British OEM J&E Hall International has expanded its team following its participation in the U.K. government’s Kickstart Scheme, which provided financial support to employers to create jobs for 16- to 24-year-old low-income workers and the unemployed.
The £1.9 billion (€2.14 billion/US$2.34 billion) program, which is now closed, was designed to create 250,000 employment opportunities for young people and support businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a part of the Kickstart Scheme, young people would join businesses on 25-hours-per-week, six-month contracts to gain experience and new skills. For HVAC&R companies, it represented an opportunity to attract young people to the industry, a perennial challenge.
Success for J&E Hall
During its time participating in the Kickstart Scheme, J&E Hall International – a manufacturer of single-screw compressors and ammonia/NH3 (R717) chillers – took on eight people who worked in a variety of roles, including at the company’s warehouse in Derby, and in finance, IT and marketing teams at its head office in Dartford.
The company has since employed three of the scheme’s participants on a full-time basis, according to a statement.
Vanessa Tu, 24, joined J&E Hall’s nuclear solutions division as a project administrator, while Emily Stanley, 21, is a contracts administrator in process systems and marine solutions. Robin Nixon, 24, an engineering graduate, is now a junior engineer in the compressor research and development department.
“We have been lucky enough to find three amazingly good people to join our team permanently,” said Martin Jefkins, HR Director at J&E Hall. “If Kickstart or something similar started again tomorrow [we] would be at the front of the queue. It helped us to achieve some things that we would have struggled to do coming out of the back of COVID and was very good for the people that went on it.”
“[Kickstart] helped us to achieve some things that we would have struggled to do coming out of the back of COVID and was very good for the people that went on it.”Martin Jefkins, J&E Hall
With a history of supporting young people through apprenticeships, J&E Hall said that it embraced the initiative “wholeheartedly.”
“We wanted to do the scheme in the right way,” said Jefkins. “There were lots of horror stories during Kickstart of people taking youngsters on and just getting them to do basic tasks. But all of the eight that joined us got the right support to help them work out where they wanted to go next.”
He added that while on placement, J&E Hall gave all of its recruits some training and offered several resources to boost their employability, including résumé writing and preparing for interviews.
“I enjoyed being able to work independently while knowing there was a good support system,” explained Stanley. “I think there is a good progression scheme here. I moved into the full-time role within two months of the Kickstart. When the company sees potential in you, they will push you forward.”
While the initiative was only designed to be short-term solution, Jefkins hailed it as a success for J&E Hall.
“It was really worthwhile for us; we really did feel like we were giving people some opportunities and experience,” he said.
However, a parliamentary review found that the Kickstart Scheme failed to perform as expected, supporting “far fewer young people than predicted.”
Overall, the scheme supported around 168,000 young people at a cost of £1.26 billion (€1.41 billion/ US$1.55 billion).