The Chamber’s debate on Wednesday on whether it is ever right to work for nothing was an opportunity to explain why Work Experience for young people up to the age of 25 is a programme that should be supported.
In a wide ranging debate, Tony Mernagh – Executive Director of the Economic Partnership – made the case for Work Experience; the scheme that offers the hardest to place young people on Job Seeker’s Allowance [JSA] between 4 and 8 weeks work for no pay with a local employer.
The young person continues to receive benefits and travel expenses and the employer signs a contract to give an element of training, a ‘buddy’ to act as a mentor and a reference at the end of the period. This allows people with no previous employment history to put something down on a CV and demonstrate their commitment to work. Some 40% of people go on the get a job as a direct result of Work Experience.
Opponents of the scheme claim that it is slave labour because benefits will be withdrawn if a benefit claimant refuses to participate or terminates their temporary employment under the scheme before the allotted time has been completed. However, in Brighton & Hove participation is entirely voluntary and there is no withdrawal of JSA if a participant decides that the particular Work Experience employment is not for them. Indeed the Job Centre has many more people seeking Work Experience than there are places and last week the jobs on offer ranged from Android developers, Construction workers, Woodland Management, wedding planners and receptionists in a casino.
The shortage of places is largely because many of the local managers of national companies that have signed up to Work Experience at HQ level refuse to participate because if they do opponents of the governments work programmes organise demonstrations outside their premises to disrupt their trade. The protestors confuse voluntary Work Experience with the compulsory Work Programme.
In an admittedly unscientific straw poll, at Wednesday’s debate about 65% of the attendees said that it was alright to work for nothing if there was a clear benefit e.g. Work Experience but the overwhelming majority balked at the idea that people should work for nothing for more than 6 months e.g. internships for graduates.
If your company would like to know more about offering a young person Work Experience opportunities phone 0845 601 2001.
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