A Blyth man who gained work as a warehouseman said a back to work scheme supported by North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll changed his life.

Lewis Wilkinson was offered a job with Northumberland County Council after working a six-month Kickstart placement in its Cowley Road Depot, in Blyth. The 22-year-old was one of 233 young people across Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland to find work through the scheme, backed by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA).

Three quarters of those who took part either made plans to gain further education or found work in roles including graphic design, building, warehousing, supporting local businesses in their recovery from covid, and for local government.

Lewis said: “In my old job as a labourer I was getting my hands dirty, constantly out in the rain and the snow, working in the worst conditions possible. This is a million miles away; I’m part of a team. Everybody’s so welcoming; they’ve helped with every step. And even though I’ve only been in the full job a couple of months I’m already being offered new opportunities. Kickstart has definitely been an advantageous thing to do.”

Launched in October 2021, the Kickstart scheme was a £2 billion fund aimed at creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality six-month work placements for young people aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. As the ‘Kickstart Gateway’, the role of the Combined Authority was to oversee the project and find sufficient placements within the North of Tyne area.

It was important these placements were found in sectors with job vacancies, and that they aligned with the values of the North of Tyne Good Work Pledge – a commitment by businesses to provide ‘good work’, ensuring the wellbeing and future prospects of employees.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “Two hundred and thirty three young people into work. That’s two hundred and thirty three lives that are now that bit better, thanks to this scheme and our support for it. That’s a great result – especially after the pandemic, which hit so many young people so hard.”

NTCA worked with local authorities, DWP, local employers, and Newcastle Futures to facilitate the scheme. Together, we delivered an enhanced offer which included guidance to build relationships between young people and employers, brokering and facilitating any additional support required, data analysis to improve and develop the scheme, and digital support. The offer included help to develop links between the young people and employers both during and after the placement, and coaching to reduce the of early abandonment of opportunities by people on the scheme. The Kickstart scheme closed to new applicants on March 31 2022, with the last placements ending in September that year.