· 2 min read · Features

CEOs must back work experience for young people


I can still vividly remember my first day at my first job. I’d managed to secure work experience at Tatler and I was focused on making a good first impression.

That's why, when I launched my first Nails Inc bar, I knew I wanted to put recruitment of young people at the heart of my business. Today, our fast-growing international business serves more than 10,000 customers a week. That isn't possible without an enthusiastic, passionate and motivated workforce.

My policy is to recruit from a broad background and consider young people from the broadest range of academic achievements. We've found that the individual's outlook and commitment to the company is important. Once you've found them, invest in them so they grow their career with you.

But finding the right people can be challenging. Young people are struggling to find employment, and there is a disconnect between their knowledge and the skills that a business needs. Often, we've found that young people don't have basic skills, from timekeeping and dress code to knowing how to interact with customers. We've also encountered issues with self-confidence. Young people aren't immune to the constant message that finding and keeping a job is hard and that they might not be prepared. That's why businesses should encourage and nurture talent. If recruits are confident you trust and need them, they will flourish.

I believe we all have a responsibility to help, which is why this year I became an ambassador for LifeSkills, a programme created by Barclays with education professionals to bring together schools, businesses and young people.

One element of the programme I believe in passionately is work experience. Indeed, businesses can learn as much from having a young person join them as that young person does.

From a business perspective, you can learn how to manage a young person at entry level. The skills they have could support your growth in the years to come. I've hired some of our work experience candidates on a permanent basis and many have gone on to be some of my brightest and best managers.

However, business leaders must plan to ensure they get the best out of their placements. Think about management. There should be a dedicated person in your team that has the responsibility of delegating tasks and providing feedback. Have tasks ready before the young person arrives to ensure you're making the most of their time and that the tasks will benefit the wider teams. Expose them to as many roles as possible and go through their work with them. An exit lunch or meeting can benefit both parties.

Growing talent is a key strategy for Nails Inc, which is why it should be thought about from the top down. I work closely with work experience candidates. It's an investment of time, but it pays for itself in the insights and infectious enthusiasm of those just starting out. Ensure this commitment is reflected throughout your business by including working with work experience candidates as part of staff evaluation.

I understand that the idea of offering work experience can feel like a distraction from everyday business. But for me, the benefits of work experience far outweigh any negative. Not only will you be doing your part to help the next generation, but you could learn ways of unlocking growth for your business.

Thea Green (pictured) is founder and CEO of Nails Inc