IT has been a really punishing time for so many businesses, and with the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) concluding in just a few weeks it was feeling like another cliff edge was looming, compounded recently by more lockdown measures that vaulted us into another phase of seriously questioning where this is all going.

There has been a mixed reaction from all sectors to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Job Support Scheme as part of his Winter Economic Plan. Initial review suggests that it is a less generous support mechanism than its predecessor as the Chancellor walks the tightrope of enabling the support of "viable" jobs, rather than the ongoing support of roles which some are arguing potentially have no survival prospects.

However, we still need to maintain flexibility to support business right now, particularly around re-skilling and enabling innovative responses to the ever-changing market conditions.

There is a glimmer of hope for the 16-24-year olds out there. Many of our young people are more likely to have been furloughed through JRS given that so many have been working in some of the very hardest-hit sectors such as tourism, hospitality and retail.

The £2 billion UK Government Kickstart scheme, delivered through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), opened this month, targeting businesses which can offer a six-month high-quality work placement from November to young people currently claiming Universal Credit.

The fully funded Kickstart role will pay 100 per cent of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week and employers have the option to top this up. Each role will also be provided with a £1,500 grant for wrap round support to give the young person the best possible suite of skills to help them transition to a job in due course.

There is no cap to the number of roles which can be created so there is a big opportunity for all here.

If your organisation can generate 30 or more placements you can apply direct to the DWP. For everyone else, you apply through a gateway organisation such as Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

We and others will provide support around the scheme for businesses, working with the DWP which will source candidates for selection. Already we are working with over 40 businesses cross-sector. The response has been very positive and businesses like Panoptic Events are already stating their intention to make the roles a long-term job prospect.

Some view it as an opportunity to take a risk to develop a new area within the business, creating a role for a young person. We have already noticed a trend towards the creation of more technology-focused roles such as 29 Studios with placements in animation and data analysis, and Cleanship Digital with a range of developer roles to design new digital products in the maritime sector.

The practical implementation of the scheme is still being developed by DWP and we know business would certainly welcome a more regular payment schedule for the roles than the currently suggested terms of three and six months.

Many small and medium-sized enterprises will find it tough to underwrite the role on this basis and potentially be dissuaded from engaging. That would be a great shame.

We have also still to see the detail of how business can engage in the £60 million Scottish Government’s Youth Guarantee scheme developed by Sandy Begbie. But the title of its report, No One Left Behind, certainly sets its ambition and the intention to provide a comprehensive and one-stop shop support package to benefit our young people’s prospects in the workplace is clear.

The future is looking brighter in this area. Let’s make the very most of it.

Alison McRae is senior director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce