Finding a way into the journalism industry has never been easy. However, for journalists aged 18-24 on Universal Credit, the government offers a new option: Kickstart Schemes. These are six-month roles, funded by the government, to help those at risk of long term unemployment, and many media businesses are creating roles especially for it.
The idea is that Kickstart jobs don’t require lots of previous experience, and provide relevant training. Launched in September 2020, the scheme has now been running for more than a year, and was recently extended until the end of March 22. But has it successfully carved a new route into a competitive industry?
Who Can Access Journalism Kickstart Schemes?
To be eligible for the scheme you need to be 18-24, already receiving Universal Credit, and formally referred for each job you’d like to apply for through the DWP’s internal system. Often, however, there are a limited number of referral spots per job – sometimes as low as 25 – which can be frustrating if you don’t find a job in time.
It’s also only in the last few months that the jobs have become publicly listed –previously work coaches had to rely on a system where they could only search by generic sectors such as ‘media’ rather than specific phrases. For remote roles, or those in a different area, you need the postcode of the company you’re applying to for your coach to find it.
While applicants are now able to view jobs themselves, employers aren’t typically encouraged to advertise them, instead being assured they’ll receive enough referrals. This typically isn’t the case. Recently released data shows that of 15,400 jobs made available in the “Creative & Media Industry” only 7,710 were filled.
Applicants can also run into trouble if they don’t have a good relationship with their work coach, or they’ve accessed other support schemes in the past. Finn Oldfield, a journalist previously on Universal Credit, tells us: “There’s not enough support in terms of finding a career path that works best for you. So it’s not really a tailored approach. It’s more just they’ll push you into anything that gets your case done.”
Finn says he was encouraged to apply for Kickstart roles by employment support charity Transform Lives Company. However, he was informed his ongoing enrolment on another UC support scheme made him ineligible. “But one was just career advice, and one was a job,” he says. His previous scheme, JETS, is billed as a “light touch” and offers personalised advice – but not employment. “I weighed my options up with their support and decided to switch to the Kickstart scheme, and end my JETS assistance.”