For many people like me across the UK, the past 18 months have been a bumpy ride on the journey to our dream career. Where pre-pandemic opportunities for internships, work experience and in-person training were plentiful, the pandemic saw those positions slashed to keep everyone safer. My own journey was stopped in its tracks by lockdown, but two years later I can confidently say that I am once again moving forward.
And I have Kickstart to thank for that. Designed specifically for young people on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment, Kickstart is a government-funded initiative that has helped create new jobs in a variety of sectors, including education, and is beneficial to employers and employees alike. For my school, it offers additional capacity at low cost. For me, paid employment, vital experience, and a potentially life-changing role at the heart of my local community.
Pre-pandemic, I was pursuing a career in schools after losing interest in my Business Administration BTEC. I’d decided I wanted to embark on a more meaningful career path, and I was initially successful. I began by training as a nursery nurse, then a room leader. I got a nursery first aid qualification before securing a position through a local agency.
Then the pandemic hit. I was made redundant, not only leaving me without employment but also with no clear path back into schools amid lockdowns. It was my local Jobcentre who referred me to the Kickstart scheme, and I was lucky that the LETTA Trust was involved locally. Very simply, I was able to interview with a local school and I was quickly offered a role as a classroom teaching assistant.
My new role has undoubtedly transformed my life, and has taken me from a setback to a springboard. I have learned so much about working with children, I’m challenged every single day, and I love the positive impact I am able to have on the pupils.
My self-confidence has grown exponentially too, and I am even more determined to carve out a career in education. Having this placement means that I can pick that journey up again by participating in training courses such as a level 3 teaching assistant qualification, which will help me move to a higher-level post in the near future. In just a few short months, I have gone from unemployed and nervous about my future to feeling empowered and ready to seize every opportunity that comes my way.
And I am not the only one to get my foot in the school gate through Kickstart in Tower Hamlets. LETTA prides itself on being community-minded, and those aren’t just fine words over the door. I was so proud of our work providing laptops through lockdown, helping hundreds of pupils from schools inside and outside the trust.
So when Kickstart began it was a no-brainer for them. The scheme so clearly supports its goal to strengthen the community at large. Now, LETTA works with 16 local schools and trusts to offer 211 new jobs through the scheme. The trust currently trains 60 apprentices from 35 local schools, and plans to train more young people in an apprenticeship once they complete their Kickstart placement.
The path to getting back on my feet has been paved by this experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. I’m learning, growing, and on a clear track towards becoming a teacher. At a time when so many schools are struggling to recruit and so many young people are finding it hard to get good jobs with exciting career prospects, to have this opportunity to bring the two together is invaluable.
Somewhere in your community is someone like me, desperate to get on the ladder and do a great job for your school. And if my words here can kick-start your journey to finding them, then levelling up can perhaps become a reality, not only for pupils but for my generation too.