SOMERSET Chamber has helped the county’s businesses secure more than £2 million in Government funding to support young people into work and help firm’s find new talent.

The chamber acted as an official gateway for the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, securing placements for 324 young people, with 130 business taking part through the organisation.

Kickstart is now closed to new applicants, but since it started in September 2020 it has helped companies cover the cost of employing a 16 to 24-year-old for six months, for 25 hours a week, with no cost to the business.

The Government paid 100 per cent of the National Minimum Wage for those 25 hours, plus National Insurance contributions.

Employers also received a £1,500 set-up grant for the placement to cover the cost of training, equipment or even travel.

Many young people taken on as Kickstarters found themselves offered permanent roles once the Government-funded element had finished.

Emma Rawlings, executive director of Somerset Chamber, said: “The figures are absolutely phenomenal and I’m proud the chamber has played such a significant part in the success of this scheme in the South West.

"All credit to the chamber’s Jenn Chidley-Sanders who spearheaded our involvement in the scheme.”

Jenn, the chamber’s member engagement and policy manager, said: "When we heard about the Kickstart scheme, it seemed the perfect opportunity for businesses to support young people.

"It has not been without its challenges, but, overall, it has been an exceptional scheme to be involved in.

"We have been able to help 130 businesses and given 324 young starters the opportunity to find work and learn new skills, which has been absolutely wonderful to see."

Falcon Vehicle Solutions initially took on three Kickstarters, with two working in the rental team and another in the HR and accounts department.

While one relocated with family, a second secured a full-time job with a large employer in North Somerset and the third, Jordan Friend, has been taken on permanently by Falcon.

Tristan Savage, Falcon managing, said: “All three of our Kickstarters made a quick impression on us and became part of the team, with no reason to think of them as anything other than valued members of staff.

“The fact one of our Kickstarters gained full-time employment is, in itself, a success as Kickstart had given them the experience and confidence to enter the world of full-time employment.”

Jordan, a rental co-ordinator with Falcon, who was made redundant during lockdown, said: "Initially, as with any new job, it was daunting but within the first few months, my confidence had grown and I was fortunate enough to turn my six months Kickstart placement into a full-time permanent position at Falcon Vehicle Solutions.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to the Kickstarter Scheme and Falcon.”