Has your inbox been filling up with requests from youngsters looking for work experience?
Each year thousands of students across the region have to find a work placement as part of their studies.
Then there are others who have a clear career path in their minds and want to get work experience in their chosen profession to help their CVs when they are applying for jobs.
But is it feasible for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to take on a work experience student, or is it more hassle than it’s worth?
The answer will vary from company to company, but there are a few general principles that you can bear in mind – and perhaps think back to your own experience when taking your first steps into the world of work.
Bringing a teenager into the work environment could add skills to your business that you currently lack.
Youngsters today are IT/technology-savvy. Need help setting up a computer or tuning in a television? Chances are they will know how to do it quicker than you can say: “Where’s the remote?”
They are also whizzes on social media and networking – do you ever see them without a mobile device at their fingertips? So, if you need a bit of help with your social media, or with promoting your company on-line, they can probably help.
They are also probably a blank canvass in terms of experience, but this can be an advantage as they are flexible and open to new ideas. And they might have a few of their own that you haven’t thought of to help your business!
Had trouble recruiting new staff? Well if you take on a work experience candidate, you have the chance to show them the ropes, guide them through the basics and nurture the skills your business is looking for.
While talking young talent through the business might seem time-consuming, it might actually help you develop recruitment skills, and find a potential recruit for the future. It will also cost a lot less than having to go through a full recruitment process and allow you to assess a potential candidate “on the job”.
It doesn’t actually cost you anything to have someone join you on work experience. And you get an extra member of staff. You have to consider the time, training and supervision involved, but the benefits could well outweigh the costs.
It is worth remembering you don’t have to pay if:
- Workers are voluntary.
- Students are gaining experience as part of a HE course.
- Staff are under the age of 16.
- The role only involves shadowing.
Taking on work experience candidates could help you build good links with schools and colleges in the area, and you could also be seen as a company which ‘gives something back’ to your community.
If you take on someone on work experience, it is a good idea to assign them a mentor or ‘buddy’ from your existing staff and draw up a plan to make sure they feel involved when they arrive.
Make sure they have a desk to sit at, access to a computer and pens and paper so they can get involved and not sit around looking at their mobile all day, playing on the latest game or messaging their pals about how dull the job is.
It also gives a member of your staff some new responsibility, boosting their self-esteem and boosting job satisfaction.
The hours involved are usually an agreement between the employer and the school, parents/carer and candidate. Start and finish times do not need to be restricted to school hours, but must be agreed.
In general, placements should be between 7am and 7pm, there should be a half hour break after four and a half hours, and a maximum work period of eight hours a day, 35 hours a week.
You do have to consider health and safety issues when you are taking on work experience candidates. They are your employees for the time they are with you and should be treated no differently to other young people on your staff.
Schools and colleges should check with you that you have the risk management arrangements in place, and if you already have young people working for you, your existing policies can be used.
If you don’t currently employ young people, and are taking on a work experience student for the first time, you will need to review your risk assessment before they start.
Remember, you will have different considerations depending on your business – shops and office environments are very different to construction and agriculture placements.
Full guidance is available from the Health and Safety Executive: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg364.pdf
Students on work experience are covered under Employers Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance, but it is a good idea for a company to advise their insurers that a student will be on their premises.
If a sole trader has a work experience student with them, they might not have Public Liability Insurance and should make inquiries about whether they should take out temporary cover.
If you need any help or advice on taking on work experience students in your SME, contact Ansa HR on 01270 446 444. We’d be happy to help out.