Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has officially launched the JobStart scheme for young people at a virtual meeting with employers today.

The £20million employer incentive scheme, which went live on April 2nd, is designed to support 16-24 year olds facing additional employment challenges due to the impact of Covid-19.

Two further interventions have been introduced by the Department for Communities this week to help create employment opportunities for young people and remove barriers for those seeking employment.

These are an Opportunity Guarantee strand of the Work Experience Programme and an Expanded Adviser Discretionary Fund.

The Department has also awarded contracts for the Work Ready Employability Services programme to help people improve their employability skills.

Minister Hargey said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the local economy and labour market.

“As part of my Department’s response to this, we have addressed the anticipated impacts on young people and those who are ready to be re-employed but need help negotiating the process of finding work.

“This has included creating job opportunities and placements for young people; providing additional payments towards travel or childcare expenses; financial support of up to £1,500 a year to assist in the removal of barriers to employment; and training to help people increase their chances of gaining employment.”

The JobStart scheme is designed to create opportunities for 16-24 year olds by providing positions with employers for a period of six months, increasing to nine months for those who meet additional criteria.

An Opportunity Guarantee strand has been added to The Work Experience Programme (WEP) featuring 13 week placements with the guarantee of an interview for a job or an apprenticeship on completion.

An Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) can award up to £1,500 in a year to eligible customers facing monetary barriers to entering, progressing towards or progressing within work.

Work Ready Employability Services (WRES) will deliver up to six short training courses addressing core employability skills.

Minister Hargey continued: “These schemes have been designed in line with my commitment to ensuring continuity of work-focused employment services in the face of unprecedented circumstances.

“I will continue to prioritise the needs of our young people and those most in need of support in the job market in these most challenging of times.”

How can we help?