'Slave labour' comparison to work experience, damages employment opportunities for young people, says CIPD

The CIPD has warned that news headlines associating voluntary unpaid work experience with “slave labour”, is in danger of denying young people a route into permanent employment, by discouraging employers.

The CIPD says work experience provides an invaluable way for young people to build key skills and gain a foothold in the labour market. It is also a way for young people to develop and display the right attitude and work ethic that will help them to secure permanent employment.

But employers have a responsibility to offer high quality work experience schemes that provide real opportunities for young people to increase their employability.

To this end, the CIPD and Jobcentre Plus published guidance in 2011, Work Experience Placements that Work, to help employers develop effective work experience schemes for 18 to 24 year olds that benefit both the young person and the employer.

The guidance highlights the benefits of work experience for individuals and employers alike, but that to achieve those benefits they must be personalised to support individual circumstances and aspirations; provide support and mentoring; place a strong emphasis on learning and skills development; and give a positive insight into the working world.

Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, said: "With youth unemployment in the UK at an all time high, we should be doing all we can to encourage employers to help young people, not deter them. In the current labour market, experience of the working world is the single most important aspect employers look for when recruiting, so without it young people struggle to get a job.

"Work experience is a proven way of giving young people a first step on the employment ladder; it enhances their employability by giving them insight and experience of the working world. Employers have responsibilities to provide good quality schemes that boost employability and young people need to commit to placements and attend regularly if they are to get any value out of them."