Government plans for more work placements will help retailers to recruit, finds Joanne Ellul
Not only is work experience crucial for young people in a competitive job market, it can have benefits for retailers that struggle to find or choose between qualified candidates. Which is just as well, because the Government is throwing its weight behind the idea – Chancellor George Osborne announced in last month’s budget that he plans to increase the number of places on a government-funded work experience programme fivefold to 100,000 over the next two years.
House of Fraser is already a fan of the trend. It runs its own placement scheme and has employed five out of the 70 students who completed a placement there in the past year. With 100 people applying for one entry-level position each week, it is easy to see why House of Fraser resourcing manager Linda Summerell values this talent pool.
Summerell views work experience as an opportunity to observe people in a working environment – something that can’t be done with an interview. “It’s about seeing how they react and communicate with people,” she says. To avoid minimum wage obligations, House of Fraser offers work experience to students whose placements are a compulsory part of their college or university course.
Shadowing staff forms a central part of each placement, and the scheme is also a useful recruitment tool, she adds. “Work experience is about finding out where the good people are and actively encouraging them to apply for positions,” Summerell says. The retailer is considering offering one-year paid internships, which are useful in departments like ecommerce where there are specialist roles that can be difficult to recruit for.
Asda is also using work experience to its advantage. It announced in May last year that it would create 15,000 work experience placements over the next three years and has already offered 3,000 placements to those aged 14 to 16.
“We hope people on work experience will eventually become seasonal staff,” says Asda people policy director Sarah Dickins. Providing placements at a time when young people are thinking about careers is helpful, making them aware of the industry as a potential career path.
Dickins says Asda’s next plan is to launch an online feedback tool so those on placements can rate them.
Providing a good placement requires effort from retailers. But if done well, the effort can pay off – a good work experience scheme will attract the right candidates and create a valuable talent pool for stores.
DOS AND DONT’S:
* Prepare tasks before placement
* Set objectives for both candidates and staff
* Encourage work experience people to ask questions
* Make it a real work experience but set limits
* Leave criteria open for selection of candidates
* Leave planning completely to store staff
* Fail to tell all members of staff about someone arriving for a work placement