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Everything you need to know about the UK's Kickstart scheme

Into Games' Sara Cristina Machado gives an introduction to the UK government's scheme for funding young talent

We know that games companies across the UK need talented people to help build great businesses. We also know that it can be hard to find the right young talent to do that, especially with the wider skills shortage taking place in the UK creative industries.

That's why the Government's Kickstart scheme has proven really interesting for games businesses. We've seen dozens of businesses sign up to advertise over 100 roles through the funded initiative to help get young people from across the country into the sector.

While a number of companies have signed up to take advantage of the initiative, there's a lot that haven't

But we also know that while a number of companies have signed up to take advantage of the initiative, there's a lot that haven't. Fortunately though, it's actually pretty simple to get started with the scheme and to bring young talent into your business.

So let's take a close look at what Kickstart is, how it brings value to UK games businesses and what you need to do to get involved.

What is the Kickstart scheme?

Kickstart is a Government scheme aimed to help support young people back into work after the economic effects of the pandemic.

It's aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in education and are currently claiming universal credit. Roles are advertised in local job centres, as well as on the industry's Kickstart jobs board.

If you hire someone through the scheme for a six month placement, the government will pay you minimum wage (which you can top up to a higher wage if you choose) and associated national insurance costs to keep them in work.

In addition, funds are also assigned to provide training and development for anyone hired through a Kickstart role to ensure they get the development they need to kick on in careers.

Who is eligible to hire through the Kickstart scheme?

The Kickstart scheme is open to registered companies who are paying their staff via PAYE.

It's a great way to [hire] talent capable of growing business with valuable funding support

Job placements created need to be new roles, and no existing employee, apprentices, or contractors should lose work or have their hours reduced as a result of the Kickstart scheme.

Potential employees must also be referred to the scheme through local job centres to check that they qualify.

What value does Kickstart have for games businesses?

For businesses looking to hire entry level staff or internships, Kickstart is a great way to bring on board talent capable of growing business with valuable funding support.

"I think this scheme will make a real difference for us since it allows us to get more people on board and make amazing progress with the product," says Elena Höge, founder of Yaldi Games.

"Being a start-up would have prevented us from hiring somebody at this point, but with the Kickstart scheme, we can truly lift off and also help students get valuable experience working directly on the game. Feels like a win-win to me."

Into Games career lead Sara Cristina Machado

Richard Stone, managing director of True Gaming Network, agrees. The Kickstart scheme has helped him to bring on board talent, even with wider turbulence in the economy.

"When the government announced the scheme back in August 2020 we thought it would be perfect for us," he explains. "We knew it would have been risky for us to commit too much of our cashflow to hiring but the support of the Kickstart scheme has reduced the risk and it has allowed us to bring in two new staff."

Kickstart also has the benefit of widening the industry talent pool too -- giving you access to more talent than you may think.

"Because Kickstart hires through local job centres, games companies are finding that they are reaching local talent in their communities that they previously didn't know were there," says Dr. Jo Twist, CEO of UK games industry trade body Ukie. "This helps companies tap into talent that was not previously in games, broadening the range of people who are entering the games industry".

This is why Avalanche started to recruit through the scheme as well, with their team identifying talent from outside of games who can shift across through Kickstart. For instance, an architect could have similar skills and abilities as a technical level designer in games.

In short, Kickstart provides an affordable way to hire interesting young talent from across the country into a games company.

How does the application process work?

To start, you must register your interest in hiring through Kickstart with Into Games. You must fill out this form to apply for the scheme.

Once that's done, Into Games will send you a number of forms including one with job descriptions. When you've completed those, you'll need to send them back to Into Games who will then forward them on to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

At this point, your roles will be deployed through regional JobCentre Plus centres and appear on the industry's Kickstart job site.

You will then be forwarded applicants by the job centre directly and you will be able to interview them, just like any other position.

"We originally had a set of forms to fill out about which roles we were looking to hire for, and after that we received regular emails with referral codes, the names of the referees, and the job they applied for," explains Vaughan Holloway, CEO of Primordial Game Studios.

Once you accept a candidate -- something that you are not obliged to do unless you're happy with the hire -- put them through PAYE. Then they will be registered on the system and you will be able to claim back their wages

When do we receive funding for our roles?

Once DWP is satisfied that someone has filled the role through PAYE, you'll become eligible for two rounds of payment.

First, you'll receive £900 for set up costs, support and training for individuals. You'll then receive six further payments of the remaining funding, paid in arrears for each participant, to pay back the cost of hiring them through PAYE.

After 26 weeks -- the length of a placement -- the funding will end. You can then choose whether to maintain the role or end it.

These payments will be made to you by Ukie. While Into Games is running the scheme, they are the 'gateway provider' for it and will work with you to make sure you get your funding.

What kind of candidates are coming in through the scheme?

Businesses are reporting that candidates coming forward through the scheme have been up to scratch for the companies that need them.

"So far, we have hired a quality assurance tester through the scheme," explains Gary McCartan, CEO at Pocket Sized Hands. "They have been very enthusiastic about learning and improving their skills, which has been a great experience for everyone within the team."

Equally, companies are reporting that the process of getting candidates on board has been a positive one and that it is meaningfully help them develop talent.

"I believe that this scheme is an excellent framework for young talent to develop their skills and get valuable industry experience"Llogari Casas, 3Finery

"For us, hiring under the Kickstart scheme has been a great and enjoyable experience," explains Llogari Casas, CEO of 3Finery. "They are currently helping the art team with concept art and their skills are a great addition to the team. I believe that this scheme is an excellent framework for young talent to develop their skills and get valuable industry experience."

Stone has the last word on talent coming in through Kickstart. He believes that the quality of talent coming through the scheme is high and that it's working broadly as intended.

"The individuals that have actually applied have been of a high standard, there's seems to be a lot of talent out there that is currently out of work, so I would recommend businesses take advantage of the scheme as soon as they can!"

How long do we have to apply for roles?

Kickstart roles can be listed until 31st December 2021. Any role listed prior to that date will be honoured after it, meaning that you could still have a Kickstarter in your business in 2022.

Sara Cristina Machado is a Brazilian careers and marketing advisor with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion in the games industry. She currently works as Into Games' career lead, managing the Kickstart scheme, and at Hitmarker, building a community-focused recruitment department. Find out more about Kickstart by emailing the Into Games team here.

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