The first thing to consider when organising work experience is what you expect from the young person you take on and what they will expect from you. There are many different questions that you need to ask yourself, including:
- Do you want your work experience candidates to be pre-GCSE or post-GCSE?
- Do you want them to have specific qualifications or interest relevant to your industry?
- Will you treat them like a normal member of staff with a specific job role or will you give them different job roles in different departments?
- Will they perform normal, low level tasks or will you organised a special programme for them including a range of tasks at all levels?
These things are important because good quality work experience placements are those that:
- are flexible for both you and the young person
- challenge a young person to think about their career goals and abilities
- are planned and supervised, so that a young person’s time is well spent
- have clear roles, responsibilities and expectations of the student and employer
- at the end, provide feedback on the young person’s performance.
To find out more about how to structure your work experience placement, see: Making work experience work for you...
Organising the Placement:
If your company is keen to run a work experience programme it is a good idea to contact your local council and some schools in your area. The process has become a little more complex in recent years as local councils no longer have a liaison officer, tasked with bringing together schools and employers, and academies and free schools are not under local council authority. Having said this, many schools are still very keen to offer work experience to their students, so getting in touch with them directly is always a good idea.
There are also companies and charities working across the country to get more young people into work experience programmes. Signing up with one of these third party facilitators means that much of the leg work will be done for you. Furthermore, employers can access suitable work experience candidates through the Eluceo website.
Once you have selected your work experience candidate, it is a good idea to confirm with them, the education and training goals of the placement and the reasonable expectations of student conduct.
Companies are not required to pay young people for work experience as part of a study programme. Young people doing such work experience are not in employment and are therefore not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. You can, however, choose to pay for their expenses to support them, such as lunch and travel.
The Red Tape:
The government has really simplified the process of hiring students for work experience so now there are far fewer bureaucratic holes through which you need to jump. However there are still a few things that you should be aware of.
You have the primary responsibility for the health and safety of students whilst they are on a work experience placement. Schools and colleges must make sure that you have assessed the associated risks to workers under 18 on your premises, and have suitable and sufficient risk management arrangements in place. If the work environment is low risk, assurance can be gained through a brief conversation - a physical inspection by schools/colleges or requiring you to complete lengthy forms should not take place.
If you already employ young people under the age of 18 there is no requirement for a separate risk assessment for work experience students, as the risks should already have been completed. If you’ve never had work experience students, or at least, not for a long time, you should review your existing risk assessment. For some higher-risk environments, you will need to consider specific factors where relevant - these are described in the HSE guidance.
As part of the Government’s Red Tape Challenge to help more businesses take on work experience students, the insurance industry now treats work experience students as employees so that they will be covered by existing Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance policies.