Let’s be clear about work experience for under 18s

It’s at this point of the academic year that one of the biggest frustrations of the job is in full effect for me. Namely, the short shift some of our Year 10 students receive when approaching employers about work experience placements due to the insistence that the company doesn’t offer placements to under 18s due to “insurance reasons.”

There seems to be no rhyme or reason between those who accept students, those who decline and the type of workplace environment involved.  Local aircraft engineering companies such as Gulfstream and Monarch go out of their way to offer us fantastic opportunities where students will be properly supervised working around mechanics and heavy equipment while retailers such as JD Sports and PC World decline to engage. Some of those businesses will genuinely believe that there is a special circle of Hell reserved just for the form filling needed to let anyone under the age of 18 into your place of work and some will just use it as a quick excuse (“If we let one do it, then it opens the floodgates!” they say, seemingly oblivious that the world’s 7 billion people aren’t turning up every morning expecting a paycheck despite the fact they do employ at least some of them). For those schools who still commit to providing Key Stage 4 work experience this belief and casual excuse is the biggest threat to securing worthwhile placements for their students. It is part of wider issue covered in-depth recently by the UK Commission for Employment & Skills in their report “Not Just Making Tea” in which they state that “74% of employers claim experience is significant or critical when recruiting young people. But despite the high demand for experience, just 27% of employers offer young people the chance to gain work experience.”

As Careers folk, we must shout this louder.

There are no “special insurances” that are needed to offer work experience to under 18s.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/youngpeople/workexperience/placeprovide.htm

Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees. You treat them no differently to other young people you employ.

There is no onerous mountain of paperwork to be conquered.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/youngpeople/workexperience/cutting-bureaucracy.htm

Schools and colleges or others organising placements need to check the employer has risk management arrangements in place. Conversations between the placement organiser and the employer could simply be noted for reference.

In fact, the Government have paid special attention to make this all as clear and straight forward as possible so that work experience could realistically be one of the core components of the 16-19 Study Programmes.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/post-16-work-experience-as-a-part-of-16-to-19-study-programmes

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ministers-to-end-work-experience-health-and-safety-confusion

Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said

There is no need for lots of paperwork or an over-cautious approach. Employers who are already managing the risks in their business effectively for employees are unlikely to need to do anything in addition for work experience. Schools and colleges just need to ask a few questions to ascertain that appropriate measures are in place. There is no need to conduct their own risk assessments

And, always remember, that the aims of work experience are fully supported by leading Business groups who want schools to engage with these sort of schemes.

http://www.cbi.org.uk/campaigns/getting-the-uk-working/making-young-people-job-ready/

Here is the official HSE leaflet you could print and distribute to your students and parents and use yourself when approaching employers.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg364.pdf

Of course, some businesses will have had a poor experience in the past with a student, or won’t feel there are suitable tasks for a young person and some simply won’t be sure they have the capacity to properly supervise the student and, when they explain why they don’t offer placements, I listen, I try to encourage them to reconsider, I leave my contact details and (hopefully, however small) at least a moment of consideration to the idea. But at least they explain their reasoning and it’s based on experience and reality. Not a false idea of a barrier that doesn’t even exist. However long the journey may be to persuade more employers that this is indeed the case, we can do some of the legwork to persuade, cajole and engage.

Advertisements

5 comments

  1. I totally agree, companies really do need to be more open towards under 18s. There is no telling how a week or two of work experience at a great firm can inspire a student to pursue a career in that field of work. The misconception that year 10 students conducting work experience is a burden, needs to be obliterated from the minds of companies who hold their heads far too high or as you said, are simply lazy. I remember when I was in year 10 and how eager we were to get a great placement to show our capability in the work place.

      1. Definitely. Its important companies do their best to make it enjoyable as it makes students like me go out and seek further work experience in later years. I’m pretty sure if I had been treated like a child when I went to a small architect firm in year 10, then I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic about seeking work experience at a national newspaper. Thankfully, I have been quite lucky in that regard whereas others haven’t.

  2. Both employer and young people need to understand the expectations of a placement. It really could just be the opportunity to be IN the world of work – not the expectation of teaching someone how to DO the job.
    We encourage and support only KS5 work experience, but I now suggest students approach companies asking for ‘volunteer opportunities’. Just hoping employers see that they could be a help, not a hinderence and give them at least a chance to explain themselves. Here’s hoping.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s