By Daniel Hunter
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is warning that recent headlines, which associate voluntary unpaid work experience with slave labour, are in danger of discouraging employers from offering placements and denying young people a route into permanent employment.
Good quality work experience provides an invaluable way for young people to build key skills and gain a foothold in the labour market. It is also a way for young people to develop and display the right attitude and work ethic that will help them to secure permanent employment.
However, employers also have a responsibility to offer high quality work experience schemes that provide real opportunities for young people to increase their employability.
To this end, the CIPD and Jobcentre Plus published guidance in 2011, Work Experience Placements that Work, to help employers develop effective work experience schemes for 18 to 24 year olds that benefit both the young person and the employer.
The guidance highlights the benefits of work experience for individuals and employers alike, but that to achieve those benefits they must:
• Be personalised to support individual circumstances and aspirations
• Provide support and mentoring
• Place a strong emphasis on learning and skills development
• Give a positive insight into the working world.
Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, comments: “With youth unemployment in the UK at an all time high, we should be doing all we can to encourage employers to help young people, not deter them. In the current labour market, experience of the working world is the single most important aspect employers look for when recruiting, so without it young people struggle to get a job. Work experience is a proven way of giving young people a first step on the employment ladder; it enhances their employability by giving them insight and experience of the working world. Employers have responsibilities to provide good quality schemes that boost employability and young people need to commit to placements and attend regularly if they are to get any value out of them.”
Benefits of work experience for individuals:
• Work experience provides a positive experience of the working world, contributing to a positive work attitude and work readiness
• Work experience helps people to build their CVs and develop networks that can help with employment prospects in the future
• Work experience helps people to make more informed career choices
• Work experience for school pupils helps to improve access to higher education and helps to motivate pupils to improve their attainment at school.
Benefits of work experience for employers:
• Work experience can provide additional resources and new perspectives for specific projects (but should not replace jobs)
• Work experience helps organisations to develop talent and skills for the future
• Work experience gives employers an opportunity to support young people in the community and enhance their employer brand
• Work experience can provide management and mentoring opportunities for staff
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