and Bank of England, to help shape policies which affect companies. To take the survey visit: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QQZGP2Y