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Work experience becoming more valuable to employers, UKCES claims

Employers and young people are increasingly seeing value in work experience, according to a report by the UK Commission For Employment And Skills (UKCES).

The report found 45% of employers see experience as significant in selection, with 29% stating that it is crucial. Lack of experience is the most common reason employers reject candidates.

UKCES commissioner Julie Kenny, who is CEO of security company Pyronix Limited, said the nature of work experience must change. "One or two week placements of tea-making, filing and making phone calls doesn’t suit all employers or work for young people,” she said.

“A broader range of contacts between employers and young people can help open young people’s eyes, inform career decisions and help them successfully move from education into work.”

Although the number of companies offering work experience is increasing, the proportion that offered work experience programmes in 2013 was still relatively low, at 27%. This is up from 18% in 2012.

The report suggests strict employment laws around working with 16 - 17-year-olds have put companies off offering work experience in the past. The Government has relaxed these to encourage more employers to work with this age group.

According to the report, the biggest change is that current employees who manage young people no longer have to go through the enhanced disclosure and barring service checks (formerly CRB). This prevents a lengthy process that can delay start dates and prove costly for companies, especially SMEs.

Sarah Findlater, head of employee relations and employee engagement at Marks & Spencer, wich provides work placement to young people who face barriers into work told HR magazine: “As businesses and employers, we have the opportunity to effect social change and have a positive impact on the communities we serve."

She added work placement also had a positive impact on employees. "One of the biggest barriers for employers is a concern about how existing employees will respond to working alongside people from such different backgrounds. Our experience, however, suggests that employees develop communicating and mentoring skills and find it an enriching and rewarding experience. These schemes have made M&S a better place to work."

The report said employers in less fashionable sectors could also see work placements as an opportunity to change young people's perceptions of their companies. Bruce Boughton, people development manager at construction company Lovell Partnership, said: "I wanted to paint the construction industry in a positive light so young people see it as a realistic career option."