The Kickstart scheme was designed to help 16-24 year-olds gain work experience, alongside participating in employability training in order to prevent the possibility of long-term-unemployment. With the unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 reaching 14.3% during the pandemic, this could not have been initiated at a better time. Severn Trent committed to take on 500 young people in November 2020, with Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield describing the scheme as “brilliant.”
Two of these recruits were taken on at Severn Trent Services, both of which have subsequently been taken on as full-time employees due to their excellent performance. We spoke with Helen Reilly, and her manager Lauren James about Helen’s success on the scheme, and how it had helped to Kickstart her career.
Helen, what were you doing before joining us with the scheme?
I was a dance teacher at a school, working with children as young as three and as old as 18 to run workshops, produce dance performances and musical theatre pieces. Due to the pandemic, however, I was unemployed and looking for a change.
What was your role when you joined the scheme?
I was assigned to work with the lovely Lauren, supporting both the Continuous Improvement and Information Systems teams.
What skills did you bring to your Kickstart role?
I used to study graphic design, so I’ve been able to apply my knowledge of colour theory to re-work spreadsheets and slides to make them more readable. I’ve also been able to get the office talking, using skills learned as a dance teacher to help my colleagues come out of their shells and bond as a team.
What did you learn whilst being a Kickstarter?
So much! The supportive environment at Severn Trent Services has helped me to adopt a growth mindset. I’ve picked up so many administration, communication and software skills. I don’t even recognise the Helen that started the placement six months ago.
What has it been like working under Lauren?
Fantastic! Lauren is such a supportive manager, and she has helped me re-shape my perspective on what the workplace can be. I’ve realised that working in the office can be an exciting challenge full of personality, and a space for personal growth.
Lauren, how have you found mentoring Helen?
Helen has been great to work with! So positive and capable, and such fun to have around. She’s really brightened up the office. For example, after a group conversation about cute animals, she bought us all little themed rubber ducks. It was such a sweet and jovial gesture, and the little ducks remind us all every day to be light-hearted team players. Helen has showed such a positive attitude towards the Kickstart programme, she has taken everything in her stride and applied herself to every task she has been given.
What have you learned from Helen?
That inclusivity in the workplace is a huge boost to productivity and personal growth. Having worked in an office environment for much of my career, I’ve learned to take the industry-standard acronyms and behaviors as gospel. Helen has helped me see these things with fresh eyes, and has shown me ways to simplify our processes, making them more accessible and maximizing our efficiency. I personally have really enjoyed working with Helen and watching her grow with her role.
Helen, what can you tell me about your new role?
The new role picks up where the Kickstart role left off. I’m continuing to work with CI and IS, and I’ll also be PA for two of our managers.
That sounds like a lot of work!
Thanks to the Kickstart scheme, I’m up to the challenge!