My Foundation Story: Reed

Reed joined the Foundation team as a Communications Assistant at the end on 2021 as part of the governments Kickstart scheme.  

This is his story and experience.  

“In September 2020, I left my dead-end job for a three-month unpaid internship in Copywriting, which I believed would propel me into the writing career that I always wanted. However, three months passed, and I was unable to secure further employment. I became NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and soon ran out of savings from my previous job. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced the amount of work available, and every entry-level job posted required years of experience that I didn’t have. Unable to find work, I relied on Universal Credit to be able to pay my bills.

Time spent NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) has a detrimental effect on a person’s employability, physical and mental health. It becomes a vicious cycle which reinforces itself – during my own time spent as a NEET person my lack of confidence affected my performance in interviews, which in turn affected my motivation to apply to jobs in the first place. I had already struggled with poor mental health throughout my education and into employment, and this struggle only increased as I spent a further eight months unemployed and unable to land a job in the career I wanted.

The proportions of young NEET people who suffer from mental health problems has nearly tripled since 2012. 40% of NEET people felt “unable to cope with life”. This was true of me too – my time spent unemployed and unable to find work made me feel that I was left out from society to a degree that I couldn’t even take care of myself.

During the height of the pandemic as many as 797,000 young people between 16-24 were NEET – as many as 16.9% of people in that age group – and almost 6 million people, like me, were relying on Universal Credit. This is nearly double the amount of people that were on Universal Credit before the pandemic.

The Kickstart scheme was announced in July 2020 by the UK government to help tackle this problem by giving young people on Universal Credit the opportunity to gain experience and be paid at the same time. Experience is the most valuable resource a young person can have; the job market is becoming increasingly inaccessible to young people starting their careers.

My work coach encouraged me to attend a job fair at my local job centre, where several Kickstart employers were advertising positions. It was there that I was introduced to Andy, The Harlequin Foundation’s manager, and he encouraged me to apply for a role. I have always been passionate about charity and writing, both of which I would be doing in abundance with The Harlequins Foundation, and the role included plenty of training opportunities that would support me in my career going forward. I applied, was able to secure the job, and started just days later.

I cannot express my gratitude enough for the opportunity I’ve been able to secure through The Harlequins Foundation and Kickstart. Kickstart perfectly aligns with The Harlequins Foundation’s mission of Championing inclusivity, Promoting wellbeing and Improving life opportunities – just through this job, the training I’ve received and the welcoming nature of everyone at The Foundation I’ve been able to pull myself back up by the bootstraps and work my way to a point where I can be happy about life again.

My time on a Kickstarter role has shown me that work can be enjoyable and fulfilling, and that my own experience and skillset makes me uniquely suited to the career that I now have my foot in the door for. I feel like a valued member of a community at Harlequins. I’ve learned the power sport has to change lives as it has changed mine, grown my confidence and improved my mental health dramatically.

Applications for the Kickstart scheme sadly end in March 2022 – but I would like to see it continue indefinitely. The experience I’ve gained has improved my career options, my skillset and my mental health all at the same time, and young NEET people deserve the same opportunities that I have been lucky enough to secure through Kickstart.

If you’re a young person on Universal Credit and struggling for a lack of demonstrable experience, I would highly recommend giving a Kickstart job a try. You can view the list of Kickstart roles still available on the government’s Kickstart scheme website.”

For more information on the Kickstart scheme and other life changing programmes that The Foundation run –  contact us today.  

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