Should your business offer work experience placements?

Here are some pros and cons to mull over if you're thinking about offering a work experience placement.

Taking on a work experience placement is a noble thing. You’re offering to kickstart a young person’s career and add some valuable enthusiasm and skill to your workforce. It’s a two-way street though, and you’ve got to work to make the experience valuable for everyone involved. Have you got the time and resources to make it a success?

Increase your work capacity

With the right skill set, you can ease the load on your existing workforce and free up more of their time to work on new skills, develop new products and services, or just reduce overall stress.

You don’t know who’s going to walk through the door, and that’s a good thing.
While your work experience placements will no doubt be green, they could be coming to you with some great ideas about your industry. Even just getting the feedback of an outsider on how you run your business could be valuable.

Mentor young minds

Young workers coming into your business aren’t hampered by baggage from other employers. Take a chance to make an impact on how they emerge into their professional lives and shape the future of your industry.

A chance to test-drive new hires

With a work experience employee you’re not tied into anything when their period with your company is up. If they meld with your current workforce you can take them on full time, or part ways knowing that you offered them a valuable professional experience. This is much less messy than realising your new hire isn’t right for your company culture after they’re hired.

You’re only looking for free labour

This is a big one; work experience employees aren’t just a way to get work done without having to pay your employees. Yes, they’re unpaid and they will be working, but it’s simply unethical to use their labour without intending to properly build their skills and experience.

Your company is already stretched thin

If you don’t have time to plan, review and offer feedback on someone’s time in your company, then you shouldn’t offer work experience placements. Structure and feedback is vital to making a work experience placement valuable, so ensure you’re in a position to do so.

You have no clear objectives

You don’t have to offer a permanent position to everyone who comes to your business for work experience, but what skills, ideas and experience are they leaving your company with, and are they valuable to your industry? Don’t take on a work experience placement until you have a clear set of objectives for workers.

Importantly, unpaid interns have rights in the workplace protected by law, and if you don’t manage a placement properly you may end up with a legal battle on your hands as publishing giant Conde Nast did in 2015.

To avoid any such nasties, when looking at hosting your first work experience position, be sure to take appropriate legal advice first. If your company doesn’t currently have an HR legal expert, reputable employment law firms such FBC Wolverhampton Solicitors may be able to answer your questions and ensure you’re offering work experience placements that comply with current law.

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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