Gary Baker, the chairman of the Furniture and Interiors Educations, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA), is urging employers in the UK furniture and interiors sector not to be put off by the complexities of the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, and work with the alliance’s Skills Plus service to take advantage of the initiative.

Kickstart is a new programme where an employer can offer a Government-funded six-month work experience placement to a 16-24 year old currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

The scheme, which was launched on 2nd September, aims to create thousands of jobs in the UK, but businesses are criticising its arduous application process.

FIESTA is encouraging companies to access Kickstart by working with its Skills Plus initiative. Skills Plus already offers micro, SME and large employers in the sector an affordable and simplified way to engage with apprenticeships, upskilling and retraining staff, and through its existing infrastructure can assist companies to employ young people through Kickstart.

Gary says: “The guidance released has made it clear that not only will it be a rigorous application process for employers applying, but they also need to have a minimum of 30 placements available, which is a huge undertaking for even large organisations. By working with Skills Plus, employers can band together to reach the 30 placements required and we will cover the administration, relieving the burden from the company completely. This is too good an opportunity for businesses in the industry to miss – six months of subsidised labour while providing the individual with skills to help them progress in their career.”

Carmen Daley, operations manager at Skills Plus, adds: “Skills Plus is in a unique position in that because of our existing apprenticeship processes and systems, we can either co-ordinate and act as the representative for a group of companies, or, and probably more appealingly given the list of employer responsibilities also outlined, we can just employ the kickstart person on their behalf.”