Iron & Fire, the Shrewsbury-based speciality coffee roasting business, has spoken of its positive experience of the government’s Kickstart scheme which has enabled it to expand its workforce and support its continued growth.
Launched during the pandemic to help young people aged 16-24 on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, the Kickstart scheme has now closed and met with mixed reviews.
However, as Iron & Fire’s founder, Kevin Burrows comments, it has had a very positive impact on both his business’s growth and the young people it employed through it:
“From day one, we’ve been a business with a conscience and supporting young people to find their way in the world is one way we can do this. The Kickstart scheme instantly appealed, and several candidates who’ve come to us through it have gone on to be full-time members of the team, which goes to show the positive impact the scheme had.
“Unfortunately, there have been suggestions that the scheme is simply a way for businesses to ‘employ’ free labour and I don’t doubt that’s been the case in some instances. However, we’ve approached it with a commitment to giving these young people real experience and the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills so that they’re able to either continue their working lives with us or feel prepared to go off and secure employment elsewhere.”
One of Iron & Fire’s first Kickstart employees, Tom, joined in May 2021 and with ongoing training during his placement has since gone on to become Assistant Roaster on a full-time contract. However, he’s not alone in being a Kickstart success story.
Josh, 20, completed his Kickstart placement with Iron & Fire earlier this year and has since been offered a permanent role in the order fulfilment department. He comments:
“When Kickstart was mentioned, I jumped at the chance to find out more about this role. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have any idea how complex the coffee industry is, so I felt very nervous to start with.
“I suffer from anxiety and the thought of having to go to work every day would have previously affected me, but this role has really helped me with that. I think I’ve developed a good working mindset and can honestly say that I love coming to work every day.”
22-year-old Callum, meanwhile, is now a regular face at Iron & Fire’s town centre coffee shop, The Hatch, where he’s been offered a permanent barista role following his Kickstart placement. He says:
“I found out about Kickstart through the Job Centre and I’m so glad that I did. I’d not really settled in a job before, but now I can’t imagine doing anything different and I’m a much happier person than before I started at Iron & Fire.
“Learning to be a barista has been a steep learning curve, but understanding how to steam the milk, pour effectively and knowing about all the different coffees is something I can almost do in my sleep now! I love being in a customer-facing role and now know many of our regulars and their preferred coffees before they even order!”
Iron & Fire currently employs another two young people who are nearing completion of their placements, and one of their previous Kickstarters who moved away from Shrewsbury has gone on to secure a permanent barista role in his new local area. Kevin Burrows concludes:
“As a growing business, we want our team to grow with us and to achieve this we need them to feel invested in our goals.
“Callum, Josh and Tom and all the other young people who’ve joined us through Kickstart had never really been given a chance before. Through Kickstart, we’ve invested the time to give them not only work experience, but also an environment in which they can develop both their employment and personal skills. Without exception, we’ve seen their confidence grow and their belief in themselves blossom.
“This has enabled us to expand our team in a considered and managed way and we’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the scheme. We’d jump at the chance to support young people in any similar scheme in the future.”