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Chesterfield Escape Rooms helps unemployed young people get on career ladder

Robbing banks and investigating paranormal activity is the name of the game at a new Chesterfield venue – which has used the Kickstart scheme to bolster its team.

Chesterfield Escape Rooms, which opened in May, has used the Government-backed employment programme – aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment – to hire six games masters among its 16 employees.

It applied for funding to create the initial six-month placements via East Midlands Chamber, which is a Kickstart gateway organisation and has worked with Chesterfield Borough Council to engage businesses about the scheme’s benefits.

Nick Hogan, who owns the escape room business, said he had initially considered employing people on zero-hour contracts due to the unknown nature of bookings, but felt this wouldn’t help to build a workforce with a “sense of belonging”.

“When Kickstart came along, it allowed me to recruit and be selective in the recruitment process,” he said.

“In working with these six people, it’s reminded me that everyone deserves a chance. The younger generation is tomorrow’s workforce and unless we give the opportunities to succeed, our businesses won’t survive.”

How Kickstart scheme has offered opportunities to young people in Chesterfield?

One of the Kickstart employees is James Bryan, from Chesterfield, whose role involves customer service, sales and running the games, which require players to solve a series of puzzles within a set time to unlock the room.

The 21-year-old, who was previously a freelance actor, writer and radio editor, said: “I can already feel I’ve gained more confidence in speaking to customers and leading games.

“The scheme is wonderful for our generation in these strange times, and it’s most definitely helped me.”

Meanwhile, Laura Maskrey, from Matlock, joined Brampton-based digital marketing agency Brighter Directions as a social media executive.

The 25-year-old English language and linguistics graduate had previously been placed on furlough and then made redundant from her job in marketing and communications before she began applying for Kickstart vacancies.

She said: “It has taken me longer than expected to settle due to not having a solid routine and job role for nearly a year, but I love the role and my team has been so welcoming and patient with me.

“My placement will have a positive impact on my job prospects as I have learned a huge amount in short space of time, which has improved my confidence and mental health dramatically from being unemployed.”

Kickstart job placements still available in Derbyshire and wider East Midlands

The Department for Work and Pensions funds 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, national insurance and pensions contributions for 25 hours a week over a six-month period.

Employers can choose to top up this wage and are also eligible for a £1,500 Government grant for training people on a Kickstart placement.

Once applications are accepted, young people are referred into the roles via a Jobcentre Plus work coach.

East Midlands Chamber has secured more than 3,000 placements among almost 800 businesses located in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and other locations. Just under 900 of these roles have been filled, with 2,000 vacancies live.

Deputy chief executive and Kickstart lead Diane Beresford said: “We’re so proud to have played a key role in giving young people a chance they may not otherwise have had. After spending many months working with employers on their applications, it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding to see the fruits of our labour as people now start their jobs.

“Businesses taking part are playing a vital role in their communities by supporting and preparing our future workforce, while they also benefit from a relatively risk-free opportunity to trial new roles that could lead to future growth.”

East Midlands Chamber has worked with local authorities including Chesterfield Borough Council to hold information sessions for businesses in the area.

It’s just the latest collaboration between the organisations after the Chamber also delivered council-funded projects including the Chesterfield Digital High Street programme and the Business Crime Reduction Partnership – an existing scheme run alongside the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner that has now been made available free of charge for up to 2,000 Chesterfield businesses.

The council’s deputy leader Councillor Amanda Serjeant added: “Kickstart offers a fantastic opportunity for young people to increase their experience in the workplace, which will help them develop new skills and build a career.

“I’d encourage any young person currently looking for work to apply for these opportunities because you never know where it may lead.”

The deadline for employers to apply for the Kickstart scheme is fast approaching as the roles must begin by 31 December this year, with funding provided until 30 June 2022.

Businesses interested in applying for a Kickstart scheme grant should contact Pieter Eksteen on pieter.eksteen@emc-dnl.co.uk or 0333 320 0333 (Ext 2241).

The latest Kickstart vacancies can be viewed at www.emc-dnl.co.uk/kickstart-vacancies.