Building talent pools for the future is a vital practice in any industry, but especially in the UK rail sector which is set to face critical skills shortages by 2025. DiversityQ speaks to Zoey Hudson, Head of Talent, Diversity and Inclusion at GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) about their involvement in the Government’s Kickstart Scheme which aims to create new jobs for 16-to-24-year-olds who are at risk of long term unemployment.
How does the Kickstart Scheme work?
Utilising the Kickstart Scheme, including our self-funded roles, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has been able to work with third parties like Jobcentre Plus to reach unemployed young people. The Government launched the scheme to deliver funding to employers, like GTR, to offer new opportunities for 16–24-year-olds who are on Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment.
Employers must ensure they offer support through mentoring and teaching young people new skills to help develop their employability and knowledge of different business areas. Through the scheme, we offer a six-month paid placement which introduces the individual to a huge variety of roles, from front line roles at stations, IT support and customer service positions.
With support from local colleges, GTR offers a Level 2 NVQ qualification in customer service. With this, those on the Kickstart Scheme are able to learn customer service best practices, how to effectively manage difficult situations, and interact with the public. The college and GTR colleagues also help with CV writing and interview skills to help future job searches.
During the placement, young people are taught leadership and management skills by their GTR mentors. The Kickstart Scheme employees undertake large-scale projects to help them work to deadlines, develop good verbal and written communication skills, as well as presenting skills.
During the six-month placement, GTR mentors identify and develop skills that require improvement to make individuals more employable. Mentors were in contact weekly to ensure the employees felt welcomed, supported, and were continually improving. We understand that each individual has different skills and challenges that need to be addressed, and our mentors are passionate about supporting and helping young people develop over this period.
After a fruitful six months in the placement, there are opportunities for individuals to continue with GTR as full-time employees. Those unsuccessful are offered feedback through their job coach and an opportunity to undertake a free course in workplace skills with a local education provider.
Why does GTR take part in the Kickstart Scheme?
GTR wants to offer more support to help young people build their skills and knowledge and show them the fantastic opportunities in the rail industry. To show our commitment to supporting young people, GTR has been working with East Sussex College to provide a skills-based training programme to young people across the region. This scheme and work placement have been so successful with bringing in bright new talent and making positive changes that GTR has continued using the scheme to bring young people into Customer Experience Ambassador roles at stations on the South coast.
Through the Kickstart Scheme, young people will, in most circumstances, get paid more than an entry-level role, offering them an opportunity to be financially rewarded for their time, therefore reducing the risk of long-term unemployment in future.
What are the benefits to the business?
We understand the vital need to increase the talent pool of young people in the rail industry and make sure we are upskilling the next generation. We want to reach the best talent across our communities and those who may struggle to gain experience in the current economic climate.
By utilising the Kickstart Scheme, we aim to build skills that will ultimately benefit GTR in the long term, stabilising the future of rail and diversifying the industry. The scheme also allows us to stay connected with our local communities through its young people.
What others involved make of the Kickstart Scheme
Ralph Lallau, East Coast Ambassador, GTR said: “Joining GTR has been an eye-opening experience. Very rarely do companies go out of their way to such an extent to make you feel welcomed and valued as an employee. Working for GTR has been a fantastic opportunity to be there for our customers like never-before supporting them with questions and queries – I’ve never been thanked so much for just doing my job. I’ve been lucky enough to work on a few projects that have built my confidence and skill set. I’m so glad I took a chance with the Kickstart Programme.”
Dante Frederick, Diversity and Inclusion Partner at GTR said: “GTR has highlighted the important role that young people play in our culture and our business. Through channels like the Kickstart Scheme, we get access to and provide support and guidance to young people who can benefit from GTR, but also will bring their energy and innovative thinking to how we do business. Everyone wins.”
To find out more about the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, click here.